Opinion by Michael D'Antonio
Updated: Sat, 05 Jun 2021 17:42:14 GMT
Editor's Note: Michael D'Antonio is the author of the book "Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success" and co-author, with Peter Eisner, of the book "High Crimes: The Corruption, Impunity, and Impeachment of Donald Trump." The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
It's not like we don't have serious national concerns. President Joe Biden is working hard to make a deal with Senate Republicans to fix up our crumbling infrastructure and public health officials are pushing to get us out of the pandemic. But Donald Trump and his minions keep dragging us back to an awful past.
For example, Trump ally, Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, is grabbing headlines by dodging the process servers who must notify him of a lawsuit related to the deadly January 6 insurrection at the Capitol (Brooks has denied any responsibility for the riot and called the lawsuit a "meritless ploy"). While all this is happening, our apparently bored former President remains stuck like a scratched vinyl record on the dangerous notion that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
Maggie Haberman, a reporter for The New York Times, says Donald Trump is telling people he "expects he will get reinstated by August." This idea dovetails with the bizarre ballot audit underway in Arizona, which Trump loyalists want to replicate in other states in order to upend the election results and restore his presidency. But the election is over. Trump lost. And, as we saw on January 6, nothing good will come of feeding false hope to the faithful.
It's important to stay on guard because the bar has now been lowered: we know that a pronouncement from Trump has the potential (whether intended or not) to elicit violence from his most rabid followers.
It was false hope amplified by a Trump speech at his "Stop the Steal" rally that day that propelled the mob that attacked the Capitol in a failed attempt to prevent Congress from formally accepting the election results. Former Vice President Mike Pence presided but had no authority to stop the inevitable. Still, Trump had told the rally crowd that he hoped Pence would "come through for us," and "if he doesn't, that will be a, a sad day for our country."
"Sad" was an understatement. In a violent display of deranged loyalty, rallygoers attacked the Capitol, overran the police, and forced Congress to flee as chants of "Hang Mike Pence" echoed in the hallowed halls. Police officer Brian Sicknick died after being injured in the melee. Protester Ashli Babbitt was shot and killed by an officer defending the House chamber. One hundred and thirty-eight officers were injured before order was restored and Congress reconvened to formalize Joe Biden's election. More than 450 people have been charged in the Capitol riot.
As social media companies banned him for his posts leading up to the insurrection, Trump lost the connections that gave him the power to whipsaw the world. Add the sudden forfeiture of the presidency on January 20 and a man accustomed to commanding more power and attention than perhaps anyone on earth was reduced to rattling around his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and manning a blog, "From the Desk of Donald J. Trump," that was shut down in less than a month.
Amid the blog's failure and his ostracization from social media, Trump is apparently obsessing over conspiracy theories that suggest he didn't lose an election that saw Biden beat him by seven million in the popular vote and 306-233 in the Electoral College. Unable to accept defeat in a fair and clean contest, "the former guy" as the current President has called him, seemingly dwells in an echo chamber where, according to one ex-aide, he's listening to "the bottom of the bottom of the crazies in the barrel."
Trump's condition was noted by CNN's Dana Bash, who also quoted her source saying the former President is focusing on the past in a "dire" way. This situation is dire because the bottom-of-the-barrel crowd may well include characters like the My Pillow company founder Mike Lindell, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and former Trump lawyer, Sidney Powell.
Lindell told The Daily Beast that he likely inspired Trump's fantasy of returning to power by August when he said it publicly on Steve Bannon's podcast in March. At a recent event attended by QAnon conspiracy theorists, Flynn responded to a question about whether a Myanmar-style coup could happen in the US, saying, "No reason, I mean, it should happen here." (He later walked back this comment.) At the same event, he falsely claimed that "Trump won. He won the popular vote, and he won the Electoral College vote." After Flynn spoke, Sidney Powell told the same crowd that "it should be that (Trump) can simply be reinstated, that a new Inauguration Day is set."
Under our Constitution, Trump cannot be reinstated, which seems to leave the most rabid and ill-informed of his supporters with the coup option. I'm not saying that a coup is possible. However, January 6 showed that some in the Trump base can be spun up to the point where they turn violent. Add the sham audits, conspiracy theory grifters and a former President who has shown he's not inclined toward responsible behavior, and the prospect of trouble, come the hot days of August, is real.
This means that as we attend to real-life concerns, like infrastructure and holding certain people responsible for January 6, we should also keep our guard up. Trump and the crazies aren't done messing with us.