From his first moments in office, Trump waged an assault on the federal bureaucracy, casting a suspicious eye on career officials he deemed the “Deep State” and shaking Americans’ confidence in civil servants and the levers of government. Believing that the investigation into Russian election interference was a crusade to undermine him, Trump went after the intelligence agencies and Justice Department — calling out leaders by name — and later unleashed broadsides against the man running the probe, respected special counsel Robert Mueller.
His other targets were legion: the Supreme Court for insufficient loyalty; the post office for its handling of mail-in ballots; even the integrity of the vote itself with his baseless claims of election fraud.
“In the past, presidents who lost were always willing to turn the office over to the next person. They were willing to accept the vote of the American public,” said Richard Waterman, who studies the presidency at the University of Kentucky. “What we’re seeing right now is really an assault on the institutions of democracy.”
Current polling suggests that many Americans, and a majority of Republicans, feel that Biden was illegitimately elected, damaging his credibility as he takes office during a crisis and also creating a template of deep suspicion for future elections.