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Trump's August election reinstatement theory is even worse than it looks

Trump’s embrace of this new, delusional conspiracy shows how the right’s doom loop of craziness works.

I’m afraid this is even worse than it looks.

The National Review is now confirming that Donald J. Trump, the former president of the United States (and probable Republican nominee in 2024) does indeed believe quite genuinely that he — along with former Sens. David Perdue and Martha McSally — will be “reinstated” later this summer.

That, of course, is not going to happen. It is, in fact, weapons-grade lunacy to imagine that it is even possible.

That, of course, is not going to happen. It is, in fact, weapons-grade lunacy to imagine that it is even possible.

But Trump’s embrace of the story shows how the right’s doom loop of craziness works — and how it is accelerating narratives that began in the fevered imaginations of his hardcore true believers.

It should also remind us that even though an idea is fake, the consequences of a new Big Lie can be very real, and even deadly.

Delegitimizing our democracy is now central to Trump’s agenda and his hopes for a political comeback. And polls suggest that his lies about the election have influenced tens of millions of voters.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll from May found that a quarter of Americans — and 53 percent of Republicans — actually believe Trump is the "true president" of the United States.

In this alternative reality, it’s only a small step to believe their “true president” might really return.

The idea of just such a magical, extra-constitutional Trumpian reinstatement was floated just last week at a QAnon conference. MAGA lawyer Sidney Powell said, without providing any evidence or details, that Trump “can simply be reinstated, but a new inauguration date is set, and Biden is told to move out of the White House, and President Trump should be moved back in.”

The same idea has been amplified by Mike Lindell, the MyPillow guy, whose baseless charges of election fraud bought him a $1.3 billion defamation suit from Dominion Voting Systems. (He is countersuing for $1.6 billion.)

For months, Lindell has been insisting that he would present evidence that would overturn Joe Biden’s victory. In April, during his two-day "Frankathon" he announced he had produced a documentary called “Absolute Interference” that would “change our world forever.” He promised “proof and evidence that China was attacking our country, and you're gonna know that this election was flipped.”

He followed up “Absolute Interference” with another documentary he called “Absolutely 9-0” in which he promised that a unanimous Supreme Court would throw out Biden’s victory and reinstall Trump.

Lindell also declared on Steve Bannon’s podcast that Trump would be “back in office in August.” The evidence, which he compared to “blood DNA at a crime scene,” would be so overwhelming, he promised, that even Rachel Maddow would accept Biden’s ouster.

"So when we get there and they do take this down and look at it, when that vote comes out 9 to 0, they're going to have more trust that it's 9 to 0," he insisted. "Wow, even the liberal judges did this. And we will get that case before the court."

This is delusional. But now, the former president appears to believe it. Or at least pretends to.

Days after Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn suggested the possibility of a military coup (he has since denied doing so despite it being captured on tape), New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted that “Trump has been telling a number of people he’s in contact with that he expects he will get reinstated by August.”

The Daily Beast heard the same thing: “In the past few weeks, two people close to Trump told The Daily Beast, the ex-president had begun increasingly quizzing confidants about a potential August return to power. What’s more, he claimed that a lot of ‘highly respected’ people — who Trump did not name — have been saying it’s possible.”

Lindell is pretty sure he knows where Trump got that idea. “If Trump is saying August,” the CEO told The Daily Beast, “that is probably because he heard me say it publicly.” (Lindell's August date, by the way, is similarly based on guesswork and conspiratorial theories tied to nonexistent election fraud in Arizona and a delusional hope that the Supreme Court will invalidate the election.)

Wherever he heard it, Trump appears obsessed with relitigating the election he lost. The Washington Post reported that the former president is “increasingly consumed with the notion that ballot reviews pushed by his supporters around the country could prove that he won, according to people familiar with his comments.”

It’s impossible to know whether Trump genuinely believes that he can move back into the White House this summer. But that’s not the point; the story works for him as long as other people believe it.

So don’t be surprised if this notion gathers momentum in the right’s feedback loop, especially if Trump continues to stoke false hopes. Lindell may be loony, but he is far from isolated in the right-wing media ecosystem. Look at the lineup for his rally in my home state of Wisconsin.

Not only is Trump himself scheduled to make an appearance at Lindell’s event, he will be joined by influencers like Turning Point USA President Charlie Kirk and Trumpist loyalists like former Sheriff David Clarke, Dinesh D’Souza and Diamond and Silk. Can Marjorie Taylor Greene be far behind?

So far, most Republicans have maintained a studied strategic silence on Trump’s musings.

But it won’t take much for the idea to get traction in the MAGAverse — or for belief in the righteousness of the Trumpian restoration to become a new litmus test for GOP loyalty.

We’ve seen this pattern before: denial followed by heavy doses of whataboutism and the emergence of anti-anti-coup commentary. This commentary never exactly endorses reinstalling Trump, but instead it tries to refocus attention on over-the-top progressive or never-Trump reaction. Rationalization morphs into acquiescence and even complicity.

Meanwhile, belief in Trump’s return will spread among members of the base, sparking anger, suspicion and outrage when the promised restoration fails to materialize.

In other words, it’s a new twist on the same Big Lie that fueled the Jan. 6 insurrection and continues to fuel threats of political violence. That makes it even worse than it looks.