After being optimistic about using the powers of his office to force well-timed victories, Trump is now facing political headwinds, regulatory burdens and reality. He is only a few days away from reaching the last possible spot in his administration if the promise of something in “two weeks” improves his chances of being elected. Some outside the White House – including his former National Security Adviser – have openly resented what Trump might orchestrate to create political ground.
Trump is furious with his MPs for failing to execute. He is rethinking his potential cabinet for the second term, said those familiar with the matter, although he remains superstitious and does not like to talk about who he would reappoint if he is re-elected, believing it will be luck again. At the White House, last hour efforts to achieve political success are a stray at best as staff work through a virus outbreak. Trump himself has proven to be less helpful, offering conflicting edicts through Twitter.
The lost lifelines made the president angry. Instead of big new announcements from the rose garden or on a campaign field, Trump has chosen Fox host from the White House and poked his top cabinet members for non-delivery before November 3rd.
Even the most loyal
Even officials considered the most loyal, and therefore the safest, – such as Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – have not escaped Trump’s wrath. Trump refused to respond when asked during a Newsmax phone call Wednesday if he would ask Barr to serve in a second term.
“I have no comment,” he said. “Can’t comment on that. It’s too early. I’m not happy.”
A day later, it was Mnuchin, who was currently conducting unsuccessful negotiations on Capitol Hill over a new stimulus package and was whipped by the president.
“He didn’t come home with the bacon,” said Trump.
In other situations, Trump has punished aides for failing to make major announcements in the final weeks of the campaign that could help improve his standing with key constituencies where he has lost ground, such as seniors or women. And even after returning to the White House from his hospital stay for coronavirus, Trump was upset with his chief of staff for telling reporters that his early symptoms were worrying.
This autumn was still full of surprises in the election season, from a vacancy on the Supreme Court to a new Middle East diplomacy to the President’s own Covid diagnosis and hospitalization. But the things that Trump wanted to announce in the last few days of the presidential contest are gushing – an unfamiliar experience for a man who is used to getting what he wants.
“When I knew Donald, pretty much everything broke his way. There was always someone there to clean up his mess. There was always someone there who gave him hundreds of millions of dollars to save him,” said Mary Trump, the president Niece who recently published a damning report on his upbringing. “He is in a completely different universe right now, where there is actually no one left to help him out of the traffic jams that he puts himself in again and again. And I think that’s the pressure he honestly feels.”
Justice Department problems
It’s also become clear that a separate investigation by U.S. attorney John Durham into the origins of the Russia investigation isn’t going to provide the kind of damn information Trump once hoped would convince voters he was in had been wrongly persecuted during the early years of his presidency.
Current and former law enforcement officials said the Durham investigation has not yet found any evidence to bring major charges against the people who see Trump as his political enemies. And Barr has also been telling Republican lawmakers over the past few weeks not to expect a report from Durham on his results before election day.
Durham is notoriously slow and methodical in its investigations, which, according to people familiar with the way he works, typically span years. This problem has frustrated law enforcement officials and Trump’s allies in Congress.
It also infuriated the president, who turned his anger on Barr and accused him of stalling.
“Why should you get a free ticket because the investigation took too long?” he said Thursday during his phone interview on Fox Business. “You want to wait until after the election to be nice? It’s very sad. In fact, it’s pathetic.”
Trump has forgiven Pompeo no less, whom he accused last week of posting some of Hillary Clinton’s emails. The top diplomat replied that he was working quickly to get them out before election day.
“We will do everything we can to ensure that the American people get the chance to see as much as we can fairly produce,” Pompeo said on Wednesday, declining to say why the State Department had to take such steps three weeks earlier The vote.
Trump was also open to expressing his frustration with government health officials that regulations are coming into effect that essentially guarantee a coronavirus vaccine will not receive emergency approval before November 3. Trump once openly speculated that a vaccine would be available before the election, a prospect whose political advantages he little underestimated.
After a week-long delay by White House officials, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week made it clear in new guidelines that comprehensive safety data on vaccine candidates will be required before emergency approvals are issued – making it difficult if not impossible for a vaccine manufacturer to apply for an emergency permit by election day.
Trump raged in the hours that followed – “Just another political hit!” – and still sounded upset on Thursday morning.
“It should be before the election and it could be a little longer,” he said. “There’s a lot of politics.”
Politics has similarly hampered Trump’s talks on an important new stimulus that he tried to abandon just last week before abruptly reversing course. The move that caused stocks to fall confused many of the president’s allies as Trump was eager to write new checks to Americans even in the weeks leading up to the election.
After Trump said Thursday morning that he was ready to top his administration’s current $ 1.8 trillion offer, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said no such proposal was in sight.
“I’m not going to put this on the floor,” he told reporters in Kentucky.
Trump has tried to make foreign policy progress in hour 11, traditionally an area where presidents have greater leeway. He has touted new normalization agreements between Israel and the Arabian Gulf states, and his government is pushing again for a nuclear deal with Moscow in the hope that such an agreement could force China to reconsider its position on trilateral arms talks.
But even there, Trump finds it difficult to keep his promises. America’s highest general publicly pushed back on the announcement that the US would aggressively reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan by the end of the year regardless of local conditions.
The lack of victories has led some former officials to wonder what the president might come up with at the end of the election.
“I think he needs to see the political environment become more and more problematic for him, so I think his desire to do what he wants to do in the final weeks of the campaign is getting more insistent,” said former National Security Advisor John Bolton – now a Trump critic – said in an episode of “The Ax Files” this week listing a new arms trade with Russia or a fourth summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un as the kind of offbeat October surprises that Trump could put together.
“The kind of flashy, flashy, bright lights – that is what a Donald Trump would think of,” Bolton said. “And I think that option will remain even as the elections approach.”