“The final days of the Trump presidency have taken on the stormy elements of a drama more common to history or literature than a modern White House,” with President Trump’s “rage and detached-from-reality refusal to concede defeat” now “part tragedy, part farce, full of sound and fury,” Peter Baker writes at The New York Times. “Moody and by accounts of his advisers sometimes depressed, the president barely shows up to work, ignoring the health and economic crises afflicting the nation and largely clearing his public schedule of meetings unrelated to his desperate bid to rewrite the election results.”
“Yet even as Trump has been consumed with his waning political fortunes in a desperate attempt to retain power, his administration has accelerated efforts to lock in last-minute policy gains and staffing assignments that it hopes will help cement the president’s legacy and live on past Jan. 20, when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in,” The Washington Post reports.
Last week, for example, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services adopted a longer and more difficult citizenship test marred by errors, the Pentagon named Corey Lewandowski and other Trump loyalists to the Defense Business Board, and Trump signed an executive order on artificial intelligence, the Post notes. And the administration is rushing to auction off drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 6, ease safety rules for drilling in the Arctic Ocean, scale back protections for endangered species, make it harder to implement public health protections, draw down troop levels, weaken job protections for civil servants, and build a final 50 miles of U.S.-Mexico border wall.
“The rush has come despite Trump’s relative inattention to governing since his electoral defeat last month, driven in part by ideologically minded aides, including Cabinet members eager to burnish their own legacies,” the Post notes, pointing to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo increasing sanctions on Iran and China.
Trump “remains focused on that important work and fulfilling the promises he made to the American people,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement. Aaron Reichlin-Melnick at the American Immigration Council doesn’t see much of Trump in the final rush. “You’re not seeing the rhetoric coming from the president since the end of the election,” at least on immigration, he said, “but the administration itself is moving forward and accelerating its efforts to get these midnight regulations out the door.”
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