As former President Trump’s legal problems mount, he is embracing the kinds of false claims about the 2020 election that got him into trouble in the first place.
Trump has been indicted twice this month over his efforts to remain in power after losing the 2020 election, with prosecutors pointing to his repeated false statements alleging there was widespread fraud and his attempts to pressure state officials to overturn the results in his favor.
But rather than move away from the rhetoric that got him into legal trouble and led to calls for some in the party to focus on the future, Trump has doubled down, repeating his claims that the election was “rigged” and “stolen,” and vowing to share “evidence” to support his claims next week.
Former President Donald Trump waves after speaking at the 56th annual Silver Elephant Gala in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Artie Walker Jr.)
Mark Weaver, an Ohio-based Republican strategist, suggested Trump is continuing to bring up his 2020 election fraud claims as both a political and legal tactic. On the campaign front, he’s firing up his supporters with his pitch that the cases he faces are a “witch hunt” — and on the legal front, he may be trying to back up his defense against charges related to his attempts to subvert the 2020 election results.
“They have to show that he knew in his heart that he had lost, but he continued to try to fraudulently convince people otherwise. Here he is in 2023 continuing to say, ‘Hey, I didn’t lose the right way. That wasn’t fair.’ So in some ways, it supports his defense in the D.C. case,” Weaver said.
Trump was indicted earlier this month in Washington, D.C., on four charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States. In that indictment, prosecutors allege that Trump “spread lies that there had been outcome-determinative fraud in the election and that he had actually won.”
Prosecutors also listed numerous officials who had told Trump he had lost the election.
But in remarks to supporters in New Hampshire days after the D.C. indictment, Trump said there “was never a second of any day that I didn’t believe that it was a rigged election.”
“It was a rigged election, and it was a stolen, disgusting election,” he said. “And this country should be ashamed. And they go after the people that want to prove that it was rigged and stolen.”
Several lawsuits alleging widespread fraud in the 2020 election were dismissed, and Trump and his allies have failed to produce substantiated evidence that there were widespread anomalies in the election, which he lost to Joe Biden.
Georgia prosecutors this week indicted Trump on 13 new charges. The indictment cited several instances of Trump alleging cases of voter fraud that did not occur.
Trump on Tuesday announced he would hold a “major News Conference” next week to present a “Large, Complex, Detailed but Irrefutable REPORT on the Presidential Election Fraud which took place in Georgia.”
But some in Trump’s orbit have reportedly advocated for the former president to call off his Monday announcement, worried it will only deepen his legal troubles. But a person familiar with the matter told The Hill that Trump still planned to hold the “news conference” and is likely to speak out about his cases regularly — a display of Trump who can often defy the advice of his advisors.
“They never went after those that Rigged the Election. They only went after those that fought to find the RIGGERS!” Trump wrote on Truth Social.
In Georgia specifically, Trump’s campaign filed multiple post-election legal challenges seeking to throw out ballots or overturn the results. One of the charges Trump is facing in Fulton County pertains to a particular lawsuit that was filed on New Year’s Eve 2020 and falsely alleged mass fraud that was enough to change the outcome of the election in Georgia.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks during a news conference at the Fulton County Government building on August 14, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. A grand jury today handed up an indictment naming former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies over an alleged attempt to overturn the 2020 election results in the state. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
The suit demanded the court direct the governor and secretary of state to decertify the election results, making unfounded claims about dead people voting and other illegal votes. Trump had signed a document, which was filed with the court, verifying the facts contained within the Dec. 31 complaint as true to the best of his knowledge.
Brian Darling, a Republican strategist and former Senate aide, said Trump’s announcement about the forthcoming report and press conference reads as a “public relations pushback” against the Georgia case.
“The case is going to be litigated in courts, but it’s already being litigated publicly in the media. And Trump is trying to push back and get his narrative out there because we’ve spent the last day or two breaking down the indictment,” Darling said. “This is Donald Trump’s opportunity to push back and give his spin on the case publicly.”
But many in the GOP have made clear they are eager to move on, hoping to focus more on policy than on relitigating an issue that has proven to be a political loser for the party.
The GOP lost a Senate runoff in Georgia and control of the chamber as a result, after Trump spent the weeks after the 2020 election publicly claiming the vote there was rigged.
Trump-backed candidates who espoused claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent prevailed in GOP primaries in House, Senate and gubernatorial races in 2022, only to lose in the general election in places like Arizona, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
“The 2020 election in Georgia was not stolen,” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who won reelection last November, wrote in a social media post Tuesday.
“For nearly three years now, anyone with evidence of fraud has failed to come forward – under oath – and prove anything in a court of law. Our elections in Georgia are secure, accessible, and fair and will continue to be as long as I am governor,” he added. “The future of our country is at stake in 2024 and that must be our focus.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is running against Trump for the GOP’s presidential nomination, echoed Kemp on Wednesday, pushing back on claims that the Georgia election was stolen. Pence has previously argued Republican candidates who focused on the future were more successful in the midterms.
GOP strategists said Trump’s focus on 2020 as he campaigns for 2024 could be a drag with independents come the general election, but that it only helps shore up his base as he vies for the Republican nomination.
“There’s still an argument to be made that independents who may have their mind open for the general election between a flawed Donald Trump and the flawed Joe Biden, that him continuing to sing hits of 2020 might sound like it’s going out of style,” said Weaver, the Ohio-based strategist.
“But he’s only looking at the election directly in front of him, which is, of course, the primary,” he said.