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Now Trump has lost, what happens to the Republican cronies who enabled him?

It’s safe to say that the next three months won't feature a traditional transition of power

Ahmed Baba
Washington, DC
Saturday 07 November 2020 16:47 GMT
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Donald Trump leaves after speaking in the briefing room at the White House on 5 November 2020 in Washington, DC
Donald Trump leaves after speaking in the briefing room at the White House on 5 November 2020 in Washington, DC (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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What you're witnessing is the collapse of the greatest conman in American history. Donald J Trump is now officially a one-term president. None of his lies — which are currently being flagged by social media — or his distraction-based lawsuits will change that. Former vice president Joe Biden is now the president-elect and Senator Kamala Harris will be the first Black person and female vice president in history.

The majority of Americans gave the Biden-Harris ticket, with over 74 million votes (and counting), a historic high. Biden is also the first candidate to defeat an incumbent president since Bill Clinton took down George Bush Sr in 1992. He won back the “Blue Wall” in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania and is currently taking the lead in previously deep red Arizona and Georgia.

The majority has rejected Donald Trump — but the fact this race was so close shows there is still some appetite for Trumpism in America.

High expectations driven by flawed polls distorted how hard it was going to be to unseat an incumbent. Given Trump underperformed down-ballot candidates, this was still clearly a repudiation of his presidency. We don’t know yet if Biden will win by a landslide, but it’s possible.  Yet, in spite of all his failures, Trump managed to garner more votes than he did in 201. The GOP could keep the Senate unless both Democrats win in the upcoming Georgia Senate runoffs, and the party made inroads with Latino voters. Some Republicans appear to be taking all this as a sign Trumpism itself is alive and well.

As we speak, right-wing media and a growing number of Republican lawmakers are pushing President Trump’s lies about voter fraud so the base will feel this was taken from him and see Trump as a martyr. Even though Trump lost, the GOP is still the party of Trump.

So what happens next? What will happen to the Republican cronies who drank the Kool Aid and enabled Trump’s controversial behavior during his presidency? And, with pending investigations looming, what will happen to Trump?

It’s safe to say that the next three months won’t feature a traditional transition of power. After his flimsy legal challenges fail, we’re likely to see members of the Trump administration take as much as they can on the way out. We may see last-minute pardons, government contracts approved for Trump allies, and more siphoning of taxpayer dollars into Trump’s businesses. After he eroded civil service protections via executive order, Trump could also replace career government officials with loyalists, engineering his own deep state before Biden takes office. How ironic.

When it comes to the GOP itself, its members are forever changed. After entering the party in 2015 and trading in dog-whistles utilized since the Southern Strategy for bullhorns, Donald Trump has now fully reshaped the party in his shameless image. When it comes to Republican lawmakers, “moderates” like Senators Ben Sasse (R-NE), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Susan Collins (R-ME) may try and keep him at arm’s length; others will seek to embrace him and his tactics. You're likely to see more Trump-like politicians similar to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis rise in the GOP, that's for sure.

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), if he remains majority leader, will likely resort to his Obama opposition playbook of absolute obstruction. Axios is already reporting that McConnell plans to stonewall Biden from appointing progressive Cabinet secretaries. In a Senate majority, we might also see Senate Republicans block Biden's legislative agenda and try to bog Biden down with investigations of Trump's conspiracy theories. They'll need to be careful, though, because 2022 has a very favorable Senate map for Democrats. But of course, a blue Senate is not out of reach this year. All eyes are on the Georgia runoffs.

When it comes to presidential politics, there will now be a race for who can take on the mantle of Trump heir. If Biden’s electoral win was larger, we may have seen more moderate GOP candidates rise ahead of 2024, but it seems it’s entirely possible the top contenders for president might be the likes of Nikki Haley, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), or one of the Trump children. Donald Trump Jr specifically has really resonated with his father’s base. But who knows? The future of the GOP could still be Trump himself — that is, of course, if he avoids prosecution.

As The New York Times reports, Trump still plans to be a power broker in the Republican Party and has even privately mused about running for president again in 2024. He could try to launch his own TV network — or at the very least appear on OANN often. He will likely still hold rally-like speaking events too. But it's important to note that he is in $1 billion worth of debt with multiple investigations hovering over him, including probes of alleged fraud in New York. Trump has also already been implicated in conduct that his former fixer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to.

In more perilous signs for his post-presidency life, Trump's longtime lender Deutsche Bank is reportedly ready to sever ties with him. As former assistant director for counterintelligence at the FBI Frank Figliuzzi recently pointed out, the counterintelligence threat of Trump doesn’t go away after losing re-election. What US secrets would the president be willing to reveal to get out of his debt? That question will no doubt keep a fair few government officials up at night.

When it comes to Trump's cronies, there is a mountain of corruption for investigators to sift through. Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who helped him get impeached and is (somewhat hilariously) now leading his election legal efforts, faces a probe for his dealings in Ukraine. There's also the potential Giuliani might face a counterintelligence probe, given his alleged collaboration with a Russian agent during his effort to dig up dirt on Hunter Biden. And when it comes to the Trump administration proper, the Biden administration could launch probes into corrupt conduct, human rights violations, violations of the Hatch Act, and misuse of taxpayer funds, to name just a few possibilities. A Biden DOJ could also seek to launch internal inquiries into the damage Attorney General William Barr did to the department. (It’s unclear whether that will realistically take place, however, as Biden has said he will not interfere in the DOJ’s prosecutorial decisions, unlike Trump.)

Then we have Trump’s base. Right-wing media, who had a lot of practice opposing the Obama administration, will continue to gaslight their audience. Facebook will likely continue to disproportionally amplify their disinformation. Conspiracy theories are now part of the framework of the Republican Party. Expect more QAnon candidates as well.

The GOP’s disinformation machine is the broadest challenge Democrats will face in electoral politics moving forward. 2020 proves almost half the voting public bought into it.

Overall, America has defeated Donald Trump and that is an enormous cause for hope and celebration. But there is likely a smarter Trump-like figure out there taking notes, waiting to more competently execute the playbook this president leaves behind. Decency has won the day but the fight against Trumpism is far from over.

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