Early last year, on the heels of Donald Trump's first impeachment, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said the ordeal would have a lasting effect on him. "I believe that the president has learned from this case," Collins said in February 2020. "The president has been impeached. That's a pretty big lesson."
Trump has obviously gone out of his way to prove the Maine senator wrong, including a new declaration at a conservative gathering in Texas yesterday: "I didn't become different. I got impeached twice. I became worse. I became worse."
In fact, the former president seemed eager to spend the weekend proving just how much worse he's become. For example, the Republican said in a written statement that "the feeling of a Fake Election is stronger now than ever before," thanks to his incessant lying. He again condemned U.S. news organizations as "the enemy of the people." He again described the 2020 presidential election as "rigged."
Trump also lashed out at the U.S. Supreme Court for failing to help him overturn the election results, made up strange new details about his defeat, and insisted that lies about the 2020 race must remain the centerpiece of Republican messaging in 2022 and 2024.
But perhaps most importantly, as Politico noted, the former president escalated his efforts to rewrite the history of the insurrectionist attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Former President Donald Trump on Sunday widely praised those who attended the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the insurrection at the Capitol, repeatedly using the word "love" to describe the tone of the event. Echoing his rhetoric about the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Trump said, "These were peaceful people, these were great people."
Far-right efforts to recast the rioters as heroes have grown in recent months, but Trump reached new depths yesterday, telling Fox News there was "love in the air" on Jan. 6, when "over a million people" attended his anti-election rally. (This guy continues to struggle with crowd sizes.)
The former president added that there was "a lovefest" between the Capitol Police and the insurrectionists; the rioters were "tremendous"; and "they" must "release the people that are incarcerated."
As for his role in inciting a riot, Trump said he delivered "a very mild-mannered speech" on Jan. 6, and Democratic leaders "were the ones that were responsible" for the violence.
Obviously, given reality, the Republican's claims were utterly insane and evidence of a failed leader who has dropped any pretense about the attack on his own country's Capitol: the former president believes the insurrectionist rioters are worthy of his praise and support.
But there was also a common thread tying together each of these developments from the weekend: Trump's campaign against democracy is intensifying. When a failed former president publicly targets elections, the free press, the judiciary, the legal process, and the criminal justice system, while throwing his support behind those who violently attacked the citadel of our government in the hopes of derailing our electoral process, all over the course of a day and a half, it serves as a reminder that Trump sees democracy as an opponent he hopes to defeat.
When he claims he "became worse" after being held accountable for Jan. 6, there's every reason to believe him.