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Trump can't shake his obsession with the 'reinstatement' fantasy

New reporting says Trump is still "obsessed" with the idea that he can be "reinstated" to the presidency. That's bonkers, but it's not irrelevant.

Yesterday wasn't a great day for Donald Trump. It was a day in which New York prosecutors brought a multi-count criminal indictment against the former president's business, alleging that the Trump Organization orchestrated a 15-year-long tax-fraud scheme.

But Politico reported that the criminal allegations against his core business does not have Trump's sole attention. On the contrary, the report, quoting an unnamed adviser to the Republican, added that the former president's ongoing "obsession" is with "the idea that he could still prove to be the winner of the 2020 election."

According to this adviser, Trump is holding out hope that if the Arizona "audit"/fishing expedition ends up in his favor, a few other states will follow suit, triggering some sort of legal process that would make him president. He's even questioned the merits of the Constitution, if it can't be used to investigate election fraud.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, this ridiculousness is part of a lengthy pattern.

One of the earliest signs came in early February. Trump and his team issued assorted written statements and legal filings that went to comedic lengths to avoid use of the phrase "former president" -- suggesting the Republican believed he was still the rightful leader, despite having been rejected by his country's electorate.

Two months later, Trump sounded like a politician who believed it was still possible his defeat would be reversed and he'd be welcomed back into the White House. Soon after, the former president reportedly told associates he believed Arizona's indefensible election audit "could undo" the 2020 presidential election.

In May, by way of his now-defunct blog, he celebrated a poll showing most Republican voters "believe Donald Trump is the true president," and last month, the New York Times' Maggie Haberman noted 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.

She's not alone. National Review's Charles C. W. Cooke, a prominent conservative writer, published this piece in early June:

...Haberman's reporting was correct. I can attest, from speaking to an array of different sources, that Donald Trump does indeed believe quite genuinely that he — along with former senators David Perdue and Martha McSally — will be "reinstated" to office this summer after "audits" of the 2020 elections in Arizona, Georgia, and a handful of other states have been completed. I can attest, too, that Trump is trying hard to recruit journalists, politicians, and other influential figures to promulgate this belief — not as a fundraising tool or an infantile bit of trolling or a trial balloon, but as a fact.

Around the same time, CNN ran a related piece, reporting that Trump has "been asking advisers in recent weeks if he could somehow reassume the presidency this year after listening to farfetched suggestions from conservative commentators and allies."

A former Trump adviser added that the former president has been listening to "the bottom of the bottom of the crazies in the barrel."

And as of yesterday, according to new reporting, he's still clinging to the fantasy.

I continue to believe this matters, not because Trump might somehow be "reinstated" -- that's obviously insane -- but because the United States only has two major parties, and right now, one of them is becoming a sycophantic personality cult toward a man who is, as National Review's Cooke put it, actively engaged in "a rejection of reality, a rejection of law, and, ultimately, a rejection of the entire system of American government."

Trump is deliberately undermining our democracy; few in his party are willing to tell him this is dangerously bonkers; his party is aggressively pursuing anti-voting and anti-election measures in service of the lies and delusions; and as Rachel recently explained on the show, it's an open question as to what the former president's allies, inside government and out, will be expected to do as Trump maintains the idea that he's the real president, reality be damned.