Despite hourly Twitter outbursts about how he totally won the election, numerous ridiculous lawsuits, and a pathological refusal to concede to Joe Biden and let a normal and necessary transition occur, a small part of Donald Trump appears to know that come January 20, 2021, he’ll be out of power. One, because he basically admitted as much over the weekend before trying to take it back and two, because he’s planning to shove through numerous policies and executive actions in the next nine weeks, seemingly aware that his window of time to do so is closing rapidly.One of the moves, announced this week, would fuck over the planet and many living things, neither of which Trump has any regard for. On Monday, his administration said it will be begin the formal process of selling leases to oil companies for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. While Trump’s industry pals would obviously love nothing more than to extract as much profit as possible from the 19 million acres of land are thought to overlie billions of barrels of oil, scientists, environmentalists, and other assorted parties warn the move could be devastating. Per the New York Times:
The Arctic refuge is…home…to wandering herds of caribou, polar bears and migrating waterfowl…. The Gwich’in, [an Alaska Native tribe who live near the refuge], are especially concerned about the effects on herds of Porcupine caribou, which roam throughout that part of Alaska and neighboring areas in Canada and use the coastal plain for calving. The Gwich’in, who have spiritual ties to the animals and rely on them for food, say even exploratory drilling and its accompanying road building and other activities, could affect calving and ultimately the survival of the herds.Others, including many scientists, are concerned about the survival of polar bears, which come to land from their natural habitat, sea ice, as the ice melts and retreats northward. The subpopulation of bears in the area is already among the most threatened of any in the world. Scientists fear that even preliminary exploration, in the form of a seismic survey to get a better sense of the petroleum reserves beneath the coastal plain, could disturb, injure or even kill bears and their cubs in winter dens as trucks and other heavy equipment roll across the tundra.
While any sales would be subject to review by the Biden administration, and it could refuse the leases by asserting that the scientific basis of the plan to allow drilling was flawed, it would obviously take up time and resources that the new president, who has opposed drilling in the area, would prefer to expend elsewhere. For example, by reversing all the other damage Trump plans to inflict on the environment, per Bloomberg:
The Trump administration has also proposed nearly two dozen new rules, including measures that would make it harder to impose new environmental safeguards. Those regulations would—at the very least—require the Biden administration to devote significant time and resources to unwind. And without control of the Senate, congressional Democrats would likely be unable to erase any last-minute Trump regulations under the Congressional Review Act, used to great effect by Republicans after Trump took office in 2017.
Other messes Trump plans to make include:
- Trying to push through the nomination of Judy Shelton to the Federal Reserve board of governors so that Biden can’t fill the vacancy and it can instead go to someone whose main qualification is that she thinks Trump is an economic genius, tipping the balance of the board to Trump appointees;
- Enraging foreign powers like China by preparing new sanctions that would, per Bloomberg, “infuriate the government of President Xi Jinping and bring ties between the two nations to their lowest point in decades,” a toxic situation that would make it difficult for Biden as he tries to get Beijing to cooperate on, among other things, climate change;
- Drawing down U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq to a level in line with what Biden has said is necessary but in a slipshod, premature way that could embolden insurgent forces.
Meanwhile, Trump has apparently been musing about bombing other countries, according to the Times:
President Trump asked senior advisers in an Oval Office meeting on Thursday whether he had options to take action against Iran’s main nuclear site in the coming weeks. The meeting occurred a day after international inspectors reported a significant increase in the country’s stockpile of nuclear material, four current and former U.S. officials said on Monday. A range of senior advisers dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike. The advisers—including Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Christopher C. Miller, the acting defense secretary; and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—warned that a strike against Iran’s facilities could easily escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks of Mr. Trump’s presidency.After Mr. Pompeo and General Milley described the potential risks of military escalation, officials left the meeting believing a missile attack inside Iran was off the table, according to administration officials with knowledge of the meeting. Mr. Trump might still be looking at ways to strike Iranian assets and allies, including militias in Iraq, officials said. A smaller group of national security aides had met late Wednesday to discuss Iran, the day before the meeting with the president. White House officials did not respond to requests for comment.The episode underscored how Mr. Trump still faces an array of global threats in his final weeks in office. A strike on Iran may not play well to his base, which is largely opposed to a deeper American conflict in the Middle East, but it could poison relations with Tehran so that it would be much harder for President-Elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear accord, as he has promised to do. Since Mr. Trump dismissed Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and other top Pentagon aides last week, Defense Department and other national security officials have privately expressed worries that the president might initiate operations, whether overt or secret, against Iran or other adversaries at the end of his term.
And of course, there’s the imminent danger with regard to what Trump seemingly plans to do nothing about, i.e. the coronavirus, which is worsening by the day as the Biden administration is blocked from getting a head start on its own response. On Monday, the president-elect told reporters, “more people may die if we don’t coordinate,“ adding that while there’s been promising news on the vaccine front, distributing it is a “huge, huge undertaking,” and if his teams are forced to wait until it gets into office for details, it’ll be “behind, over a month, month and a half.” With more than 69,000 people in the hospital with the virus as of Saturday and more than 1,100 COVID-19 deaths being reported each day on average, that’s kind of a lot—if one cares at all about thousands of Americans dying, which the current occupant of the White House clearly does not.More Great Stories From Vanity Fair — Ivanka and Jared’s Post–White House Future Is an Island Alone— Inside Don Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle’s Supposed RNC-Takeover Plot— Why Mike Pompeo’s Postelection Trump Worship Carries Real Risks— Ivanka Trump Was My Best Friend. Now She’s MAGA Royalty— As Trump Clings to Power, His Allies Quietly Admit Defeat— Elon Musk’s Totally Awful, Completely Bonkers, Most Excellent Year— After Biden’s Victory, Can the Media Tune Out Trump’s 2020 Delusions?— From the Archive: Donald Trump Was the Best Cable-News President in History— Not a subscriber? Join Vanity Fair to receive full access to VF.com and the complete online archive now.Read More