Washington and the faltering transition to power

Despite the results’ announcement, the controversy over the US presidential elections is still going on, as uncertainty and haziness prevail in a scene fairly open to all options including political, or even security, escalation.

  • Publisher – STRATEGIECS
  • Release Date – Jan 4, 2021

The outgoing US president Donald Trump is still not conceding to the election results (held on November 3, 2020) even after the electoral college affirmed Joe Biden’s victory with 306 electoral votes to 232 votes for Trump and the rejection of the US judicial institutions, chiefly the Supreme Court, of the lawsuits filed by Trump’s team to contest the elections results.

January 6, 2021 is the date on which Congress will approve the election results through a joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Although this step is only a symbolic and honorary measure in the American political history, Trump and his supporters see it as a field for objecting to the results on the basis of what they claim as voter fraud especially in the swing states.

Vice President Mike Pence is actually backing 11 GOP senators who intend to contest the election results, in addition to 140 GOP House Republicans going to do the same, according to CNN sources. This movement in the US legislative institution indicates a divide in the Republican Party’s visions regarding the election and the presidency in general, evidenced by the position of the Republican Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who congratulated Biden and his vice-presidential running mate, Kamala Harris, and invited his Senate colleagues to acknowledge the results.

Changing the election result on January 6 is highly unlikely, because of the insufficient number of objections. Yet, the discussion could delay the congressional certification taking place in a special session that followed an exceptional election round.

Along with this, all eyes are on the risk that Trump and his supporters (in the executive and legislative branches)  would make a move that would further complicate the presidential transition process, thus leading to two scenarios:

1. Imposing martial law, or what is known as a state of emergency: In December 2020, American media circulated news about meetings taking place in the corridors of the White House, discussing the possibility of Trump imposing martial law at least in the swing states that granted Biden victory, so that the legislative and executive powers there would be handed over to the armed forces led by the President - that is, Trump - based on the Insurrection Act of 1807, which allows the president to deploy the armed forces in a number of situations, including rebellion and riots; for it seems that Trump views the “false” victory of Biden as an act of sabotage and rebellion against the regime.

It is worth mentioning, however, that Trump stated that the news circulating about imposing martial law is nothing but fake news. We must also take into account the statement of Chief of Staff of US army, Mark Milley, to Congress in August 2020 that the army will not intervene in the electoral and political process in general, and this was a response to the potential military intervention to remove Trump from the White House, in case the latter refused to do so after losing the elections.

But what if a series of bombings similar to the Nashville bombing in Tennessee erupted on Christmas? Will the army still defend its "political neutrality"? Noting that the aforementioned bombing cannot be dealt with completely separately from the state of political and social polarization in the country.

2. A war with Iran: As escalation and tension in the Middle East are at their highest levels, within the framework of the US administration’s warning against Iran’s targeting of soldiers, citizens, or American interests in the region, driving Iran to put forces on alert in anticipation of any strike that may be surprising

Trump is not absolutely free to decide whether or not to go to war, as the issue is subject to consultations between the currents of the US military, represented by the Pentagon. Also, the choice of waging war does not guarantee his survival in power because it does not reverse the elections results in the first place, but it is possible to keep Biden entering the White House suspended until unspecified notice.

A war with Iran would dramatically distort the American political landscape, for despite that the election results are settled, power has not been transferred. However, there remains a perception that Trump could plunge the country into a war with Tehran in order to further complicate the mission of his predecessor Biden, and thus increase his chances of winning the 2024 presidential elections, in addition to bringing the Middle East region into a state of "military and security stalemate" until the hawks return to the White House.




Policy Analysis Team