Trump goes out with a whimper and a tweet. It was always going to be that way

In the end, the president who roared like a lion went out with a whimper. Those who have followed him knew it would end this way, writes Washington Bureau Chief John T. Bennett

Tuesday 24 November 2020 08:50 GMT
Donald Trump began the start of the end of his term on Monday night, opening the door to Joe Biden’s transition to replace him
Donald Trump began the start of the end of his term on Monday night, opening the door to Joe Biden’s transition to replace him (AFP via Getty Images)

The end, for Donald Trump, has begun.

It came just as it had to, with that now all-too familiar mobile phone Twitter notification.

“In the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same,” Mr Trump tweeted, referring to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, a loyalist who had been keeping the tools needed for Joe Biden’s transition under lock and key.

The outgoing president likely will never concede he lost to Mr Biden, now more officially the president-elect than at any point in the two weeks since he was projected the winner of a bitter fight with Mr Trump.

It’s just not in his personality, which has been so analysed and diagnosed by mental health experts, journalists, relatives and political observers. There’s little remaining question whether the 45th president has a massive ego, a willingness to bend the truth, and a stubborn insistence to put his own interests above even an entire country.

All three are true.

Truth feels like a strange thing now, after four years under a president who spewed falsehoods like a fire hose.

He had uttered or tweeted 22,247 statements the Washington Post’s fact checker staff called “errants” just two weeks before Election Day, a figure that no doubt climbed again during his blitz of rallies in the days just before 3 November.

But by Monday evening, there was one truth that not even this former reality show host who so often was angered by realities he chose to ignore or revise – both in his own mind and on the public stage.

When Michigan election officials certified election results there that showed Mr Biden winning the state and its 16 electoral votes, it likely ended Mr Trump’s long shot bid to have hundreds of thousands of ballots invalidated in several key battleground states.

With Pennsylvania expected to certify its results in Mr Biden’s favour in the coming days, the door has all but finally closed on the president’s unprecedented attempt to cling to power from a White House residence he soon will vacate.

Closing with it will be one of the most chaotic, scandal-plagued eras in American political history. What’s next for Mr Trump is as unclear as when he will walk out of the executive mansion for the final time. But Trumpism will live on.

Several potential 2024 GOP presidential primary combatants already are jockeying for as large a slice of his conservative base as they can get.

Nikki Haley, the Indian-American former governor of South Carolina who was his first ambassador to the United Nations, wasted little time in going full coronavirus sceptic. As she eyes a White House bid, she weighed in on a Covid college football brouhaha from the weekend.

“Florida State, whether you lose today or a few days from now won’t matter. Get it over with already. Stop stalling. #GoTigers @ClemsonFB,” she tweeted after the struggling Sunshine State programme cancelled its meeting with the defending national champions after a backup Tiger offensive lineman showed Covid-like symptoms the night before their scheduled noon Saturday game.  

Even before Mr Trump cleared Ms Murphy to toss Mr Biden and his transition team the keys that unlock reams of intelligence and coronavirus-related data they will need to take over on 20 January, Ms Haley was elbowing the president out of the MAGA lane.

A whimper

The truth he ultimately could not ignore came into further focus that evening, when US district judge Matthew Brann tossed the Trump campaign’s suit claiming widespread voter fraud in Pennsylvania. Mr Brann delivered a fiery decision, writing the Trump team presented little more than “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations".

The federal judge, despite the president and his legal team continuing to promise to release some, added the claims were "unsupported by evidence".

"In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state,” Judge Brann wrote. “Our people, laws, and institutions demand more.”

One can quibble with the judge’s final point. After all, more people voted for Mr Trump this time than when he shocked the world by defeating former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Over 10 million more, in fact. A large part of the population (73.8 million) not only has never demanded more of Donald John Trump – they just wanted more Donald John Trump. But even more (79.8 million) did demand more, and voted for his Democratic opponent, who now faces the daunting task of governing a bitterly and deeply divided country that has been so warped by the Trump era.

But how Mr Biden does that is for another day. All eyes, for two more months, will remain on the showman-in-chief – even if, like the weeks since election day, we don’t actually see him that often.

For all the worries among Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans about a Constitutional crisis or even a coup d’etat, those who have watched this president so closely knew it would be this way.

In the end, the president who roared and accused and insulted for four years like a lion seemingly at war with every creature in his kingdom went out with a mere whimper.

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