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What are the risks of Trump’s second term plans?

WITHIN 6 HOURS of his conviction on 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up a hush money payment to a porn star, Donald Trump’s campaign had raised another $35 million in donations, and he was soaring in the polls. His trial and conviction has convinced many of his supporters that the ‘deep state’ is out to get him.

On 11 July, Judge Juan Merchan will decide his sentence. Most pundits think it is unlikely he will face jail, but even if he did, it wouldn’t bar him from running for the presidency and it seems more than likely that it would increase his chances of winning. Legions of ‘MAGA’ – ‘Make America Great Again’ Republicans, and even some disenchanted former Biden-supporting Democrats, are determined to vote for him, even if he is a convicted felon.

Back on the campaign trail again, he told a packed town hall meeting in Phoenix, Arizona of his intention to appeal. He said: “Those appellate courts have got to step up and straighten things out or we’re not going to have a country anymore.”

But what will a second Trump presidency look like? He has stated that he knew very few people in Washington when he first took office and as a result was far too “timorous”, accepting Republican officials onto his team who were fundamentally opposed to his policies. He has vowed that this will never happen again.

He intends to surround himself with Trump stalwarts. Indeed, one of the questions his staff ask potential recruits is “Did Biden win the last election?” If they answer “yes”, they don’t get the job. So convinced is he that the election was “stolen” by the Democrats, he intends to pardon every one of the pro-Trump insurgents who attacked the US Capitol on 6th January 2021. There are more than 800 who have pled guilty or been convicted by a jury. Although the rioters assaulted the centre of American democracy and tried to prevent the peaceful democratic transfer of power, Trump regards them as heroes. He refers to them as the “J-6 Patriots”.

But a second Trump presidency will go much further than simply issuing pardons, some of them for the dozens of felony charges he himself is facing.  His lawyers have already asked the Supreme Court to grant him “absolute immunity” from criminal prosecution for acts carried out while serving as president and given that he appointed three Supreme Court judges during his first term in office, his legal crew may win. Nevertheless, he threatens that if the Supreme Court fails to agree, then he will push for the prosecution of Joe Biden “for all of his crimes”, though he hasn’t quite specified what crimes those might be.

His team are also working on plans to give the Commander-in-Chief sweeping powers that would remove many of the constraints on the White House imposed by legislators and the courts. In an initiative called the unitary executive theory, his allies see Trump assuming an almost imperial role, where he could fire a US Attorney who doesn’t follow his orders to prosecute someone he dislikes, effectively shattering judicial independence that dates back to America’s founding fathers. He even says he will be prepared to withhold funds appropriated by Congress unless he sees merit in their projects.

If he wins a second term, Trump says he will direct federal funding to resume construction of a border wall with Mexico. As Commander-in-Chief, he intends to use the National Guard and the military to deport more than 11 million illegal immigrants. He claims he may even build migrant detention camps to hold families rounded up in his purge. The policy evokes memories of some of his draconian initiatives during his first term in office, when he wanted to separate migrant children from families detained as they attempted to enter the US illegally. There was such a firestorm of protests from around the world as people reacted to media coverage of young children traumatized by being taken from their parents by US authorities, that Trump was forced to abandon the policy.

Under a potential second term of Trump, it is likely we will see a continuation of his first term policies such as tax cuts, deregulation, and an “America-First” stance in international relations. On healthcare, he has promised to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, but so far has not presented a concrete alternative. On the economy, Trump will follow his protectionist instincts, imposing a tariff of 10% or more on all imports and even 100% on some Chinese goods.

On foreign policy, Trump told a rally in South Carolina he would pull America out of NATO and “encourage” aggressors like Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” with NATO countries that failed to pay their dues. Although he climbed down from that rhetoric, telling Nigel Farage in a GB News interview that he would keep the US “one hundred percent” in the military alliance, he told Time Magazine that he might not come to the aid of an ally attacked in Europe or Asia if he felt that country wasn’t paying enough for its own defence. With countries like Germany and Italy at the bottom of the scale of net contributors to NATO and defence spending, it is a worrying prospect.

Trump claims he will stop the Ukraine war “in 24 hours” without explaining how, although he has threatened to slow down or end US support for Zelensky. On the Middle East, a second Trump presidency may offer a little more reassurance. He says that he would back Israel in any conflict with Iran and he demonstrated in his first term how he is prepared to confront the mullahs head-on, ending Biden’s weak appeasement policy and holding Tehran to account for their proxy warmongering in the Middle East and sponsorship of terrorism abroad, including the mullahs’ key role is supporting Hamas in the war in Gaza.

To his supporters, Trump’s ‘America First’ policy, backed by an authoritarian White House and a disciplined administration, seems filled with revolutionary promise. To the rest of America and the wider world it sounds like a frightening risk, perhaps undermining democracy and pushing America once again to the brink of crisis.

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