It was unsettling to see former White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn appear at a right-wing gathering over the weekend and endorse a military coup in the United States. Asked about Myanmar's coup, the retired Army general specifically said, "I mean it, it should happen here."
But a day earlier, attorney Sidney Powell appeared at the same event, and as the Washington Examiner noted, she went down a similarly outlandish path.
Attorney Sidney Powell, who is being sued by Dominion Voting Systems for spreading allegedly defamatory claims about the 2020 election, insisted on Saturday former President Donald Trump could "simply be reinstated" as president and fill the rest of President Joe Biden's term.
To the delight of attendees, Powell specifically declared, "It should be that [Trump] can simply be reinstated, that a new inauguration date is set."
Remember, Powell was a member of Donald Trump's hapless legal operation late last year until she was fired for pushing conspiracy theories considered so hysterically ridiculous that the then-president's other attorneys showed her the door. Nevertheless, by late December, Powell was making frequent trips to the White House. Axios reported at the time that in the West Wing, there was a "consensus" that Trump was "listening to Sidney Powell more than just about anyone who is on his payroll, certainly more than his own White House Counsel."
My concern is that the former president continues to do exactly that. The New York Times' Maggie Haberman noted this morning that Trump "has been telling a number of people he's in contact with that he expects he will get reinstated" to the presidency by August. The reporter added that the Republican "is not putting out statements about the 'audits' in states just for the sake of it."
There's no shortage of related data points, which in isolation are easy to look past, but are more alarming when considered in context.
In late April, for example, Trump spoke to a small group at Mar-a-Lago and sounded like a politician who expected assorted partisan "audits" to tell him what he wanted to hear. The Washington Post's Philip Bump asked soon after, "This appears to be Trump at Mar-a-Lago telling his customers that the bizarre Arizona recount will be the first domino to fall in apparently somehow undoing the election?"
The Times' Haberman noted soon after that Trump had told people the Arizona audit "could undo" the 2020 presidential election.
Two weeks later, the former president issued another written statement filled with more election conspiracy theories, arguing, "If a thief robs a jewelry store of all of its diamonds (the 2020 Presidential Election), the diamonds must be returned." In context, the Republican was making it sound as if power had been taken from him improperly, so he expected power to be returned to him.
Last week, he also celebrated a poll showing most Republican voters "believe Donald Trump is the true President." He added, "I always knew America was smart!" (In his mind, there is no meaningful difference between the beliefs of the GOP base and the beliefs of the nation at large.)
In case this isn't painfully obvious, there is literally no scenario in which Trump will return to the White House unless he runs and wins again in 2024. The election cannot be "undone." The former president cannot be "reinstated." This entire line of thought is stark raving mad.
But to assume that Trump recognizes the reality of the circumstances is almost certainly a mistake.
A few weeks ago, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters, "I don't think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election.... I think that is all over with." Wouldn't it be great if McCarthy had been right?