Whether Donald Trump is an actual criminal has yet to be proved in court (though I have high hopes for 2021), but he’s clearly a thug at heart. If the last four years didn’t convince you of that, certainly his hourlong phone call with Brad Raffensperger, demanding that the Georgia secretary of state find thousands more votes for him, did.
“The people of the country are angry. And there’s nothing wrong with saying that, you know, that you’ve recalculated,” the president told Mr. Raffensperger in the call, first reported in delightful detail by the Washington Post (the transcript is really worth a read).
“They’re going around playing you and laughing at you behind your back, Brad, whether you know it or not, they’re laughing at you …”
“Look, all I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes …”
“So, what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break …”
“Why do you keep fighting this thing? It just doesn’t make sense …”
“You have to say that you’re going to reexamine it, and you can reexamine it, but reexamine it with people that want to find answers, not people that don’t want to find answers.”
And by “answers,” of course, the president means votes in his favor — enough to overturn Joe Biden’s presidential election win in the southern state.
The whole conversation was much more mob boss than Mr. Trump’s other “perfect phone call” made 18 months ago to newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, asking for a “favor” — revealed to be investigating the Bidens (the quo) in exchange for a meeting at the White House and resumption of U.S. military aid (the quid).
But instead of dangling a carrot this time, the president went for the stick, claiming Mr. Raffensperger could somehow be prosecuted for failing to fix the election. “That’s a criminal, that’s a criminal offense,” he warned. “And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer.”
Mr. Trump is no Don Corleone, however, because Mr. Raffensperger found the offer made to be one he could refuse — repeatedly.
“We don’t agree that you have won,” the Georgia Republican told the president, politely but firmly dismissing Mr. Trump’s conspiracy theories and standing by his state’s election results, which have been checked and verified.
“Mr. President,” he said, “the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong.”
That was some long-overdue truth spoken to power, right there. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump has never been one to care much about the accuracy of his information. Reality is what he says it is.
That’s clear from his recent claims of election fraud absent evidence — along with a laundry list of other asinine assertions made throughout his term in office, often by retweeting others, including that windmill noise causes cancer; Barack Obama faked the death of Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden; and the Clinton family had something to do with the suicide death of Mr. Trump’s jailed buddy, sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. In fact, there’s a whole category of “conspiracy theories promoted by Donald Trump” on Wikipedia.
Sadly, there’s also a legion of elected leaders willing to tell him what he wants to hear if they think it’s in their selfish interests. We’ll get a front-row seat to this on Wednesday, when more than a dozen Republican U.S. senators and 140 members of the House — including Maryland’s Andy Harris — are expected to object to the certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College win during a joint session of Congress. The move isn’t likely to amount to much more than a display of loyalty to Mr. Trump and his fantasies.
That might buy them some favor with the outgoing president and his unquestioning followers, but it comes at the price of their integrity and the country’s faith in our Democratic process.
That’s Donald Trump’s real legacy: revealing just how fragile our Democracy is. It won’t bend as easily as the truth; it’s more apt to break.
Tricia Bishop (firstname.lastname@example.org) is The Sun’s opinion editor. Her column runs every third Wednesday.