The most memorable quotation from Gerald Ford (well maybe second to his claim that Poland was not a Communist country) was his announcement that Richard Nixon had been excised from the presidency. Ford’s statement that “our long national nightmare is over” was perfect. The Watergate hearings felt like a slow motion train wreck with an unraveling conductor at the controls.
Many people are probably remembering Ford’s words this morning, as it appears the current president is headed for an ignominious departure as well. This time, however, it is hard to know exactly what has been resolved. Yes, we won’t have to worry about his ability to abuse presidential powers. Beyond that, little is clear. I am a terrible prognosticator, but when I tell the story of the future, here is some of what I predict.
1) Biden will win decisively in the end, both in popular and electoral votes. That will not stop Trump from continuing his preordained strategy of suing right and left over dubious claims of fraud.
2) This will result in an effort to get a stacked Supreme Court to rule in his favor. Roberts and the three Trump justices recognize how badly the reputation of the court would suffer if a decision appeared to be partisan. To avoid putting the three justices on the spot, the court would like nothing more than to deny hearing the appeal by claiming there is no constitutional issue at stake. If there is one that requires them to get involved, I think it would hinge not on the balloting itself but on whether a competing slate of electors contradicting the results of the vote was a violation of the voters’ constitutional rights. If they cannot avoid a hearing, the Trump justices will not all vote in his favor, to keep the appearance of being above partisanship, and Trump will not be successful in the end
3) Meanwhile Trump will use the interregnum to damage the country as much as he can. He will lose the popular vote by such a margin that the entire country must be punished, with the possible exception of those states who voted for him, if he can figure out a way to selectively reward and punish. This means no stimulus. To hell with us
4) He will also fire and/or begin prosecution of anyone he perceives as an enemy. Fauci and Wray are as good as gone, and I suspect Barr will be out fairly quickly as well, because he will not go far enough to satisfy Trump.
4) Trump will move quickly to use his pardon power for his children and son-in-law, but will not go much further than that, because he doesn’t really care about even his most loyal toadies. Hey, if he is hurting, nobody else’s predicament matters.
5) He will stop doing the job altogether. Other than doing hurtful things, he will thumb his nose openly, and just play golf and tweet. Meanwhile, Melania and Barron will decamp for New York because she has no interest in helping with Jill Biden’s transition. Unless her prenup (which she renegotiated before agreeing to move from New York to the White House) makes it worth her while to stay married, she will file for divorce soon.
6) Once either his malice and/or energy for vengeance has run out of targets or he has run out of time ( more likely the latter), he will arrange with Pence for a pardon, then resign. This will get around the issue of whether he can pardon himself and will get him out of all the trappings of the transition—welcoming the Bidens to the White House and standing on the stage while Biden takes the oath of office.
7) On Inauguration Day, instead of letting Biden have his day, he will hold a rally announcing the launch of his 2024 campaign. This will enable him to use other people’s money to keep going around the country doing what he loves best: sowing division, undermining his “enemies,” and basking in adoration.
No, we will not wake up from this nightmare nearly so easily.