Finally, the end is here for Donald J. Trump. After weeks of stonewalling, Trump is quitting office in a blaze of ingloriousness. He has been in desperate shape since he lost his reelection bid last November, but that desperation got more ominous as the former president limped out of the White House, lonely and naked, into a cold hostile world at noon on Wednesday, 20 January.
For one, Trump has been undergoing a series of political, financial, and legal setbacks long before the cataclysm that came with November 6. His business empire has been crashing as scared and bewildered partners who barely tolerated Trump’s toxic ways, have been in flight long before his political dreams blew in his face.
Now that the legal impunity which shrouded Trump since 2016 is gone, the floodgate will now be open for prosecutors to begin to knock on his door.
Trump’s desperation since he lost his reelection bid is understandable. Last May, then-candidate, Joe Biden had pledged that, if elected president, he wouldn’t use his executive powers to pardon Trump of potential crimes.
It was not the first time Biden said he would not go easy on Trump. Earlier in October 2019, he said it was a mistake for President Gerald Ford to pardon his predecessor, Richard Nixon, after 1974 Watergate scandal, adding that pardoning Trump would send the wrong signal that some people are above the law.
Trump is not only losing a job he performed so poorly but, quite possibly, everything else, no thanks to his caustic tongue and toxic public image. At the last count, the New York City government, three banks, the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) Championship, and a real-estate firm that handled leasing agreements for the Trump Organization have signalled their intention to cancel partnership agreements.
With two defamation lawsuits, the imminent closure of many of his hotels and the repayment, within the next four years of more than $300 million in outstanding loans which he personally guaranteed, Trump’s immediate future does not look promising.
Four years ago, Trump grabbed the headlines in a way the world could never have imagined. He won the presidency to become a major beneficiary of the opaque and inconvenient collegiate system that he had always dismissed as fraudulent.
Even before he inherited the White House that thrust into an undeserved global spotlight, Trump had signalled that he was not only a political novice but one that was going to break all the rules. The world will remember Donald Trump as the grandmaster of the filthy personal attack who revelled in excoriating friends and foes.
Indeed, the world was appaled when, in 2016, Americans replaced the charismatic, erudite and Nobel Peace Prize-winning Barack Obama with an irascible and xenophobic demagogue. As president, only his own impressions, not facts, mattered to Trump! Because he was exceptionally self-conceited and opinionated, the Trump White House hardly got things done because it was constantly in crisis. Trump was very comfortable with white supremacists, identified with them and spoke nicely of them!
Be that as it may, Trump might have jeopardized a budding political career but if he escapes the slammer, he could still rise from the ashes of economic defeat and rebuild his foundering business empire.
If this were still 2015, Trump could have, as he did in the past, exploited the lax enforcement of financial crime laws and fall back on dubious income generators such as money laundering and tax evasion.
But this is not 2015: today, Trump is under investigation in New York State for alleged breach of tax laws. If he is lucky, the investigations will only deflate him financially, otherwise, he risks millions of dollars in fines or a criminal prosecution that could make him go into the record books as the first American president who left the White House for a jailhouse.
If all else fails, a desperate Trump may devise new means of staying afloat such as monetizing the loyalty of his xenophobic fans. To underline Trump’s desperation, one top adviser hopefully suggested that his principal could rake in “real money” by holding more rallies.
For instance, it is suggested that Trump could make $150,000 by mustering 30,000 of his fanatical supporters to rallies at $5 per head. If truth be told, even the mere thought of monetizing the loyalty of his supporters reveals certain desperation since a $150,000 earning per rally, before payouts on renting a venue, travel, event staff and security, does not translate into “real money”.
Few hours after his inciting speech gingered his murderous fans to invade The Capitol, Trump suddenly realized he had foul-mouthed himself into trouble. So, he quickly distanced himself from the maddening mob. But the damage had been done and several damage-control measures popped up.
One was for the president to pardon himself, an idea that was hurriedly jettisoned because it was not guaranteed to solve Trump’s problems. A self-pardon might constitute an admission of guilt that could open him up to more private lawsuits by families of victims of the 6 January mob action at The Capitol. In any case, a federal pardon, aside from being a novel idea does not insulate Trump from being charged with state-level crimes.
The other option was for Trump to make a deal with the vice president, Mike Pence, under which arrangement Trump was to resign to clear the way for the Vice President to grant him a pardon. That was another hot potato because Trump had badmouthed Pence and he was not sure the vice-president had forgiven him to the point of honouring him with a pardon.
It may be that Trump, the first president in American history without prior political experience, did not fully appreciate the differences between politics and business. In politics, winners and losers do not crush each other or perilously harm political traditions and institutions.
The end of the Trump era portends good and evil omen. For the world, it is good news to the extent that, with nuclear buttons at the disposal of a crotchety and venomous-tongued demagogue, the human race did not witness a major conflagration. Although the strange decision of the Republican Party to acquiesce to Trump own blotted out America’s famed promotion of participatory democracy in the democratic backwaters of the world, Trump’s ignominious exit provides an opportunity for Americans to further strengthen political institutions to be able to serve as a bulwark to citizens (in) decision to reward third-rate intellects and demagogues with the most powerful office in the world.
And, where does Trump’s feebleminded effort to scuttle the November 6 United States’ presidential election result leave Africa? By calling the result of the election into question and vowing not to quit even if he lost, only Trump and his hangers-on believed he will depart the presidency in a blaze of glory! And budding despots elsewhere have been salivating since then.
In a continent that is not strange to underhand practices by autocratic leaders to perpetuate themselves in office, Trump’s delusions will only embolden more budding demagogues to stymie the growth of democracy on the continent by following Trump’s example. And when confronted, they will be right to point out that they are simply following the American example!
Four years of trepidation has ended and the world seemingly feels safer now that Trump has waddled himself out of the White House. How the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris administration clears the mess left behind by its predecessor and return America to normalcy in four years remains unclear; what is clear and, the question that will not go away in a hurry, is how Americans, two decades into the Twenty-First Century, foisted a short-fused demagogue on a volatile world.
Magaji <firstname.lastname@example.org> lives in Abuja.