The Memo: New Trump revelations bolster critics while fans shrug

New information is emerging about former President Trump’s attempts to overturn the result of the 2020 election — including in a Senate report released Thursday.

The accretion of new details makes it starker than ever that Trump’s wishes, had they been followed, would have hurled the United States into a constitutional crisis.

Yet none of this seems to matter at all to the GOP grassroots, or to most of the party’s elected officials, who overwhelmingly give Trump their support.

The former president will hold a rally in Iowa on Saturday, the second campaign-style event he has headed up recently. His appearance in the state which hosts the first contests in the presidential primary process will sharpen speculation that he will seek the White House once again in 2024

It’s enough to send a chill not just through liberals and Democrats, but through the minority of Republicans who see Trump as a dangerous demagogue.

“In the beginning, a lot of people thought that while he would have liked to have overturned the results, that it was a slapdash, half-assed incompetent effort,” said John “Mac” Stipanovich, a longtime Republican operative in Florida and a Trump critic. 

“With the passage of time, and particularly more recently, it has become more apparent how calculated the attempt was,” Stipanovich added. “And probably the most frightening aspect of it to me is that a significant number of the American public — I mean, a large minority — is OK with that. It seems to me now that the Trump base is accepting that it was a coup attempt and regretful that it failed.”

Trump supporters would phrase their views very differently. But more and more evidence has piled up about the former president’s frantic efforts to hold onto power.

Thursday’s interim report from the Senate Judiciary Committee recounted a meeting on Jan. 3, three days before the Capitol Hill riot, in which Trump’s desire to appoint an ultra-loyalist as the acting attorney general was only thwarted when top Department of Justice (DOJ) officials threatened to resign.

The DOJ’s leaders were joined in that promise by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who apparently argued that Trump’s plan to install Jeffrey Clark as attorney general amounted to a “murder-suicide pact.” Clark, a previously obscure member of the DOJ, was among the most vigorous voices pressing Trump’s fictional claims of election fraud.

The Senate report came on top of the revelation last month of a memo written by conservative lawyer John Eastman that laid out a path for then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election’s outcome. 

The six-point plan, revealed by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their book “Peril,” called for Pence to avoid certifying President Biden’s election win and instead assert that the results in seven states were in dispute. 

Under the plan, Pence, presiding over a joint session of Congress, would announce that no electoral votes would be counted from those states, note that Trump held the most votes from all other states and “then gavels President Trump as re-elected.”

Meanwhile, investigations continue into the events of Jan. 6. 

The House committee investigating the insurrection issued three new subpoenas on Thursday, including one seeking testimony from Ali Alexander, a central figure in the “Stop the Steal” movement. Key Trump aides including former chief of staff Mark Meadows and former senior adviser Stephen Bannon have already been subpoenaed.

In total, it’s enough to make liberals — and many independent experts — worry about the fragility of American democracy. 

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in a Thursday statement that it was clear Trump would have “shredded the Constitution” to deny Biden victory.

Back in June, more than 50 academic experts signed a “Statement of Concern” referring to “the recent deterioration of U.S. elections and liberal democracy.”

Trump, as usual, makes no secret of where he stands. 

In a statement on Wednesday, he declared, “the real insurrection happened on November 3rd, the Presidential Election, not on January 6th — which was a day of protesting the Fake Election results.”

Yet none of this has done any great harm to Trump’s standing within the GOP.  Anti-Trump dissenters have been largely sidelined. Top figures, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), have muted the criticisms they made of Trump in the immediate aftermath of Jan. 6.

For his Saturday rally in Iowa, he will be introduced by a lineup of speakers that includes the state’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds; Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa); and Reps. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa).

Trump’s position with the grassroots appears just as solid. In an Economist-YouGov poll conducted earlier this week 85 percent of Republican voters expressed a favorable view of him — even though only 41 percent of the general public took the same view.

There are, around the edges, some signs that GOP voters have reservations about nominating Trump once again. 

A Pew Research poll last month showed almost one-third of Republican and Republican-leaning adults hoped he would not remain a major national political figure, even as 44 percent wanted him to run again. 

A CNN-SSRS poll, also released last month, found Republican voters split almost exactly in half about whether Trump or another candidate would have a better chance of taking back the White House in 2024. 

But even if Trump skeptics take heart from some of those statistics, they are still faced with a very tough question — if Trump seeks the GOP 2024 nomination, who is going to beat him? Most polls sizing up a hypothetical field have him leading all other contenders by huge margins.

To those like Stipanovich who are appalled by what Trump has wrought, it’s a dark vista.

Referring to Trump’s Wednesday statement about the election, Stipanovich said, “You saw what he said about the ‘real insurrection’? That is incredibly irresponsible, incredibly dangerous.”

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage.

Tags Chuck Grassley Dick Durbin Donald Trump Grisham book Joe Biden Kevin McCarthy Mark Meadows Mike Pence Mitch McConnell Steve Bannon The Memo Trump presidency

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