News ‘Most dangerous man in America’: Donald Trump clings to the last vestige of power
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‘Most dangerous man in America’: Donald Trump clings to the last vestige of power

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The US is bracing for a turbulent handover period as President Donald Trump appears to be mounting a purge of top officials, causing chaos and raising concerns he may refuse to leave the Oval Office.

Mr Trump made his first public appearance after spending the past seven days, with the exception of a weekend golf trip, inside the White House tweeting baseless claims of voter fraud and refusing to concede defeat.

Although he may have avoided public appearances, the President has been busy – he’s fired Secretary of Defence Mark Esper and installed three staunch loyalists into top-tier defence positions.

The move came just days after Attorney General William Barr issued a memo authorising federal prosecutors to investigate election fraud.

The tumultuous start to Mr Trump’s lame duck period has raised concerns the President may be mounting a plan to stay in office, despite losing the popular and electoral college vote.

Mr Trump announced on Twitter he had sacked Secretary of Defence Mark Esper. Photo: Getty

“What Donald Trump is attempting to do has a name: Coup d’état,” said Timothy Snyder, a history professor at Yale University specialising in authoritarianism, on Twitter.

“Poorly organised though it might seem, it is not bound to fail. It must be made to fail.

“Coups are defeated quickly or not at all. While they take place we are meant to look away, as many of us are doing. When they are complete we are powerless.”

University of Melbourne’s US political analyst George Rennie says there is no doubt Mr Trump would mount a coup if he could.

“I don’t doubt if Trump could, he would mount a coup. He would overturn the election,” Professor Rennie told The New Daily.  

“The truth is he can’t. For all its flaws, the US is still something like a nation of laws. The system of checks and balances is still in place.”

Although Mr Trump might dream of a plot to change the result of the election, there is no possibility it could be successful, Professor Rennie said.

“The armed forces, the secret service, are beholden to the Constitution. We saw how the Secret Service act, as soon as it seemed likely Biden would be President, the Secret Service upped the detail.

President-elect Joe Biden is confident Mr Trump will hand over his powers. Photo: Getty

“As soon as the inauguration comes around Donald Trump becomes the former president, then the Secret Service, who have protected him, will be the persons who escort him out.”

Key Republicans have failed to back Mr Biden’s win or denounce Mr Trump’s claims of voter fraud.

The President is within his legal rights to refuse to concede the election, but it does not mean he hasn’t lost.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has been silent on Mr Biden’s win.

“At some point here, we’ll find out finally who was certified [the winner] in each of these states, and the electoral college will determine the winner and that person will be sworn in on January 20,” McConnell said on the Senate floor earlier this week.

This refusal to acknowledge Mr Biden’s win is more about not upsetting the base than it is about mounting an unconstitutional political move to keep the President in power, Professor Rennie said.

“That’s just politics,” he said.

“You’ve got Mitch McConnell, a political animal. He doesn’t want to p— off the Trump base.”

“There’s a bunch of Republicans who know the writing is on the wall, but don’t want to p— off the base.”

So what’s he playing at?

Some pundits have argued Mr Trump’s refusal to concede is financially motivated – Mr Trump’s campaign is still bombarding supporters with emails asking for money.

In the emails, Mr Trump’s team request cash to help them pay for the ‘election defence’ but the fine print says the money might also be used to pay for campaign debts.

Money is likely on the President’s mind – his tax records revealed by The New York Times indicate financial distress and the Manhattan district attorney is investigating him and his company for an array of financial crimes.

There are rumours abound that Mr Trump will return to TV,  by launching a cable network with his name on it.

Professor Joe Siracusa of Curtin University said Mr Trump isn’t launching a coup at all – he is in ‘pre-production mode’ for his big exit out of the White House and into the media.

“He’s got this plan to start a TV subscription network, so when he leaves the White House he has 72 million voters and 88 million Twitter followers,” he said.

President Donald Trump has sought to invalidate mail-in voters. Photo: AAP

Not only will his base follow him onto TV, but it will help Mr Trump continue to control the Republican Party after his departure, he said.

“He’s the most dangerous man in America right now …  he’ll be able to control the destiny of the Republicans as we move forward,” Professor Siracusa said.

He said Mr Trump’s insistence that the election was stolen will help shape the narrative with his base that he is the victim.

“If you tell your base that something is stolen, you’ve criminalised the election,’’ Professor Siracusa said.

“He’s been able to say a crime has been committed, so he’s going to try and remedy that. He will run in 2024 or, if he doesn’t, he will anoint the next person.

“Trump will be a very, very influential voice as long as he breathes air.”

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