Trump Using Last Days to Lock In Policies and Make Biden’s Task More Difficult

And rarely in modern times have a president and his allies been as deliberate in their desire to hobble the incoming administration as Mr. Trump has been toward Mr. Biden.

“It’s not consistent with anything we experienced,” said Denis McDonough, who served as Mr. Obama’s chief of staff and was part of Mr. Obama’s team during the transition from Mr. Bush’s administration. He said Mr. Trump’s actions in the final days of his administration were foreshadowed by his determination to sever agreements Mr. Obama had reached on climate change and Iran’s nuclear program — something presidents rarely do.

“It’s a breach of that norm,” Mr. McDonough said.

Some of Mr. Trump’s actions are all but permanent, like the nomination of judges with lifetime appointments or the naming of his supporters to government panels with terms that stretch beyond Mr. Biden’s likely time in office. Once done, there is little that the new president can do to reverse them.

But they are not the only nominees administration officials are trying to rush through.

Among the others are two nominees to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors who would serve until 2024 and 2030 respectively, a trio of possible members to the Federal Election Commission to serve six-year terms, as well as nominees to the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, who, if confirmed, would prevent Mr. Biden from installing majorities on those bodies until well into 2021.

Other actions may be possible to reverse, but are designed to exact a political price for doing so.

Since the election, Mr. Trump has ordered the withdrawal of thousands of troops from Afghanistan, where Mr. Trump aims to halve an already pared-down force of 4,500 by the time he leaves office, defying the advice of some top generals.

Mr. Biden’s vision for American troop deployments is not radically different: He has said that he supports only small numbers of combat forces, mainly tasked with fighting terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. But Mr. Trump’s last-minute withdrawals could force Mr. Biden into an unwanted confrontation with Democrats in Congress if he decides he needs to return to the modest, pre-election status quo.

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