Even in the lead-up to Christmas, even in humiliating loss, even as Americans attempt reflection on what has been, for many, the worst year of their lives, President Donald Trump seems bent on maintaining an unrelenting pace of norm-smashing as his term concludes.
No one expected him to fade quietly into retirement. And no one, at this point, is particularly obliged to pay attention — a fact Trump seems very aware of as he desperately seeks to grasp hold of the spotlight for however long it will shine, even as his staff is provided instructions for boxing up their desks and cleaning out their microwaves.
The effect is a president more erratic than ever. Though he has all but disappeared from public view, Trump is wielding what executive powers he has left to rancorous effect, ensuring his presence is felt even as he holes up in virtual isolation. Instead of off-the-cuff rallies or shouting underneath his helicopter, Trump is holding forth in pre-produced videos and, as always, tweeting.
His actions all seem designed to offer the other co-equal branches of government a taste of what he can do — and what damage he can inflict — in the days he is still President.
So preoccupied is Trump with his final-stretch actions — which also include his futile efforts to engineer a way to remain in office — that aides were initially uncertain whether the President would even leave the White House for his annual sojourn south to Mar-a-Lago.
Ultimately he did emerge from the White House for the first time in days on Wednesday, ignoring health experts’ advice on staying in place for the holidays for a trip to his Florida estate, where earlier this week a student group convened a large, mask-less party in the Donald J. Trump ballroom.
Hoping to disabuse the readily apparent notion that Trump has all but abandoned his governing duties, the White House included an unusual note on his otherwise empty schedule in Florida: “As the Holiday season approaches, President Trump will continue to work tirelessly for the American People. His schedule includes many meetings and calls.”
Not letting go of the election
A few hours earlier, Trump had gathered state Republican lawmakers from Pennsylvania for lunch at the White House, apparently undeterred by repeated losses in state and federal courts in his bid to challenge the results of the election there. Trump has aggressively courted GOP members of state legislatures, hopeful someone, somewhere, will help him reverse the results of the Electoral College. He has yet to find success.
Shortly afterward, Trump retweeted a call from one of his supporters for Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to ratify the Electoral College results on January 6 — a prospect that has captured his imagination even if it remains completely impossible. Trump has told people recently that Pence isn’t doing enough to fight for him as his presidency ends.