Before exiting, Team Trump takes deliberate steps to undermine Biden

After Obama made it his "number-one priority" to "facilitate a transition that ensures our President-elect is successful," Trump's doing the opposite.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump listens as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks about the coronavirus at the White House on April 21, 2020.Alex Brandon / AP

Just two days after Election Day 2016, then-President Barack Obama welcomed Donald Trump to the White House, and the two appeared before the cameras in the Oval Office. "My number-one priority in the coming two months," the Democrat declared, "is to try to facilitate a transition that ensures our President-elect is successful."

Obama clearly meant it, and the outgoing White House team made every possible effort to help the incoming Republican administration -- up to and including leaving behind a 69-page National Security Council playbook on what to do in the event of a pandemic.

In the wake of Election Day 2020, Trump clearly has a very different approach in mind.

While we wait to see if the Republican's efforts to nullify the election results and tear down our democracy work out, the incumbent president and his team seem a little too eager to undermine Joe Biden before he can even take office. CNN reported this week that a Trump administration official said "their goal is to set so many fires that it will be hard for the Biden administration to put them all out."

It's against this backdrop that Team Trump is trying to overturn Biden's victory, blocking a smooth transition process, and even taking steps that will make it more difficult for the incoming administration.

Neil Barofsky, the former special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, had an informative New York Times op-ed on Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin ending several emergency lending programs, which had been approved as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The programs, part of the CARES Act, include the allocation of hundreds of billions of dollars to the Treasury Department in partnership with the Federal Reserve. As the economy foundered in the spring, those programs helped keep companies and municipalities afloat. They were set to expire on Dec. 31, and Jerome Powell, the Fed chair, and Mr. Mnuchin had the option of extending them. Instead, the Treasury secretary has made the reckless political decision to terminate them, thereby pulling the plug on these vital programs and potentially destabilizing fragile financial markets.

Barofsky added, "The decision appears intended to limit the incoming Biden administration's options to deal with the continuing crisis." It does, indeed. In fact, the Federal Reserve explicitly requested that the Trump administration extend these emergency lending programs.

As of yesterday, Team Trump's answer is, "No."

Four years after Barack Obama made it his "number-one priority" to "facilitate a transition that ensures our President-elect is successful," Trump and his team seem desperate to do the opposite.

Or as Paul Krugman put it, "[B]asically we're looking at more sabotage by an administration on its way out."