“Oh, why doesn’t he give up?” fretted a Facebook friend on December 14 when Donald Trump shrugged off news of the 306-232 electoral college vote that confirmed the U.S. public had elected Democratic candidate Joe Biden by more than seven million votes. On inauguration day, January 20, 2021, Biden will be sworn in as president, and Kamala Harris as vice-president.
And Trump will still be complaining, but not for the reasons most people understand. He continues to promote his absurd claims that the election was rigged because he’s already made hundreds of millions of dollars with this ploy.
Of course, Trump had been talking about rigged elections since 2016. He picked up the refrain again in 2019, long before election campaigns officially started, with baseless claims that mail-in ballots were subject to fraud.
As it turned out, Democrats voted mainly by mail-in ballots, while Republicans voted mainly on election day at polling stations. Since most states counted walk-in ballots first, when early results started rolling in on election night, Trump seemed to have an edge.
That’s when Joe Biden avoided disaster. He had said for a week that there would be no announcement on election night, and refused to concede the election early.
In 2020, the U.S. held its breath for four long days, prolonged by Trump’s lawsuits and attempts to put observers into vote-counting areas. News anchors across the networks worked hard to put each state and district report into context, including the electoral college effect. When Arizona and Pennsylvania showed Democratic majorities, major news networks declared Biden the winner.
Immediately, Trump launched legal challenges, trying to convince the courts to bar or disenfranchise whole polling districts — usually in predominantly Black or lower-income areas — as subject to fraud. Judges had other terms for Trump’s cases, starting with “frivolous” and “nuisance,” through “vexatious” to “unconstitutional.”
“After more than 30 defunct lawsuits in 30 days,” CNN reported on December 3, “attempts by President Donald Trump and his backers to overturn the election of Joe Biden as the next president have failed in court — sometimes repeatedly, with judges gutting claims and shutting down all possible legal avenues to interfere with the electoral college.”
Nor did appointing conservative judges to the Supreme Court save Trump. CNN reported on December 12: “The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a bid from Texas’ attorney general — supported by President Donald Trump — to block the ballots of millions of voters in battleground states that went in favor of President-elect Joe Biden.”
On the other hand, while losing the lawsuits, Trump has raised more than $200 million from his followers since election day, in “a relentless, misleading and highly lucrative fundraising drive,” says Politico. Donations to his “Official Election Defense Fund” are routed through his new “Save America” PAC and the Republican National Committee (RNC).
Legally, PACs are handled very differently from election campaign funds, which have tight restrictions on both donors and purposes. With few legal restrictions, PAC’s have been “long derided by watchdogs as essentially a type of slush fund,” says Politico.
“Emailed solicitations send supporters to an ‘Official Election Defense Fund’ website,” HuffPost reported, “that asks them to sign up for recurring donations to ‘protect the results and keep fighting even after election day.’ The fine print makes clear most of the money will go to other priorities.”
Indeed, says the article, “before a dollar goes into the recount fund, Save America would receive $5,000 and the RNC around $3,300. Donations to the recount committee are legally limited to $2,800.”
Some pundits see this war chest as evidence that, while Trump may leave the White House, he “will be looming over his party and the U.S. political scene,” Nobel Prize-winning economist and columnist Paul Krugman told CNBC at a virtual international conference.
At another international virtual conference, Niall Ferguson, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, told a reporter that “Donald Trump is on his way out with a pretty bad grace, but he’s going. Trumpism, which is really his contribution to conservative politics, is not going anywhere.”
Of course, Trump may need his legal defence money for other purposes. “Of all the perks of being president,” NPR reports, “Donald Trump may soon miss most the legal protection that it affords.”
Mindful that, as president, Trump has pardoned Roger Stone, Michael Flynn and other associates, NPR is among dozens of sites offering their pick of areas for potential indictments where a presidential pardon would not apply.
In New York State alone:
- New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance is digging into “protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization.”
- New York Attorney-General Letitia James is pursuing a civil investigation into the finances of the Trump corporation.
- Mary Trump is alleging mismanagement of her trust account to the tune of half a million.
Claiming to have won the 2020 presidential election may be among Trump’s most startling denials of reality, but as with most of his words and deeds, he has an agenda.
His verbal abuse of the electoral system and his misuse of the legal system could well shake the public’s confidence in both. Sometimes his followers know about his agenda, and agree with him. Other times, as with his “Official Election Defense Fund” and his pied piper of the pandemic maskless mass rallies, his followers and the whole world pay the cost for his mendacity.
Award-winning author and journalist Penney Kome has published six non-fiction books and hundreds of periodical articles, as well as writing a national column for 12 years and a local column in Calgary for four years. She was editor of Straightgoods.com from 2004-2013.
Image: The White House/Flickr