It is the latest sign, along with trips to win his favor by GOP candidates and his party’s incessant efforts to wipe the history of his crimes against the Constitution, that Trump’s threat to basic political freedoms is far from over.
And while his anti-democratic scheming may alienate millions of Americans in a general election, and some Republicans may eventually pine for a change, Trump is already the prohibitive favorite for the 2024 GOP nomination, after convincing a huge minority that he was unfairly ejected. Republican-run states have hurriedly rewritten election laws in a way that penalizes Democrats and would make it easier to overturn the result next time if Trump were the candidate and he was again rejected by a majority of voters.
This record of malfeasance — and Trump’s enduring appeal to Republican voters — is why it is not possible to turn away from the former President and just move on. Early in his presidency, the Trump show — with its crazed West Wing antics and his craving for attention — was exhausting and distracting, but ultimately not a threat to the republic. But while many Americans wish he no longer dominated the headlines, it’s now clear that warning signs are flashing everywhere about Trump’s future intent. If anything, the peril he poses to democracy has grown in the last six months, as much of the Republican Party itself has turned against cherished bedrock political values.
A war chest built on a lie
The Trump political organization’s $102 million cash reserves represent an unprecedented war chest for an ex-President at this stage of the election cycle, CNN’s Fredreka Schouten reported on Saturday, when Trump’s team announced its fundraising totals for the first half of the year. Its 3.2 million contributions to two political action committees mean that Trump can be a dominant kingmaker in the midterm elections and he has more than enough cash to finance his own demagogic rallies.
The size of his haul —- which his team said includes nearly $82 million raised in the first six months of this year and some funds donated in 2020 and transferred this year — is a commentary on the political state of the nation and his own character: he is raising funds on the power of a lie that millions of Americans want to be true and that is fundamentally altering politics.
DOJ revelations complete chain of wrongdoing
On a December 27, 2020, call, Trump pressured acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue to falsely declare the election “illegal” and “corrupt” even after the department had not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud.
“Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen,” Trump said on the call, according to Donoghue’s contemporaneous notes provided to the House Oversight Committee.
As with the ex-President’s attempt to have Republican local officials find new votes to overcome President Joe Biden’s election victory in Georgia, Trump’s attempt only failed because officials honored their own oaths to the Constitution. But the disclosure of these notes prove how Trump was happy to use the vast powers of the presidency. If he ever reached the Oval Office again, it’s likely that the former commander-in-chief — impeached twice for abusing power — would feel even more justification to wield presidential authority in the service of his own personal and autocratic goals. And even if he remains in the political wilderness, Trump’s well-financed claims of voter fraud will continue to corrode the political system and damage faith in democracy in multiple, and possibly even violent, ways among his millions of supporters.
A new Trump presidential run — based on claims that the previous election was tainted by widespread fraud — would infect yet another election with mistrust and further weaken faith in the country’s system of democratic government.
One of the keys to the ex-President’s appeal to his supporters and a central facet of his political method is his relentless assault on truth day after day. His banishment from social media hasn’t stopped his exhaustive efforts to get his message across. On Sunday afternoon, for instance, Trump issued a raging statement through his Save America PAC, filled with his usual parade of flagrant lies about the election.
“Even the Justice Department has no interest in the crooked and corrupt 2020 Presidential Election. They are only interested in hurting those who want to reveal how totally dishonest it was,” Trump wrote.
‘Nobody off-limits’ in investigation
As the Delta variant of the coronavirus plunges the US back into a long battle against the pandemic, the Justice Department notes did not perhaps get the attention they deserved on Friday.
But in many ways, the revelation represents a missing piece of evidence that completes the chain of events dating from Trump’s immediate post-election attempts to claim election fraud, through his pressure on the states to change the results and the violent uprising against the certification of Biden’s win on January 6. The fact that this aspect of Trump’s behavior was not previously known bolsters the argument that — despite the GOP’s success in derailing an independent, bipartisan commission into the mob attack and the reason it occurred — the select committee appointed by Pelosi is hugely important.
New details of what was going on behind the scenes in the Trump administration also appear to expand the case for wide ranging testimony from key political and official figures — including Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill.
The Democratic chairman of the select committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, told CNN’s Jeff Zeleny on Saturday that subpoenas and documents for testimony could start going out before the end of August.
“There is nobody off-limits in this investigation,” Thompson said.
The chairman also appeared to indicate that members of the committee are taking Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn’s admonition that they find the “hitman” who ordered the assault on Congress almost as an unofficial mission statement.
“I think the members of the committee, when they heard it, you know, it was one of those moments,” Thompson said.
Amid rising speculation that key Trump allies in the House, like Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, could be called to testify about their conversations with Trump in the run-up to the insurrection and on the day itself, Kinzinger pledged the committee would follow the truth.
“If that’s the leader, that’s the leader,” Kinzinger said on ABC “This Week” on Sunday, raising the prospect of a subpoena to the House GOP boss, who has anchored his hopes of winning the speakership on Trump and from whom the Illinois Republican is now estranged.
“If it’s anybody that talked to the President, they could provide us with that information. I want to know what the President was doing every moment of that day,” Kinzinger said.
With every piece of new evidence that emerges, it is becoming ever more clear that January 6 — the day of the most appalling attack on US democracy in generations — did not mark the end of Trump’s scheming. There are more than 100 million reasons why the fundamentals of the republic are still in danger.