Be bold! Be startling! Say what no one else will say! Go crazy! Wake people up! Be the hero! In fact, be Donald Trump!
But that only works for Donald Trump, and may no longer work for Donald Trump. That may be what the election, that he lost, was about. He was just too crazy for a clear majority of those who, one way or another, voted. He wasn’t bold. He wasn’t brave. He was kind of nuts. There’s refreshingly-crazy but then there’s just plain crazy.
Donald Trump knows this. He knows what going too far is. Politico reports he cut the crazy lady loose:
President Donald Trump appears to have cut ties with Sidney Powell, a key member of his legal team who also represents former national security adviser Michael Flynn in his long-running attempt to unravel a guilty plea for lying about his 2016 contacts with Russia.
The abrupt shake-up came in a terse Sunday-evening statement from the Trump campaign that offered no explanation for Powell’s removal.
“Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own,” Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis said in the statement. “She is not a member of the Trump Legal Team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity.”
Part of this seems to have to do with her amazing claims of voter fraud and her vow to “release the kraken” of evidence that she refused to produce when asked by one of Trump’s favorite Fox News hosts. The New York Times had reported on that a few days earlier:
For more than a week, a plain-spoken former federal prosecutor named Sidney Powell made the rounds on right-wing talk radio and cable news, facing little pushback as she laid out a conspiracy theory that Venezuela, Cuba and other “communist” interests had used a secret algorithm to hack into voting machines and steal millions of votes from President Trump.
She spoke mostly uninterrupted for nearly 20 minutes on Monday on the “Rush Limbaugh Show,” the No. 1 program on talk radio. Hosts like Mark Levin, who has the fourth-largest talk radio audience, and Lou Dobbs of Fox Business praised her patriotism and courage.
So, it came as most unwelcome news to the president’s defenders when Tucker Carlson, host of an 8 p.m. Fox News show and a confidant of Mr. Trump, dissected Ms. Powell’s claims as unreliable and unproven.
“What Powell was describing would amount to the single greatest crime in American history,” Mr. Carlson said on Thursday night, his voice ringing with incredulity in a 10-minute monologue at the top of his show. “Millions of votes stolen in a day. Democracy destroyed. The end of our centuries-old system of government.”
But, he said, when he invited Ms. Powell on his show to share her evidence, she became “angry and told us to stop contacting her.”
That might have been a bad move:
The response was immediate, and hostile. The president’s allies in conservative media and their legions of devoted Trump fans quickly closed ranks behind Ms. Powell and her case on behalf of the president, accusing the Fox host of betrayal.
But that didn’t last. The Washington Post’s reporters asked around:
Two advisers to Trump, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, said that the president disliked the coverage Powell was receiving from Fox News host Tucker Carlson and others and that several allies had reached out to say she had gone too far. The advisers also said she fought with Giuliani and others in recent days.
Trump believed she was causing more harm than help, a campaign official said: “She was too crazy even for the president.”
Yes, he knows better, and Politico added more detail:
Powell has accused election officials in multiple states of committing crimes, and in recent days turned on Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, who on Friday helped certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state. Her attack on Kemp, which also included the threat of a “biblical” lawsuit, appeared to unsettle some of Trump’s allies.
“Sidney Powell accusing Governor Brian Kemp of a crime on television yet being unwilling to go on TV and defend and lay out the evidence that she supposedly has, this is outrageous conduct,” former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on Sunday.
It is, but others needed more time to realize that:
In recent days, Republicans aligned with the national party began to express increasing reservations about Powell’s rhetoric, including the claim that Trump had “won by a landslide,” even though Biden is millions ahead in the popular vote and won states equating to 306 electoral votes, compared with Trump’s 232.
The national GOP on Thursday posted a video clip of Powell making the claim, and Ellis, the Trump campaign’s attorney, celebrated Powell’s remarks at last week’s press conference.
Mike DuHaime, the Republican National Committee’s former political director, tweeted on Sunday that the party must pull down its tweet endorsing Powell’s remarks now that she’s been removed from representing Trump or the campaign.
“This is crazy/embarrassing to promote,” he tweeted.
It took DuHaime four days to get there, but he got there. Cut her loose. But what about the other boldly crazy person, the president?
That’s easy. It was the same thing. The Washington Post notes those Republicans who are starting to cut him loose:
Several prominent Republicans said over the weekend that President Trump’s legal arguments had run their course and called on him to allow the presidential transition process to begin.
Chris Christie, a Trump confidant who helped prepare the president for the debates, called the conduct of Trump’s legal team a “national embarrassment.” Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) said Trump had “exhausted all plausible legal options” and urged him to concede. Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said it’s time to begin the transition.
Things had moved from refreshingly-crazy to just plain crazy, and too crazy for them:
In an interview on ABC News’s “This Week,” Christie said the president should give up his legal strategy. “Elections have consequences, and we cannot continue to act as if something happened here that didn’t happen,” he said.
“The conduct of the president’s legal team has been a national embarrassment,” Christie added, noting that Trump’s lawyers have made a flurry of fraud allegations but have offered no evidence to back them up in court.
Christie criticized Trump’s lawyers for proffering false conspiracy theories at news conferences and other media appearances.
“They don’t do it in the courtroom,” the 2016 Republican presidential candidate said, suggesting the attorneys are fearful of making baseless arguments under oath before federal judges.
“It must mean the evidence doesn’t exist,” Christie said.
There he goes again, being all logical, but he was frustrated:
Christie said the Republican Party should focus on trying to win Georgia’s two runoff elections Jan. 5 to secure the Senate majority rather than continuing with its unsuccessful legal challenges of the presidential election results.
“The rearview mirror should be ripped off,” Christie said.
Don’t expect that, but the senator from Pennsylvania was saying the same thing:
Late Saturday night, after a federal judge threw out Trump’s legal attempt to invalidate millions of votes, Toomey congratulated Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris on their victory and encouraged the president to accept that result.
“President Trump has exhausted all plausible legal options to challenge the result of the presidential race in Pennsylvania,” Toomey said in a statement, noting that the deciding judge, Matthew W. Brann, is a “longtime conservative Republican.”
This result, Toomey noted, followed Georgia’s certification Friday of Biden’s victory there and Michigan’s GOP legislative leaders rejecting efforts to block the certification of Biden’s clear victory in that state.
“I congratulate President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their victory. They are both dedicated public servants and I will be praying for them and for our country,” Toomey said.
Toomey has moved on, and so have others:
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who congratulated Biden in a statement after his Nov. 7 victory address, also urged Trump to “begin the full and formal transition process” and criticized the president’s efforts to pressure state and local officials.
“President Trump has had the opportunity to litigate his claims, and the courts have thus far found them without merit,” Murkowski said in a tweet Sunday night. “A pressure campaign on state legislators to influence the electoral outcome is not only unprecedented but inconsistent with our democratic process.”
In fact, it’s crazy, but no one else would say that yet:
Republicans are aware that any perceived lack of loyalty to the president could prompt him to attack the defectors – just as Trump did Saturday night when he called Brann a “product of Senator Pat ‘No Tariffs’ Toomey.”
“No friend of mine,” Trump tweeted.
Are those words the kiss of death? They used to be. But that is changing:
The president also on Sunday lashed out at Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who said earlier in an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he was “embarrassed that more people in the party aren’t speaking up” against Trump.
“Well, I just don’t think there are a lot of profiles in courage, frankly,” Hogan said. “I mean, we all know how vindictive the president can be, how powerful his Twitter account is, and how he can really pressure Republicans and go after them. Very few of us are willing to stand up.”
Soon after, Trump shared a link to a report on how Hogan spent $9.46 million on coronavirus tests from South Korea that turned out to be flawed. “This RINO will never make the grade,” the president tweeted. “Hogan is just as bad as the flawed tests he paid big money for!”
That was supposed to be the famous Trump Tweet of Death. Hogan’s political career was over. It wasn’t:
Later Sunday afternoon, Hogan took to the president’s favorite medium to return fire.
“If you had done your job, America’s governors wouldn’t have been forced to fend for themselves to find tests in the middle of a pandemic, as we successfully did in Maryland,” he tweeted at Trump. “Stop golfing and concede.”
Hogan was onto something. Yes, Trump is dangerously crazy, but Trump has also stopped even pretending to do his job. Josh Dawsey documents that:
The president who likes to put on a show is mostly offstage these days.
Since President Trump was declared the election’s loser earlier this month, gone are blustery speeches and stemwinder White House news conferences about the coronavirus, which never disappeared like he promised – or any other topic for that matter. Gone are lengthy call-in sessions with favored Fox anchors that often stretched so long the hosts had to push to conclude the calls.
Gone, too, are regular White House jousting matches with the press, impromptu Oval Office appearances with random guests or any pretense of being interested in many of the duties of the job.
In the 19 days since the election, 12 have included no events on the president’s schedule. He has appeared at public events four times and has played golf at his own Virginia course six times. He has taken no questions from reporters.
Somehow, the man has changed:
The president’s lust for ratings – he has sometimes defended events such as his coronavirus news conferences by citing how many people watched them – seems to have evaporated.
Now, more than ever, he’s just going through the motions, and Hogan was right about the golfing:
Trump – known for cannonballing on the global stage with moves such as threatening to pull out of NATO – participated minimally in the virtual Group of 20 summit this weekend, speaking to other world leaders for a few minutes, looking downward at his phone during the proceedings and leaving early both days, aides and diplomats said. He skipped the special session about handling the coronavirus pandemic on Saturday – even as cases surge in the United States – and went to the golf course. He went golfing again on Sunday.
What’s happening? Dawsey sees a man who has checked out early:
Given a chance to brag about the successful development of a coronavirus vaccine in recent days, a historic achievement for his administration, the president attacked the company for not releasing it before the election.
“I won, by the way,” he said offhandedly during a brief Friday appearance. He did not elaborate.
It is a marked sea change from the past five years, during which Trump dominated the national psyche with a constant stream of bravado: provocations, cliffhanger events, firings, rallies, tweets and controversies that often blurred one into the next. The denouement of the Trump presidency is largely playing out without Trump. He is no longer pretending to embrace parts of the job that he never liked, some advisers say.
But he can still get riled up:
Trump has deluged the Internet with a fusillade of conspiracy theories and falsehoods about the election – even as his lawyers decline to make most such allegations in court and lose case after case. He has taken brazen steps, such as meeting with Michigan’s top legislators in a bid to have new electors chosen that would pick him. He has railed against judges who have ruled against him.
Trump fired two high-profile officials, including his defense secretary, by tweet. Republicans who have said Joe Biden won the election have been hit by Twitter broadsides with Trumpian clockwork.
So, he’s still that wild and crazy guy, but now on only one topic. That’s odd, so Dawsey taps his White House sources about that:
Advisers say he is trying to figure out what to say and what to do. Unlike 2016, when Trump doubted that he would win, he is genuinely surprised by the defeat, advisers say. Over the past few weeks of the campaign, advisers on Air Force One repeatedly told the president he was going to win because of the large crowds at his rallies and showed him favorable polling. Trump mused about how he would mock the pundits and his critics after the election when he won again, advisers said.
Since then, he has vacillated between delusion that he actually won, anger and deflation that he lost and a desire to keep fighting. “I don’t think he knows what he wants to say yet,” said one official who has spoken to the president and who, like other aides and advisers, spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal private conversations. “It’s all over the place based on the day.”
Okay, he is crazy:
“Yes and yes,” one adviser responded, when asked whether the president knows the election is over or believes it was truly rigged. Trump rails against Fox News and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and dives into Wisconsin laws on some days, while plotting his 2024 campaign on other afternoons and pondering ways to sabotage Biden. One afternoon last week, Trump told advisers that he was going to win Michigan and Pennsylvania and that he could still win Georgia. No one seemed to challenge him.
What would be the point? The king has gone mad:
Trump, a prodigious television watcher even in happier times, is consuming many hours these days, complaining vociferously about individual Fox News hosts when they question his team’s claims. He has mentioned to advisers, several of them say, that ratings will go down when he is gone.
Aides say Trump is searching for positive information, calling advisers such as John McLaughlin, his pollster, to hear how well he performed and how he really won the election. “More people than would admit to you are telling him he actually won the election and giving him a false sense of hope,” a person close to him said.
Some other advisers are simply trying to cheer him up by repeatedly noting that he won more votes than any other Republican has ever won.
They don’t mention that Joe Biden won more than six million more votes than that. Why upset him? All he has left is ruining everything on his way out:
“It’s about what serves his needs, not about what moves policy forward. He doesn’t have the appetite to stay in it now because he knows it’s over,” said Tim O’Brien, a longtime Trump biographer and frequent critic.
“His only goal is to try and taint the election. If he goes back to his base and runs again, he can say Biden didn’t really beat me, that’s all he wanted out of this.”
That may be why all of his team’s legal stuff is so laughably absurd. Democrats can relax. It was never supposed to work. He just needs his base to agree that elections never really work. It’s all a joke.
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Will Bunch is not impressed:
Yes, it’s easy to laugh at the ridiculousness of Trump’s scheme – which he telegraphed for months before Election Day – to somehow get judges, or state legislatures, or the Electoral College to anoint him the victor of an election he couldn’t win by getting the most votes, even in the battleground states that handed him the White House in 2016.
The latest proof of the pathetic nature of the president’s plot to allege widespread voter fraud, with zero actual evidence, came Saturday when a Republican, straight-outta-the-Federalist-Society jurist here in Pennsylvania – U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann – dismissed his campaign’s latest election challenge “with prejudice,” using words like a “Frankenstein’s monster” and “unhinged” to describe the case argued by Giuliani last week. Yet as that was happening, the Trump campaign was demanding a reality-defying third recount that will surely ratify his loss in Georgia…
But it’s time now for all the laughter to die in outrage. Because we need to state in the clearest and most unambiguous terms what is happening in America in November 2020: The president of the United States is using the power of his office to try to overturn, by any means necessary, the fair and democratic election that will remove him from office. In a nation that stakes its claim to “exceptionalism” on 44 peaceful transfers of power over 231 years, its current leader is attempting a coup.
Bunch is serious about that:
The president, the Republican Party, and some of its key elected officials crossed a line last week when they went from frivolous courtroom challenges and insistent recount demands – annoying and antidemocratic, but legal – to demanding that election canvassers and state legislatures ignore legal vote counts, untainted by any evidence of fraud, and simply award unearned electors to Trump.
Trump’s courtroom losses and hasty retreats – the outrageous stand by the Wayne County canvassers collapsed in about three hours – shouldn’t allow us to obscure that we are not only witnessing a crime in progress, but one that’s more insidious and damaging than Watergate, let alone the Ukraine matter.
That’s because Trump wins by losing all of these legal battles:
The antics of Trump and his thoroughly corrupted Republican Party probably (and it’s alarming enough that I have to say “probably”) won’t undo the result of our fair, democratic election, but they are already having dire consequences in the real world. A recent poll found that a staggering 70% of Republicans don’t believe Biden’s election victory was “free and fair,” despite the mountain of real-world evidence to the contrary. The entrenched denial of Biden’s legitimacy by millions of Americans will make it all but impossible for the 46th president to govern as he deals with a deadly pandemic and a crippled economy. Even worse, it’s all but certain to inspire acts of violence by the deluded “people who vote for freedom.”
That is a worry, not a joke, and should be considered a crime:
Subverting elections is a crime – and it ought to be treated as such. If a powerful United States senator like South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham is phoning Georgia’s secretary of state and asking him to toss out legal ballots, or when Trump himself flies Michigan’s top lawmakers to Washington and someone is buying them $500 bottles of Dom Pérignon in the name of appointing Trump electors in a state Biden won by 150,000 votes, how is this not election tampering at the felony level?
If what Trump, Graham and other top Republicans are doing isn’t felony election tampering, then rewrite the criminal code to make it so.
That’s not a bad idea. Bunch argues that Trump was never really refreshingly crazy. He was dangerous all along:
America’s democracy isn’t exceptional, or even particularly well thought out. To the contrary, it’s incredibly fragile – chock full of loopholes and exploitable flaws that were just waiting for a power-mad, narcissistic demagogue to exploit them, which is now happening before our disbelieving eyes.
Sidney Powell was too crazy even for this president? Fine. This president is too crazy for the rest of us.