Trump to award Bill Belichick the Medal of Freedom amid House impeachment push

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With just days to go in office and facing calls to resign, President Donald Trump is planning to spend the upcoming week taking a ceremonial victory lap and making last-minute use of his presidential powers.

A trip to the border is in order, pardons appear to be in the works, and so, too, is an award ceremony for one of his favorite football coaches as well as a top political ally.

It’s an agenda that seems off-key for a president facing the prospects of a second impeachment following the violence and destruction he incited at the Capitol last Wednesday, which resulted in the deaths of five people, including a U.S. Capitol police officer. But Trump has maneuvered his way through political controversy before, and an aide said these events have long been in the works.

On Monday, Trump plans to award Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) the highest civilian honor. On Tuesday, he plans to visit Alamo, Texas, to visit a section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. And on Thursday, Trump plans to award New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick the Presidential Medal of Freedom, according to a White House official.

A spokesperson for the Patriots did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The president’s efforts to pursue a normal schedule of events amid the tumult he inspired began last week, when, in the aftermath of the riots, he awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to professional golfers Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player. This week’s events will have a similarly somber backdrop. Democrats could vote as early as Tuesday on articles of impeachment for inciting the violent mob that ransacked the Capitol, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said Sunday during an appearance on Fox News.

Not everyone in the administration is apparently going about business as usual. Vice President Mike Pence was also planning to hold events this week highlighting policy wins for the administration. Now, however, he is expected to lie low during his final days at the White House, according to people close to him. Pence and Trump have reportedly not spoken after mobs of Trump supporters descended on the Hill while Pence was there overseeing the Electoral College certification in Congress.

With just 10 days left in his time in office, Trump is trying to take advantage of the power of the presidency up until the very last minute. He has mulled preemptive pardons for family members and even his closest staff members, and is expected to hitch a final ride on Air Force One back to Florida ahead of Biden’s inauguration in a final snub of the election results.

The Medal for Freedom for Belichick will represent the culmination of one of the more public relationships Trump has enjoyed with a major sports figure during the course of his presidency.

Last month, Trump reappointed Belichick to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition and, prior to then, he welcomed Belichick and the Patriots to the White House following their Super Bowl win against the Atlanta Falcons in 2017. But the team did not go for a traditional post-championship ceremony in 2019 after it won the Super Bowl again, although owner and Trump friend Robert Kraft has made personal appearances without the team.

Belichick wrote a letter of support for Trump during the 2016 election, and the president has called him a “very good friend.” The admiration is so deep that Trump has mused about turning to the coach as a military adviser.

“He’s a very good friend of mine. He’s a winner,” Trump told Hugh Hewitt during a radio interview in August. “You know, if I ever had a military battle, I’d call up Belichick and say what do you think? What do you think? Give me a couple of ideas.”

Belichick, who does not have military experience — but whose dad was an advance scout for the Naval Academy — said it was a “very nice compliment” but he is fine with his day job.

“I am flattered by that,” Belichick told Boston radio station WEEI. “But, I’ll just stick to coaching football.”

Of the 25 presidential Medals of Freedom that Trump has awarded or announced, 15 have been for people known primarily for sports, including two posthumous awards (Babe Ruth, Babe Didrikson Zaharias). The others were Lou Holtz, Alan Page and Roger Staubach (football); Jerry West and Bob Cousy (basketball); Mariano Rivera (baseball); Jim Ryun (track); Dan Gable (wrestling); Player, Sorenstam, and Tiger Woods (golf); and Roger Penske (auto racing).

Gabby Orr contributed to this report.

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