One hundred and sixty years after the first Republican president was forced to put down a violent insurrection against the United States, the party’s 19th is leaving office after inciting one.
Donald Trump plans to leave the White House for the final time Wednesday morning, 78 days after becoming only the fourth incumbent to lose reelection in a century and seven days after becoming the first president to be impeached twice.
Democrat Joe Biden will take the oath of office at noon that day, becoming president and commander-in-chief of the United States, and leaving Trump suddenly vulnerable to both civil and criminal legal liabilities from which holding that office had shielded him for four years.
Trump is facing lawsuits from women accusing him of sexual misconduct, including rape; criminal investigations by both state and federal prosecutors in New York; a Senate impeachment trial that could bar him from holding federal office again; and potentially both civil and criminal exposure for his weekslong efforts to spark chaos at the U.S. Capitol in order to prevent Biden from being certified as the winner of the 2020 election. The Jan. 6 riot, which Trump egged on with a rally near the White House, quickly turned bloody and ended with the deaths of a Capitol Police officer and four Trump supporters. A second officer died by suicide days later.
“While Trump will not be receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, he will now be inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the only president anywhere to have been impeached for the second time,” said Michael Cohen, Trump’s onetime lawyer who served federal prison time for, in part, his work to pay hush money to women who’d had affairs with Trump. “Congratulations, Donald, and best of luck in your future endeavors.”
Trump’s first impeachment had come a year earlier, for trying to extort the new Ukrainian leader into publicly smearing Biden, whom Trump feared even in early 2019 as the Democratic challenger most likely to oust him.
“The Trump legacy will include: the most corrupt administration in American history, the grandest handover of policymaking to corporations of all time, the most overt and vicious racism and anti-immigrant xenophobia of any administration in modern times, unparalleled incompetence, cruelty and callousness in its mismanagement of the pandemic, and rushing the globe toward climate catastrophe at the exact moment when the world needed the United States to pivot away from fossil fuel reliance,” said Robert Weissman, president of the liberal group Public Citizen. “There’s a long list of ‘accomplishments,’ far beyond these lowlights.”
A Legacy Of Lies
While Trump frequently claims he has done more than any previous president ― “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” he told the United Nations just 20 months into his term ― in reality, he leaves office with among the thinnest portfolios of policy successes of any president in modern times.
While establishment Republicans managed to achieve their decadeslong goals of large tax cuts for corporations, the rollback of environmental and worker safety regulations, and the appointment of more than 200 pro-business judges to the federal bench, Trump himself checked almost nothing off the agenda he pushed at the start of his 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump promised he would renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement to benefit U.S. workers. Instead, it was renamed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement but remains functionally nearly identical, with the exception of some small tweaks lifted directly from the Trans-Pacific Partnership ― another trade pact Trump pulled out of and called the worst deal ever.
He promised a large middle-class tax cut, but instead went along with a plan from congressional Republican leaders that gave the biggest benefit to the richest Americans. Although he again promised a middle-class tax cut heading into the midterm elections of 2018, Trump did nothing to enact one afterward.
There were similar results with an infrastructure plan to rebuild the nation’s highways, bridges and airports and a health care plan to replace the Affordable Care Act: Trump repeatedly promised to push through these “tremendous” proposals but never even released a single word of either.
Trump’s creation of a “Space Force,” which he appears to believe was a major accomplishment, was merely a bureaucratic renaming of the Air Force’s Space Command, which had existed since the Reagan presidency, with no change in mission or staffing. Democrats, however, were able to trade that Trump “win” for paid family leave for federal workers, a longtime priority of theirs.