November 20, 2020 – 1:15 pm ET
By Rich Weissman, Palm Springs, California (www.richweissman.com)
Why is Trump so adamant about refusing to concede the election? On some level he knows he will leave the White House by January 20th, so why continue the charade? Does he genuinely think he can still perpetuate his election fraud narrative, or engage in a martial law coup, or manage to keep his base’s adoration at heightened levels after his presidency, or even run for the office again in four years (there are rumors that he may announce his candidacy on the day of Biden’s inauguration; there are other rumors that Ivanka may run, and other rumors that Lara may run for Congress)? If so, this would be a good time to appear calm and forward-thinking, not to be seen as a rabid, foaming at the mouth, incalcitrant sore loser.
What may be behind all this? Let’s deconstruct and get into Trump’s head ...
First, he knows that on January 20th there are dozens of serious criminal indictments waiting for him in New York, from tax evasion, bank fraud, rape and other sexual offenses, to a plethora of engagements in syndicated crime-like activities. Of equal importance is that they will come from a variety of courts, where he will be shuttling across court jurisdictions. He cannot pardon himself out of these, nor ignore them. Who knows how indictments on the federal level might unfold, but the New York State and the New York City cases alone have the potential to put him away for the remainder of his lifetime, not to mention potential D.C. and Maryland cases. Interesting, Michael Cohen recently said that Trump will not pardon his children because such pardons would negate their ability to plead the 5th as subpoenaed witnesses in court cases against Trump, and they would be forced to testify (and Cohen noted that Trump doesn’t care about his children’s legal battles, only his own).
Second, he has few attorneys left in which to engage in a serious defense. His top, middle and even low tiered firms and individual lawyers have abandoned him in an effort to keep themselves from further disgrace, and he is, at best, scraping the bottom of the barrel with the craziness of Sidney Powell and Ian Northon. Rudy is a buffoon (and may be disbarred), and Trump can no longer utilize the U.S. Attorney General and DOJ for help. Not only can these cases result in prison, but also repossession of Trump financial assets for back taxes, fees, penalties, etc. Even at the New York State and New York City levels, these could be significant, where a self or Pence pardon would have no standing, and Trump would desperately be searching for legal representation.
Third, detailed information about Russian hacking and cyberattacks, bounties and the use of Trump as a tool for the Russians will most likely surface in the Biden administration. There may be access to detailed information as department staff and others may speak out publicly once Trump leaves. This will further discredit Trump and his administration, and a new understanding of Trump as a Russian asset may become clearer with potential confessions, tape recordings, files, etc. that may surface. Once Trump is out of office, there may be an abundance of people coming forward. In addition, people may come forward on other fronts, demonstrating ways in which Trump acted to harm the American people while in office which are not yet know by the media. Such a narrative with supporting evidence would further erode Trump’s plans for a come-back, and he may be overwhelmed with worry that these kinds of connections will surface with genuine supporting documentation and witnesses, and not just conjecture.
Fourth, Deutsche Bank, through whom Trump accessed Russian banks (at a premium cost, because reputable U.S., European, Asian or Mid-Eastern bank would not loan to him), will be made to appear in court, and soon will be calling on his loans as they come due within the next two years. Deutsche Bank recently made it clear that no further lending facilities or assistance will be provided to Trump. And there are other separate lenders in line for additional loans that are coming due as well. Forbes estimates that there are over a billion U.S. dollars Trump owes in upcoming loan payments. Trump does not have that kind of cash available, which will require him to liquidate real estate or the bank/lender to repossess properties, depending on the amounts due and the current valuations of those properties (and he won’t be able to fudge the valuations as he has in the past - these will be conducted by independent 3rd parties). In any event, it will become a battle of Trump vs. the lenders (spoiler alert: usually the bankers win).
Fifth, he finds himself in a conundrum relative to housing. He’s afraid to go back to NYC and the charges that await him there. Yet, he will soon be involved in another lawsuit, now with the city of Palm Beach if he attempts to live at Mar-a-Lago, which is zoned (Trump did this to create his private Mar-a-Lago social club) as a private club and not as a place for primary residency, with strict limits on the number of days one can stay at the club. The city has long tried to restrict Trump’s use of the property as a city nuisance. Sure, he owns many properties elsewhere, but they are not in locations he prefers, and they lack the culture of sycophancy and the sheer square footage that Mar-a-Lago offers and that Trump needs for his ego. He will no longer be on the social A-list, and in many places he will be treated as a pariah, no longer the darling of the jet-set world of the glitterati he once commanded. He and his family may soon become socially ignored has-beens.
Sixth, he may soon find himself served with divorce papers. We know that Melania re-wrote her prenup as a condition for moving to D.C. after a long period of remaining in NYC after Trump’s inauguration in 2017. This document may soon surface and she, along with Baron and Melania’s parents, might part from Trump and his family. If so, Trump will have no-one at his side, even for the optics. Interestingly, it appears that Trump’s adult children may not be living with him in Mar-a-Lago (we know that Ivanka and Jared are not going back to their NYC home, but moving to Bedminster in New Jersey; they also bought land on an island an hour from Mar-a-Lago for a future building site, keeping their distance). For whatever reason, his family may not want to be part of Trump’s household or the legal battles with the city of Palm Beach. Trump may be living alone.
Seventh, he is of no value to foreign governments once he leaves office. There is no reason for them to take his calls, stay at his properties, invite him to events, or provide him with financial support. He can comb through his contact list on his cell phone of foreign dignitaries, but there will be little reason for them to talk with him. Biden and Antony Blinken now act as their contact points, and Trump has nothing further to offer foreign leaders. He will soon learn that those who showed interest in him were not because of their adoration of Trump, but because of his title, and without that title he has no worth on the international stage.
Eighth, Trump will lose many media outlets for his daily barrage of messaging. His presidency was based on his social media, press conferences, a cadre of communications spokespeople, his regular appearances and call-ins on Fox News, and his coverage in mainstream media based on the incessant drivel he would blather minute-by-minute, typically but not restricted to Twitter. On January 20th, he will no longer be able to use Twitter as he had, He will not have an in-house, on-call national media audience at the Rose Garden with communications staff to speak on his behalf. He is currently at war with Fox News, and who knows how that will resolve itself. Will he become a regular on Fox or other cable outlets? Will there be a split among the viewers on the far-right who will leave Fox and join other further far-right nascent outlets? Will Parler become a vehicle for Trump? Who knows, but in any event Trump’s presence in the mainstream media will diminish, and he will lack the ability to have a broad national audience and presence as he has been accustomed. Certainly, daily Trump news and interviews with Trump staff will no longer abound on CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, etc., and in the written media of the NYT, WP, WSJ, HuffPost, Bloomberg, Newsweek, Time, etc. Most of the nation will no longer be interested in what he has to say. He may, ultimately, become ignored and irrelevant by most of the media, which for Trump translates into a special kind of prison.
Ninth, the empty and decaying Trump Plaza hotel in Atlantic City is to be dynamited by the city on January 29, 2021. It is Trump’s last casino of the four he owned in Atlantic City. All declared bankruptcy over the years. Atlantic City is holding a charity auction for the “joy” of pressing the button to activate the explosion (the auction will end on January 19, 2021). Trump left the city with a wake of unpaid bills, and the city holds no allegiance to him. All funds go to the Boys and Girls Club, and they expect it to raise over $1 million for the button-pushing event. This should be quite the national media event next month and further humiliation for Trump.
Finally, all of the above may leave him in a very different financial situation, and without the U.S. government, foreign governments, the GOP and the mainstream GOP donor base, and other funding sources, he may find that his lifestyle diminishes. Sure, he raised $200 million for his special PAC from his core supporters, and we are now learning that he has skimmed large sums from the GOP and other conduits while in the White House. We are now learning that Jared had much of these contributions and funds laundered into Trump family personal accounts. He may be able to continue to extract funds from his cult base through paid rallies and other initiatives, but the use of all this money may come under scrutiny. These sources may provide some relief, but with potential cases facing him, Ivanka, Jared and Don Jr., the entire family may find themselves in a financial squeeze (along with the legal peril his children may face as well). Certainly, the Trump brand as a high-end marketing device has tarnished (perhaps a K-Mart Trump clothing line at their few remaining stores, or Ivanka handbags/jewelry at the Dollar Store).
Most Presidents and their families leave office respectfully and with dignity, not worried about legal, financial and personal ruin. They hand over the reins to the next group, and go on to write their memoirs, give speeches, engage in charity and education work, build a presidential library, and understand their new role as a former President. They focus on their legacy. This kind of thinking is simply not part of the Trump psyche. It requires maturity, perspective and self-assuredness, something Trump lacks. He’s like a child who can’t stop pushing the balloon until it explodes, and then cries that the balloon has been taken from him. His history is clear: his endeavors consistently result in bankruptcies, lawsuits, divorce, shame and ultimately anger. He doesn’t know how to end things gracefully, and that pattern won’t change as he exits the White House.
These are all reasons for Trump to feel isolated and panicked. They all based on potential upcoming disasters for him, and demonstrate that he is indeed a “loser,” a depiction he despises. For Trump, these are humiliations that go against everything he believes in himself. Above all, Trump is a narcissist and a sociopath who operates on a childish level of intellect and emotion. He only cares about his image and the power he can brandish, and he lacks any sense of introspection and resolve. He deludes himself and lives in a fantasy world of mythological greatness, and he believes it. For him, it’s not a political game; no, for him, his narrative is real, and he is incapable of seeing himself otherwise. Losing the election is horrific enough for him, but to add to that disgrace and shame are the potential indignities noted above that, unlike most Presidents before, he will start to face in just one month, and they may each unfold, one-by-one, over the next two years. He is unable to accept anything but a perfect self-image (“I am the smartest person in the world”; “I have the best brain”, “I can do anything”), and he does not have the psychological character to face his new reality. He is a deeply disturbed and damaged person, with severe and dangerous psychiatric issues, and unable to accept his fate of personal, legal and economic humiliations and other challenges that may lie ahead.
So he denies and clings to his cult base that remains faithful. It’s all he has now. And he watches, one-by-one, as the GOP appointed judges provide no relief, and as the GOP leadership ultimately accepts the humiliation of the countless and baseless lawsuits denied, and as they come to accept Biden as the new President. Some of them are simply done with the Donald. And the demons in his head cannot deal with what is unfolding. Trump is terrified and psychologically in an unbridled rage.
What will Trump do? To quote Rhett Butler, “Quite frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” I think it will be highly unlikely (but not impossible) for him to seriously run in 2024. He may try, but he would need to start that effort soon. It would take a lot of money and ground support, and the barriers that the above potential hurdles present over the next four years may be too much for him to overcome. He’s not an outsider anymore; he’s a failed insider. Sure his core cult base still adores him, and many in the GOP are unwilling to disengage from him, but “build that wall” and “lock her up” have long lost their MAGA luster. He has shown himself to be a humiliated loser on many fronts, and that’s not the narrative that gave him the 2016 win. And, others want the crown jewel, such as Pence, Cotton, Rubio, Haley, etc. For sure, Trump will be divisive, and the GOP may fracture into the pro-Trump camp (his cult and the emerging “Patriot Party”) and the non-Trump camp. Unifying that party may become a serious barrier. I’m hoping that along with the implosion of the Trump Plaza hotel next month, there will be a concurrent implosion of the GOP. It may not come to be, but the seeds are there.
In any event, the path for another Trump presidency diminishes with time, and I am looking forward to a fantasy day when we all say, “Whatever happened to Trump after his divorce and after he lost all that money and was sent to jail? Haven’t heard much about him lately.” A day when we have to google his name to see if he hasn’t already died.
CAVEAT: The Democrats need to make sure that they remain unified and don’t allow fractions within the party and base to distract from the Biden/Harris presidency. This is not a time for in-fighting among the Democrats. Picking apart Biden/Harris, their administration and programs will not serve the nation. Biden/Harris need support in order to undo and move forward from the broken nation Trump leaves behind.