Horrid numbers of new cases of covid infections and deaths, economic turmoil, racial injustice, foreign policy, and the climate catastrophe are bearing down on us. Trump golfs and plots ways to enact his scorched earth policies on the way out the door. Nothing else matters to him at this moment, except for the magical pardon power.
Foreign Policy on Trump’s scorched farewell to the world.
The problem is not just that President Donald Trump is denying the outcome of the Nov. 3 election and seemingly attempting a coup to reverse that result. It’s that on almost every front from COVID-19 response and economic rescue plans to the fate of hotspots such as Afghanistan and Iran, the outgoing president is sowing chaos within his own administration that has left every world capital in a muddle and President-elect Joe Biden in a bind.
The most immediate and dangerous challenge is the Trump administration’s failure to respond to the alarming upswing in COVID-19 cases, or to coordinate pandemic response or vaccine distribution with the incoming Biden team. But that same scorched-earth policy applies to the economic carnage caused by the virus, which is likely to persist next year as cases and deaths increase dramatically.
The latest confusion erupted Thursday when U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell in a letter that he wants the Fed to close down most of its emergency lending facilities, even as COVID cases reach new highs across the country that will no doubt be exacerbated by the coming winter weather, flu season and holiday travel.
But some government officials are concerned about more surprises to come. According to one well-placed Capitol Hill source, some intelligence professionals expressed concern that Trump, outraged by what he called the role of the “China virus” in his defeat, may be planning action of some kind against Beijing. Those worries have increased with the firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other senior Pentagon officials, and their replacement by Trump loyalists.
Yet the most urgent crisis lies with COVID, and the administration’s ongoing refusal to sign off on additional rescue money while allowing five of the Fed’s nine emergency facilities to expire at the end of the year. As fall turns to winter, and Covid cases continue to rise, most experts expect further economic turbulence just as the Biden administration comes into office. That makes the decision to hobble the Fed look like a landmine.