Donald Trumps Lame Duck Session
November 24, 2020
If current election projections hold, Joseph R. Biden will be inaugurated into the office of the President on January 20, 2021. Although that date is quickly approaching, Donald Trump is still the acting president. This is the period in which the current office holder’s successor has been elected, but their term hasn’t begun. This is Donald Trump’s ‘lame-duck session’ and it might seem like he can not do much, but he still holds the office.
In all actuality, there are not any laws limiting what Trump can do with his time left in office. Lindsay Cohn, associate professor at the US Naval War College, told Vox, “The short, simple answer is he can do pretty much anything he can do now. He’s still president and still has all the normal powers of the office.” On one hand, Trump is quite limited in accomplishing any sort of legislative victories as it would be almost impossible for him to pass anything in Nancy Pelosi’s House. On the other hand, Trump has authority over the transition to a Biden presidency, executive actions, and his cabinet and civil servants.
One of the most crucial things that are up in the air during this period is the transition of power. Typically, the outgoing and incoming administrations coordinate and begin to give briefings to the president-elect. So far, the Trump administration has refused to coordinate at all. This is becoming increasingly as important as some worry about the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine. Despite being denied information from the government, Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris will receive briefings from diplomatic, intelligence, and defense experts.
At this point in his presidency, Trump has issued 192 executive orders, and he can still issue many more. George Washington University’s Todd Belt, the director of the political management program commented on Trump saying “He’s been pretty brash about issuing executive orders and overturning different regulations he doesn’t like, I expect him to continue doing that.” While it is unprecedented to issue any major executive orders as a lame duck, Trump still has that ability. However, Biden can roll back many of Trump’s executive actions, and he plans to do so.
During this session, Trump has the power and the likelihood of letting go of some federal employees. So far he has let go of the deputy administrator of the US Agency for International Development, the chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration before the election. After the election, Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Additionally, many of his supporters are pressuring Trump to fire FBI director Christopher Wray.
Even though his time in office may be cut short, Trump still holds his power until Biden’s inauguration. While it may be unprecedented, Trump may continue with his executive actions. Only time will tell how Trump acts as a lame duck.