There were so many terrible abuses of power that Donald Trump and the GOP succeeded at during the previous administration — from refusing to cooperate with investigations of wrong-doing to reappropriating funds to Trump's racist border wall — that we sometimes forget where they failed. The failures were often by sheer luck — or incompetence —and sometimes they were because someone in Trump's orbit chickened out and just wouldn't go that far.
Republicans are making sure, however, that they get it right next time.
A newly-released trove of emails shows how far Trump went in trying to overturn the election of 2020. The House Oversight Committee yesterday released emails revealing further evidence of how Trump tried to use the Justice Department even after Attorney General Bill Barr was packing up and heading out the door, refusing to continue efforts to overturn the election.
Ten days before Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen began his job, Trump contacted him claiming Dominion Voting Systems machines in Michigan were rigged to hurt him and help Joe Biden. The email from Trump's assistant to Rosen, which went out on December 14th, claimed, "We believe it has happened everywhere." This occurred after courts had turned away several attempts to contest the election based on these conspiracy theories.
Trump also demanded the Justice Department challenge the election at the Supreme Court. At the same time, Mark Meadows, Trump's chief of staff and a still-dangerous true believer, was pressuring Rosen in emails to open an investigation into a completely ludicrous claim that people in Italy were using satellite technology to switch votes in machines in the United States from Trump to Biden, something Richard Donaghue, the then-acting deputy attorney general, said in an email was "pure insanity." The day before, Meadows sent an email asking Rosen to open an investigation into voter fraud in Georgia.
Rosen pushed back on these attempts, just as the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger pushed back on Trump's attempt in a phone call to get him to "find" over 11,000 votes to put Trump over the top in the state — an action that has Reffesperger and his wife now the target of continued death threats by Trumpist extremists.
What is extraordinary to think about is if Barr — a Trump loyalist who corrupted the Justice Department for Trump — had gone along with Trump's plans, or if Rosen (whom Trump appointed as deputy attorney general in 2019 and who also protected Trump and his cronies in that position) had gone along, or if Raffensperger and number of other Republican officials in the states had done so, we truly could have seen complete chaos including the possible overturning of the election. And what if GOP-appointed and Trump-appointed judges had gone along?
So democracy was actually momentarily saved by some of the very corruptors of the Department of Justice whom Trump had put in place. Rosen was a loyal soldier until then. He'd moved to stop disbursements of money to Puerto Rico, stalled a probe of Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for his own corrupt actions and was, like Barr, doing Trump's dirty work throughout DOJ. As soon as he pushed back on Trump in the aftermath of the election, however, he faced an internal failed coup attempt at the DOJ himself, when Trump tried to replace him in the last days with a low-level official who had met with Trump and whom Trump was going to use to overturn the election.
That failed as others in the DOJ helped Rosen thwart it. If that attempt had succeeded, however, it's unsure what would have happened, just as if Barr, Rosen and others had been compliant with Trump even in those last desperate moments.
But now the GOP is ready to make sure that kind of pushback can't happen — including installing officials who won't turn out to be the yellow bellies that Barr, Rosen and others did in the end. Don't believe anyone who says the GOP is afraid of Trump and is quietly hoping Trump will go away, bowing to him only to placate him. That's a distortion of who and what the GOP has become — a neo-fascist movement that will use violence to get what it wants. That's not an exaggeration, and the proof is that the party refused to have a commission investigate the domestic terror attack — the insurrection — incited by Trump and led by his supporters, who killed and wounded police officers.
The political leaders left in the GOP created Trump, they see that the corruption and cheating works — and is the only way they believe they'll maintain power — and they've stripped of power those few (like Liz Cheney) who've spoken out. And there are now so many, in Congress and in the state legislatures, who are very loyal, making sure that even the paltry but critical pushback among some in the GOP we saw in 2020 can't happen again.
The voting restrictions states are putting in place are designed to overcome any obstacles, far beyond suppressing votes. Secretaries of state have seen their power taken away, local elections boards installed with Trumpists have been given more power and more power has been given to judges to overturn elections. If these actions help them win back Congress in '22 and the White House in '24 just imagine what they'll do to the Justice Department if they get control again.
They'll make sure that whoever takes over goes much farther than Bill Barr and Jeffrey Rosen — a frightening thought indeed — and is willing to stick it out to the bitter end, killing democracy as we know it and installing an authoritarian, whoever it may be (or a series of them), perhaps for the rest of all our lives.