We’re a year away from the 2024 presidential election, says Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post, and the omens are “bone-chilling”. A recent poll has put Donald Trump ahead of Joe Biden by four percentage points in five out of six “battleground” states. Sure, circumstances can change in 12 months, but “given the razor-thin closeness of the 2020 election, this is a hair-on-fire situation”. Then there are Trump’s plans for his return to the White House. Merely winning isn’t enough. “He wants revenge.” The former president and his allies are reportedly planning to use the federal government to “punish” critics and opponents with legal investigations, including the retired army chief Mark Milley.
Trump has been upfront about all this – he considers it “justified tit-for-tat retaliation” for his own legal woes, which he claims are politically motivated. “This is third-world-country stuff, ‘arrest your opponent,’” Trump told New Hampshire voters last month. “And that means I can do that, too.” When he was president, his efforts to “misuse the levers of government” were stymied by officials who refused to cross certain lines. So next time round, he’ll simply hire “more compliant lawyers” – his team are already compiling lists of suitable candidates. Another troubling plan involves deploying the Insurrection Act, which empowers the president to use the military domestically, on demonstrators. It’s hard to know whether officers would refuse to carry out such an order. There’s a less-than-small chance we’ll find out.