Trump prepares to launch a second term early, even without winning

Joe Biden is nearing victory. But he’s staring at a deeply divided nation – and an adversary who refuses to accept the results. POLITICO’s Natasha Korecki collapses as Biden prepares for a rocky transition.

On Thursday night, Trump appeared publicly for the first time since election night, expanding on the unsubstantiated claims of election fraud he was making on Twitter. He made no mention of government movements but vowed to fight the election results in court up to the Supreme Court – a proposal that most legal experts considered unlikely and detached from the realities of a state electoral system.

“We’ll see that it might end up in the country’s highest court,” Trump said before leaving without asking questions.

In the coming days, Trump’s post-election government agenda could begin with the layoffs of key assistants that have long kept the president in turmoil, particularly within the intelligence and national security community. These layoffs could take place within the next week, even if the election results speak for Biden or remain unclear.

“The first will be: who is left, who was loyal and who was competent?” said a Republican near the White House. “That will be the first criterion. Who was loyal and who is competent.”

In addition to possible layoffs, Trump is also expected to spend next week signing a number of executive orders for everything from trading to manufacturing to China to show that he will stay busy. He could also tackle some executive orders on his favorite cultural and social issues, according to two Republicans near the White House.

“Just as he promised the American people, President Trump is fighting hard for free and fair elections while at the same time ruling the country and fulfilling his duty to put America first,” said White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere, in a statement.

The Trump campaign is sending surrogate mothers like David Bossie, Corey Lewandowski, Pam Bondi and Ric Grenell separately to battlefield states like Arizona, Pennsylvania and Nevada to cast doubt on state election results and to encourage local media coverage of the flurry of ongoing legal challenges The campaign to spark Trump’s helpers and advisers assume it will last for the next few weeks.

“We are in this fight. We’re staying in, “Trump’s deputy campaign manager Justin Clark told reporters on Thursday.

In recent months, Trump has narrowed his ranks from top advisors to longtime helpers, family members, and a few top campaign officials. These advisors, along with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and senior White House attorney Pat Cipollone, advised the president on his strategy and steps in the days following the election.

He has been out of sight since the president made a speech at the White House in the early hours of November 4th. Trump tweeted but made no public comments about the election or his plans for the future. Trump’s allies and advisers say he spent the time watching media coverage and talking to friends and fellow politicians over the phone.

One ally said once Trump emerged it would resume activities in a “big” way.

Daniel Lippman contributed to this report.

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