Donald Trump has peddled ridiculous conspiracy theories about the elections for months. He’s talked about being reinstated to the presidency for months. He’s called for some kind of do-over election for months. But on Saturday morning, the Republican broke new ground with a specific argument.
The former president, by way of his social media platform, made the case that his fictional claims about systemic voter fraud are not only true, they’re so significant that they “allow for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”
In other words, as Trump sees it, the rule of law and our constitutional system of government are fine, but in this case, they should be put aside in order to advance his ridiculous election conspiracy theories. It’s an argument predicated on the idea that the laws that serve as the foundation for the United States must be discarded, at least temporarily, because the former president has bonkers ideas about the election he lost two years ago.
This did not go unnoticed. As the controversy intensified yesterday, the former president returned to his platform to insist he did not write what he wrote:
“The Fake News is actually trying to convince the American People that I said I wanted to ‘terminate’ the Constitution. This is simply more DISINFORMATION & LIES, just like RUSSIA, RUSSIA, RUSSIA, and all of their other HOAXES & SCAMS. What I said was that when there is ‘MASSIVE & WIDESPREAD FRAUD & DECEPTION,’ as has been irrefutably proven in the 2020 Presidential Election, steps must be immediately taken to RIGHT THE WRONG. Only FOOLS would disagree with that and accept STOLEN ELECTIONS. MAGA!”
This was soon followed by some similarly hysterical missives in which Trump continued down the same mindless path. “SIMPLY PUT, IF AN ELECTION IS IRREFUTABLY FRAUDULENT, IT SHOULD GO TO THE RIGHTFUL WINNER OR, AT A MINIMUM, BE REDONE,” the Republican wrote. “WHERE OPEN AND BLATANT FRAUD IS INVOLVED, THERE SHOULD BE NO TIME LIMIT FOR CHANGE!”
At this point, we could spend some time exploring the obvious fact that the 2020 election was not “fraudulent” and unhinged conspiracy theories have not been “irrefutably proven.” We could also take a few paragraphs to explain that there is no legal mechanism that allows for the loser of an election to be given power — or a second chance in a do-over election — more than two years later for no reason.
But let’s not brush past the fact that the former president also took a moment to blame the controversy, not on what he wrote, but on news organizations for alerting the public to what he wrote. As Trump put it, the “Fake News” is disseminating “disinformation” and “lies.”
Except, it wasn’t just journalists who saw his “termination” rhetoric as outrageous.
A handful of Republicans appeared on the Sunday shows and hedged when asked about Trump’s radical missives, but yesterday, as NBC News reported, a larger group of GOP lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill and commented on the former president’s latest scandal.
GOP senators on Monday criticized Donald Trump’s statement over the weekend claiming the Constitution can be terminated to reinstate him as president, though most did not extend their repudiations to his 2024 candidacy. Senate Republicans who weighed in on Trump’s remarks on Truth Social from Saturday focused more on the importance of upholding the Constitution.
As best as I can tell, no GOP officials defended Trump’s position or took his attempted clarification seriously, but there was a range of reactions within the party.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, for example, was rather direct. “Suggesting the termination of the Constitution is not only a betrayal of our Oath of Office, it’s an affront to our Republic,” the Republican wrote in a written statement. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, meanwhile, said Trump’s rhetoric was “irresponsible,” but he wouldn’t answer directly when asked if Trump’s statement should disqualify him from another White House bid.
Similarly, Senate Minority Whip John Thune said “of course I disagree with that” when asked about Trump’s comments, but the South Dakotan also wouldn’t comment about the former president’s 2024 comeback candidacy, saying he’s “just not going to go there at this point.”
The bottom line is messy, but straightforward: Republicans won’t defend what Trump wrote about subverting constitutional law, but they won’t consider the idea that the former president has disqualified himself. The obvious follow-up question still needs an answer, though: If calling for the “termination” of our constitutional system isn’t disqualifying to GOP officials, just how much further would Trump have to go?