It will take a miracle now, actually several of them, but President Trump is not ready to throw in the towel. Publicly at least, he’s still full of fight.
“This election was stolen,” he says. “It was a rigged election, 100 percent, and everyone knows it.”
“It’s going to be that I got about 74 million votes, and I lost?” he adds. “It’s not possible.”
It was nearly 6 p.m. Friday and I had reached the president after his late-afternoon update on Operation Warp Speed, the successful race to produce a coronavirus vaccine. The Rose Garden presentation had been smooth and effective, yet he seemed resigned to never getting credit for pushing government and industry to rapidly finish a process that usually takes years.
“Six months to produce a vaccine,” he said. “Joe Biden couldn’t have done that but you get no credit.”
Except for his silent Veterans Day appearance at Arlington National Cemetery, the vaccine update was his first time on camera since the election, an absence that seemed like a lifetime given his omnipresence for four years. He took no questions and had not given any interviews.
Earlier Friday, he spoke to Geraldo Rivera of Fox News, a longtime friend, with Rivera saying on Twitter that the president admitted that winning was a “long shot” and that he would ultimately do “the right thing.”
I got a similar sense of the president’s mood, even as he resisted saying anything definitive. In our 10-minute phone interview, he spoke evenly, displaying no anger or even agitation. There was a matter-of-fact tone that suggested an understanding of the inevitable.
In different ways, I asked if he would accept the results if his court challenges fail.
“We’ll see how it turns out,” he said at one point.
When I asked if he could come to terms with defeat, he responded only that “it’s hard to come to terms when they won’t let your poll watchers in to observe” the counting.
A third time, he said, “Again, I can’t tell you what’s going to happen.”
He seems genuinely convinced that victory was stolen and pointed repeatedly to Dominion Voting Systems, a technology used by most states, including Michigan and Georgia.
“It was turned down by the state of Texas because it is insecure,” Trump said. He also repeated claims that some of the private company’s owners and investors have ties to Democrats, and it is true the firm made a contribution and worked with the Clinton Family Foundation during the Obama-Biden administration.
The Associated Press confirms that a former top aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is one of the company’s lobbyists. The AP said the firm also employs a lobbyist who worked for Republicans Dick Cheney and John Boehner.
Those bipartisan connections are not positives in Trump World. Instead, they paint Dominion as a creature of the swamp that Trump came to Washington to drain.
Although Biden holds a decisive lead in the Electoral College and gained a history-making 78 million popular votes, Trump cannot reconcile his standing with the campaign and the successful performance of the GOP as a whole.
He cited the massive, enthusiastic crowds at his rallies as evidence. “A small rally was 25,000 people and Biden had tiny crowds, nobody came,” he said. “I wasn’t losing those states.”
He also noted that the GOP apparently held the Senate, depending on the two Georgia runoffs, and is picking up perhaps 12 seats in the House and flipping state legislative chambers.
“We’re doing great,” he said.
My hunch is that, when there are no avenues of appeal left, the president will acknowledge defeat while holding to his claims of fraud. Whether he will do that in a speech or a statement or just a tweet is part of the drama he excels at creating.
Soon, however, custom requires that he invite Biden to the White House for a photo op and order his team to cooperate with the incoming administration. Barack Obama bit his lip and did it with Trump in 2016, and Trump should graciously pass the baton to Biden.
It won’t be pleasant, but the president would be doing no favors to himself, his supporters and his future if he lets resentment rule his final actions as president. An election is supposed to give the country a needed respite from the hostilities of the campaign.
Of course, when Trump was elected, that respite was shorter than the blink of an eye. His many grievances against Democrats, Big Media and Big Tech are valid and a fair history must reflect that his enormous policy successes came despite unfair and un-American assaults on his legitimacy.
In that regard, he sees the election results as just the concluding act of a confederacy against him that began with the Obama-Biden administration’s corrupting of the FBI and CIA to spy on him in 2016 and tip the election to Hillary Clinton. That effort gave birth to the Russia, Russia, Russia narrative that wasn’t fully revealed as false until the probe of Special Counsel Robert Mueller finally concluded in 2019.
“It’s amazing but nothing happened to [Jim] Comey and [Andrew] McCabe, even though they were caught cold,” he said of the disgraced former FBI leaders.
“Then this, the greatest theft in the history of America. And everybody knows it.”
He complained about polls that had him losing battleground states by big margins, calling them “suppression polls” because they discouraged donors as well as voters.
“These weren’t accidents or bad pollsters,” Trump said. “These are corrupt institutions,” and he singled out ABC and The Washington Post.
He didn’t even mention the partisan impeachment, making him just the third president to face such infamy. At the time it seemed the most outrageous act of all, but in the end it was just part of a reprehensible pattern of dirty tricks.
Almost as an afterthought, Trump brought up the way most of the media ignored The Post’s exclusive reporting on the bombshell e-mails on Hunter Biden’s laptop that implicate Joe Biden in his son’s business schemes.
“They didn’t even report all the crimes of the Biden family,” Trump said. “If I did any of that . . .”
Assessing the full impact of his presidency will be the work of future historians, but there is no doubt that Trump, warts and all, was a smashing success in fulfilling the fundamental purpose of his election.
He brought a much-needed course correction to Washington and remade the Republican Party. His economic populism is turning the GOP into a multiracial, multiethnic party of working-class strivers and America Firsters while forcing Dems to choose between the radical far left and the remnants of traditional liberals.
Whatever the president decides about his personal future, Trumpism lives. That alone is conclusive proof that Donald Trump was a hugely consequential president whose policies made life better for millions and millions of Americans.
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