“This may be the most important speech I’ve ever made,” Donald Trump said at the start of Wednesday’s 46-minute descent into false and wild-eyed allegations that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him. If he had only switched adjectives, substituting “revealing” for “important,” the president would have gotten it exactly right.
If you take Trump at his word, that is. Some will say this is just Trump giving his supporters false hope so he can continue to raise money for his Save America PAC, which can also be used to support his lifestyle and even find its way into his own pocket.
Maybe. But if you pay the president the respect of assuming he believes what he said, what his video showed was a man who has lost the ability to distinguish the real world from the paranoid whorl in his head. It would be the work of ages to address all of his allegations and accusations. Suffice it to say that responsible local officials have testified to the integrity of the election results. Trump’s own Justice Department has looked into claims of voter fraud and found nothing significant. Chris Krebs, whom Trump appointed as the nation’s top federal election-integrity official — and has now fired because of his honesty — has called this election “the most secure in American history.” And, finally, Trump’s legal team has pressed its many cases in court and gotten virtually nowhere.
Trump also looked like a president trying to encourage a democracy-subverting plan that dares not speak its full means. His legal bumblebees, Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, have been more open about the scheme. They are urging Republican-controlled legislatures in swing states Biden won to override their state’s results, which they falsely claim are fraudulent, and instead choose pro-Trump electors.
With Trump himself, that’s usually phrased with a that’s-not-what-I-said escape hatch. But it’s obviously what the president meant when he tweeted, on Nov. 21: “Hopefully the Courts and/or Legislatures will have the COURAGE to do what has to be done to maintain the integrity of our Elections, and the United States of America itself.”
And it’s obviously what he was suggesting in his Wednesday video, when he said: ”Millions of votes were cast illegally in the swing states alone. And if that’s the case, the results of the individual swing states must be overturned and overturned immediately.” Noting that some people have said “that’s too far out, that’s too harsh,” he continued: “Does that mean we take a precedent, and we’ve just elected a president where the votes were fraudulent? No, it means you have to turn over the election.”
What’s more, it’s obviously what pro-Trump attorney Lin Wood is urging happen in Georgia. He has tweeted that the Legislature there must “Vote Electors for @realDonaldTrump” and, at a Wednesday rally, called on Trump supporters to demand that Governor Brian Kemp order the Legislature into special session “to fix the mess that he created.” He then led the crowd in a chant of “lock him up” aimed at Kemp, an erstwhile Trump ally.
Kemp is not the only Trump insider now on the outs with the president and his loyalists.
Attorney General William Barr is a pariah because he told the truth about the election. That is, that though the FBI and US attorneys have looked into allegations of voter fraud, “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.” A furious president may now fire an attorney general who has heretofore enabled his boss’s whims to the very edge of disgrace.
Although we must keep a weather eye on the Trump team’s maneuvers, their attempts at rejecting large categories of votes or overriding the will of the people through legislative action have gone nowhere. There, we should be grateful for the integrity of state elections officials and lawmakers, who in the case of Republicans, put integrity over ideology and country over party.
Meanwhile, there are 48 days to go until Inauguration Day. Forty-eight days to go for a nation caught in the grip of a raging pandemic its president has given up efforts to control.
Pity the beloved country.
Scot Lehigh is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.