(CNN)Joe Biden will be president in 30 days. Until then, the question is how much damage can be done by a vengeful, delusional soon-to-be ex-President swilling conspiracy theories, whose wild anti-democratic instincts are being encouraged by fringe political opportunists.Donald Trump will retain the awesome powers of the presidency until noon on January 20, and there’s never been a time when he has been subject to as few restraining influences or has had a bigger incentive to cause disruption.The President is spending day after day in his White House bunker, entertaining crackpot theories about imposing martial law, seizing voting machines and staging an intervention in Congress on January 6 to steal the election from Biden.Surrounded by the last dead-end loyalists, Trump is flinging lies and political venom like King Lear in a crumbling Twitter kingdom, alarming some staffers about what he will do next.On Monday, he huddled with a cabal of Republican lawmakers who plan to challenge the election on baseless claims of fraud at a special session of Congress to ratify the results on January 6.
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Trump is also running interference for Russia, prioritizing the interests of an adversary over America’s after a massive cyberattack blamed on the Kremlin.These infractions add up to the dereliction of presidential duty on a grand scale. It is impossible to imagine any other president of the modern era behaving in such a way or for either of the political parties to tolerate his abuse of power. Former President George W. Bush’s neglect during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 seems tame by comparison.The current President’s anti-democratic behavior since the election is validating the fears of critics — and more than 80 million Biden voters — who worried about his unchained behavior in a second term. Like many fading strongmen leaders, his antics are becoming more unhinged as the prospect of losing power becomes tangible.
‘Appalling’: Bolton reacts to Flynn’s pitch for martial law 01:40Even Trump’s White House staff is concerned about what happens next, at a time when Washington is already braced for a flurry of politically self-serving or legally dubious presidential pardons in the coming weeks.”No one is sure where this is heading,” one official told CNN’s White House team on Monday in a disturbing behind-the-scenes glimpse at the mayhem unfolding in the West Wing. “He’s still President for another month.”The madcap schemes of some of Trump’s acolytes — such as retired Gen. Michael Flynn’s mooted plan to send troops to battleground states to redo elections that the President lost — have no chance of playing out. Even if Trump’s renegades had the competence to mount such a threat, the courts have shown zero tolerance for the President’s autocratic attempts to destroy US democracy. It is unthinkable the military would deploy to reverse a popular vote on US soil.Trump’s extremism is also unfolding in the context of a landmark election after which the safety valves of the courts, the electoral safeguards in the states — and eventually on parts of Capitol Hill — stood firm in defense of democracy.But the fact that a defeated President is even hearing theories about imposing martial law in the Oval Office is unfathomable in the world’s oldest, most influential democracy.
Pentagon anxiety rises as officers wait for Trump’s next unpredictable moveWere it not for the outrageous assaults on the rule of law over the last four years and the evidence of a presidency tethered to the erratic personality of Trump, it would not be at all believable.”The rest of the world is watching all this. It is just making people wonder. What is going on in America?” an incredulous John Kasich, the Republican former governor of Ohio, said on CNN’s “The Situation Room” on Monday.Trump’s loss of composure is grave enough from a domestic point of view. But it sends a signal to US adversaries of a vacuum of leadership. His bizarre refusal to endorse his government’s assessment that Russia is behind the cyberattack suggests there is a 30-day window of impunity for enemies dedicated to tarnishing US national interests. The thought of an agitated, emotional President faced with any sudden foreign policy crisis is not a reassuring one.