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Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on July 27, 2020.Andrew Harnik / AP file

Why Trump's latest rhetoric about Arizona's election 'audit' matters

Trump isn't just obsessed with Arizona's bonkers election "audit," he also appears to see it as the first in a series of dominos.


The more House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) makes clear she has no use for Trumpism, the more her GOP colleagues are comfortable publicly pushing back against her apostasy. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), for example, spoke up in support of the former president last Thursday.

"[Donald] Trump is still a very active part of our party," the Louisianan said, adding, "This idea that you just disregard President Trump is not where we are, and frankly he has a lot to offer still."

And what, pray tell, does the former president have "to offer"? A day earlier, Trump spoke to a small group at Mar-a-Lago, and let attendees know what was on his mind.

Donald Trump hinted to cheering Mar-a-Lago guests that the disturbing Arizona ballot audit by a partisan private company could lead to his White House reinstatement. "Let's see what they find," Trump said in remarks captured on video at his Florida golf resort.

"Watch Arizona, some very interesting things are happening in Arizona," the former president was filmed saying, adding, "Let's see what they find, I wouldn't be surprised if they found thousands and thousands and thousands of votes."

Moments later, Trump reflected on the road ahead, telling his audience, "So we're going to watch that very close to the end after that we'll watch Pennsylvania and you watch Georgia and you're going to watch Michigan and Wisconsin and you're watching New Hampshire, they found a lot of votes up in New Hampshire, a lot of votes up in New Hampshire just now, you saw that?"

The former president concluded, "Because this was a rigged election, everybody knows it and we're going to be watching it very closely."

Remember, this wasn't just some random crank peddling nonsense to four followers via social media. On the contrary, this was a former president -- by any fair measure, the most powerful voice in Republican politics -- peddling nonsense in public about an election he lost six months earlier.

At face value, Trump appears pitiful, clinging to a fantasy that helps him feel better about his failures, but it'd be a mistake to dismiss such displays as little more than pathetic tirades. The former president appears desperate to legitimize a hopelessly bonkers election "audit" in Arizona, which the Republican apparently expects to be the first in a series circuses.

Indeed, note his reference to New Hampshire -- where, unlike the other states Trump mentioned in his Mar-a-Lago harangue, President Joe Biden won by more than seven points. According to the former president, "they" found "a lot of votes" in the Granite State. In reality, there was an apparent problem with the tallies in one small town in New Hampshire, but according to the state's Republican governor, Chris Sununu, there were "very minor, isolated issues."

The fact that Trump is even aware of such a granular, local story reinforces the idea the Republican is truly obsessed with the idea that he secretly won the election he lost.

In fact, it comes on the heels of a Washington Post report that said Trump "has become fixated" on the absurd process in Arizona, asking aides for updates "multiple times a day."

Commenting on the latest video of the former president, the Post's Philip Bump asked, "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?"

It's unsettling that this is no longer a rhetorical question.