The past peril fomented by former president Donald J. Trump could be just a taste of what’s ahead.
“If this person Donald Trump wins the presidency again, what will he do if he actually has power again? Because he’s tested American democracy to the extreme, he has tried to contest an election by claiming fraud when there was no fraud, by pushing his entire party to echo him on his claims,” Robert Costa declared Thursday on “At the Virtual Table,” the show hosted by me and Lynn Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times Washington Bureau chief.
Costa and fellow Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward are the co-authors of their new, best-selling book, “Peril.”
They were the first to report the memo by John Eastman, a conservative lawyer and Trump ally, who detailed a breathtaking plan to overturn the legal results of the 2020 presidential election.
In the days before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Eastman presented his rationale to Trump. Among other offenses, Eastman’s two-page memo claimed that Pence could reject certified electoral votes from millions of voters.
Eastman’s complex rationale aimed to persuade Vice President Mike Pence to throw out the election results in key states, including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania. That would enable Congress to deny Biden’s legitimate election and secure a second term for Trump.
“The fact is that the Constitution assigns this power to the Vice President as the ultimate arbiter,” Eastman wrote in the memo.
Pence resisted the pressure and instead presided over the Jan. 6 session of Congress that certified Biden’s win.
After Pence declined to go along, Trump called into a “war room” at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., where Trump allies Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon, and adviser Jason Miller were plotting strategy, Costa and Woodward reported.
“They talk through what to do now. They issue a statement from the campaign in Trump’s name, defining Pence as in lockstep with Trump, even though that was a lie,” Costa told us.
That showed “that Trump was coordinating with Bannon and Giuliani on the eve of the insurrection, (and) we’ve shown a connection between the presidency and these outside agitators on the Trump legal and political side ahead of Jan. 6th.”
The book is hot fodder for a U.S. House Select Committee that is investigating the events of Jan. 6. It’s too soon to know whether it will unearth evidence of criminal activity.
But another presidential election is coming, and Trump is likely running.
“Constitutional scholars are already worrying about another Jan. 6 crisis, and they warn that the next election might be harder to save,” The Atlantic reports.
Therein lies new peril.
Trump was impeached twice. He has lied so many times, I’ve lost count. He and his allies conspired to overthrow an election. “And, based on our reporting, (Trump) shredded and tested every single democratic norm in this country,” Costa said.
Still, Trump’s base is staunch and avidly loyal.
Trump enjoys an 86% favorable rating and a 10% unfavorable rating among Republican adults, according to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted Oct. 15 -18.
Trump “created a new message” for his party, said Costa, who has covered the former president for years.
The former president focused on protectionism, low taxes, and moving the federal judiciary to the right, Costa said. And he is “much more incendiary and hard right on immigration, non-interventionist on foreign policy.”
Trump gives Republicans “enough of what they want,” Costa adds. They are willing to forgive the rest.
That leaves the rest of us in great peril.
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