At the Save America March in Washington DC, a few thousand devotees — plus a smattering of media cameras — had a courtside view of the final, frenzied hours of the Trump presidency. This is where it all began.
The wind was blowing on a bitterly cold January day and the president was dressed in his signature suit and red tie with additional black gloves, flanked by two American flags. He followed Rudy Giuliani — who at one point suggested settling the election with a “trial by combat” — and his eldest son Donald Trump Jr, whose personal highlights included: "This gathering should send a message to them: This isn't their Republican party anymore, this is Donald Trump's Republican party. This is the Republican party that will put America first."
Those could be seen as tough acts to follow, but not for Donald J Trump.
“We’re gonna have somebody in there that should not be in there and our country will be destroyed,” the president said into the mic when he finally took the stage, gesticulating wildly. “There’s weak Republicans. There’s so many weak Republicans… and I helped Mitch get elected.” He paused for a cacophony of boos from the floor. “I could name 24 of them,” he continued. “They’re pathetic Republicans.”
Trump’s ire flailed around, hitting every possible target.
Democratic voters? “Our election was over at 10 o’clock in the evening. Then these explosions of BULLSH*T!” (The audience screamed in delight, then chanted “Bullsh*t, bullsh*t, bullsh*t” for a minute or two.)
Oprah? “She used to like me! I was one of her five greatest people! Then I’m president and she doesn’t want to know!”
Republican Governor of Georgia Brian Kemp? “He weighs 130 pounds! He says he played offensive lineman in football — offensive lineman? I said that must’ve been a small team.”
George W Bush, “Barack Hussein Obama”, and decisionmakers at the Pentagon? “I said don’t go into Iraq but if you do, keep the oil, and they didn’t keep the oil. So stupid.”
The stimulus checks? “That $600 thing — I wanted $2,000. Give them a couple of bucks, I said, let them live! Give them a COUPLE OF BUCKS!”
Media outlets that report on his actions less closely now he’s been voted out? “Now they go silent, it’s just suppression. That’s what happens in a communist country… You won’t hear about me on the fake news media, the enemy of the people.”
Democrats in Congress and Republicans who refuse to back his claims that the election was stolen from him? “Let’s say they’re stiffs and they’re stupid people.”
The conspiracies came thick and fast. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler were subject to a “setup,” they “didn’t have a chance”. “Human drop boxes — you know what that is, right?” dropped off duffel bags with tens of thousands of votes stuffed inside them outside ballot boxes in the middle of the night. The media works to turn every previous ally against Trump by saying that Bill Barr and conservative Supreme Court justices are in his pocket, “so they rule against Trump” because otherwise it would be bad for their social lives. “It’s genius!” the president declared, throwing up his tiny hands. “If I was the media, well, I hate to say it, but I’d do it the same way.”
At this point, if this was a TV show, there might have been a record scratch and a camera zooming in on a supporter’s face as the internal wheels began to turn. He’d have… done it the same way? The unacceptably corrupt, conspiratorial way he just outlined? I thought we were supposed to be… against the corruption? A little like Mitchell and Webb turning to each other and saying with trepidation, “Are we the baddies?”, you’d think something might have clicked.
But as it is, the supporters left clinging to the frayed and rapidly sinking Trump life-raft are way too far gone for a moment of reflection. “Their election” was finished long before all the votes were counted, after all.
“Mike Pence, I hope you’re gonna stand up,” Trump said to the camera during his speech, on three separate occasions. On three separate occasions, he followed it up with: “And if you’re not — I’m gonna be very disappointed in you, I’m telling you now.” The pause for effect got longer each time.
Unfortunately for the president, as he was going in for a third Pence pressure moment, his VP was stood in Congress, being tasked with officially certifying the 2020 election results. To stick by the man with the hyped-up rabble of scary supporters or to continue centuries of American democratic principle? It really was Sophie’s Choice for poor little evangelical Mike.
Yet even Pence managed to read the writing on the wall. “It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrained me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” he said, indicating that he would not intervene to attempt to change the outcome of the election. This final demand from his running-mate was impossible to deliver upon. Pence, it seems, does have his limits after all. And so does Mitch McConnell — no longer Senate Majority Leader, after the results of the Georgia runoffs today — who followed up by saying that “the right thing” was to certify the democratic results, rubbing salt into the Trumpian wound by adding, “This election was not actually unusually close,” and overruling it would “damage our republic forever.”
But what are limits for except to be defied? Minutes later, hundreds of Trump’s Save America March attendees stormed the Capitol building, tearing down four layers of security fencing. “This is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” tweeted The Blaze reporter Elijah Schaffer, accompanying his tweet with a video of rioters carrying Trump flags. They were scuffling with police and screaming in their faces. (I guess blue lives only matter when they’re on your side.) Congress members began reporting on social media that they were sheltering in place and waiting to be safely evacuated. Representative Elaine Luria reported hearing “multiple gunshots”. A woman later died after being shot on Capitol grounds, and three others have now died due to related violence.
“Today is not the end — it’s just the beginning,” Trump had said at the end of his speech, moments before.
Like the rally, the march and the display of supporters who still blindly believe he somehow won the election, it wasn’t a threat; it was a promise.
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