“The president is increasingly using all the levers he has for political ends,” said Donald Ayer, former deputy attorney general to George HW Bush who endorsed Biden. “You may wonder if he is getting a little desperate… It seems to me that the President is making more and more outrageous requests and comments over time.
Presidents of both parties regularly used incumbent power to their advantage during election years. Jimmy carter does political ads from the Oval Office. Ronald Reagan was seated behind the Resolute Desk when he announced he was running for re-election. Bill Clinton invited political supporters to spend the night at the White House. And George W. Bush delivered his speech to the Republican National Convention from the White House, saying his oversight duties for an impending hurricane response kept him in Washington.
But Trump has taken the use of the federal government for politics to another level. And the pace and intensity of its maneuvers have increased as its poll count has plummeted and its campaign war chest shrunk, according to government watch groups.
“I firmly believe that Trump has mixed his personal affairs and the workings of government in a way that we have perhaps never seen in the history of the United States,” said Nick Schwellenbach, a senior investigator for the Project. non-partisan on government oversight.
Trump’s most daring display was the Republican National Convention ceremony on the South Lawn in August, filled with fireworks and an opera singer. He trampled government and political boundaries underfoot by delivering a pardon and holding a naturalization ceremony during the convention. At the same time, Pompeo broke with long-standing tradition by delivering a speech at the convention from Jerusalem, and Ivanka Trump, a White House assistant, delivered remarks from the White House.
‘No one outside the Beltway really cares,’ said Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows said in august asked about potential violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits the use of government resources for political purposes. “They expect Donald Trump to promote Republican values, and they expect Barack Obama, when he was in power, to do the same for the Democrats.
In August, Trump fell behind on Biden’s fundraising. Then Biden and the Democratic National Committee outscored Trump and the RNC by a staggering $ 154 million and for the first time topped the president’s long-standing cash advantage. In September, Biden raised $ 383 million.
At the same time, Trump went dark on television in several battlefield states. It was more than twice as much spent on television, according to media monitoring company Advertising Analytics. From April to last week, Biden spent $ 312 million on advertising, compared to $ 188 million for Trump.
More recently, Trump hosted what amounted to a political rally on the White House grounds last weekend. Hundreds of Trump supporters donned MAGA hats as Trump spoke to them from the White House balcony about his campaign.
A white house spokesperson said it was not a violation of the Hatch Law because it was organized by the White House and not by the campaign.
“The White House takes the Hatch Act very seriously and ensures that its events and the government employees who participate in them comply with the law,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement Wednesday.
But Kedric L. Payne, general counsel for the campaign’s non-partisan Legal Center, said Trump’s rally on Saturday was a sign he was emboldened after suffering no repercussions for the convention in August.
“There is an escalation,” Payne said of Trump’s behavior. “The danger is: what becomes of the new standard? They created new standards. “
Democrats are calling attention to Trump’s actions, but there is nothing they can do to stop him.
House Democrats are examining the administration’s plan to use $ 300 million from the health and social services budget to fund a TV ad campaign “giving America hope.” Democrats are also calling for an investigation into whether government employees violated federal law prohibiting them from certain political activities, but Trump has previously ignored violations of the law.
And they are call to a probe de Trump tries to rush drug discount cards to 39 million older people ahead of the November 3 election, arguing in a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar that it was planned to “buy votes a few weeks before the election using taxpayer money” .
What is perhaps most alarming to Trump’s watchdogs and critics is the politicization of the Justice Department.
In September, the DOJ decided to intervene in a defamation case involving E. Jean Carroll, which accused Trump of raping her in a locker room at a department store in the 1990s. The DOJ argued that Trump had acted in his official capacity as president when he denied ever knowing the New York writer.
Taxpayers are now guaranteeing Trump’s defense. Additionally, the DOJ’s involvement slowed the case as Trump faced a decision from a New York judge asking him to provide a DNA sample and sit down for a deposition, which would have could take place just before the elections.
“Trump’s effort to use the power of the US government to escape responsibility for his private fault is unprecedented,” Carroll’s attorney Roberta Kaplan, said in a press release, “And shows even more clearly how far he is willing to go to prevent the truth from escaping.” “
Separately, Barr, speaking at an official event, echoed Trump’s talking points about unsubstantiated allegations of fraud arising from postal voting.
“There is no longer a secret ballot,” Barr said in an Arizona press conference in September. “Your name is associated with a particular ballot. The government and those affected can find out and find out how you voted. And that opens the door to coercion.
Last week, Trump urged his attorney general to prosecute Biden and former President Barack Obama after accusing the Obama administration without evidence of spying on his campaign. “Unless Bill Barr accuses these people of crimes – the greatest political crime in our country’s history – then we are not going to get much satisfaction,” Trump told Fox Business.
Bob Bauer, the former Obama White House lawyer who now helps lead Biden’s voter protection effort, argued that Trump had politicized his authority to a degree unprecedented by his predecessors.
Trump’s behavior is “a frontal assault” on the line “between a normal political puff in an administration, some flexibility under the Hatch Act and the misuse of government resources to advance a campaign’s goals,” he said. Bauer said in an interview. “Trump says openly, ‘I am using this office, the authority and the resources that go with it, to simply advance my political interests in the crudest terms.’ ‘
Jason Miller, senior advisor to the Trump campaign, said all of the president’s actions had been carried out beforehand with input from lawyers.
“The American public sees them and calls them for constant drama,” Miller said of criticism of Trump on the left.