DG MARTIN COLUMN: Good news for Trump?

Published 9:27 am Monday, August 23, 2021

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There is some surprisingly good news for Donald Trump in a new book that, ironically, aims to demonstrate the former president’s incompetence.

D.G. Martin

“Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump White House” by Michael Wolff follows Trump and his campaign from July 2020 through his departure for Mar-a-Lago on Jan. 20, 2021.

Wolff is the author of two earlier bestselling books about the Trump presidency.

“Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” (2018) is an account of the first six months of Trump’s Presidency.

“Siege: Trump Under Fire” (2019) begins in February 2018 and ends with the release of the Mueller Report in March 2019.

In the weeks before the 2020 election, Wolff writes, “the calamitous nature of the Trump campaign, handicapped by both the candidate and organization” convinced liberals that “a landslide was coming for the Democrats.”

But in the last days before the election, the tide turned, and Trump was convinced “that he was absolutely going to win.”

On election night, the early returns seemingly confirmed Trump’s hope that he would win in a landslide. Good results in key states pointed towards a big win. He was joyous until Fox News announced later in the evening that it was calling Arizona for Biden.

Trump was shocked and unbelieving.

When later returns gave Biden the win, Trump convinced himself that a broad voter fraud robbed him of his victory. Subsequently, he spent all his time and energy trying to convince others that the election had been stolen and plotting courses of action to reverse his loss.

When his close advisors came to tell him there was no chance of winning, he rejected their conclusion, telling them, “You’ve got to fight harder. You’re not fighting hard enough. They stole it.”

The one person who would fight was Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor. His barrage of lawsuits and Trump’s pressure on local officials did not change any results.

“Giuliani had failed in every single instance of legal strategy and positioning in the election challenge and now he put all his eggs into the Pence basket.”

They would persuade Vice President Pence that, when he was presiding over the electoral vote count in Congress on Jan. 6, he could somehow declare Trump the victor or send back the ballots to the states for further action or, at the very least, postpone final action.

Pence was not persuadable. And “to the extent, as the media darkly warned, that there was an extraordinary plot to hold onto power, there were only two plotters,” Trump and Giuliani, “and no one to back them up.”

They were at the conclusion “of a two-month battle in which he had considered little else and on which both his immediate future and his place in history depended. But other than via his own tweets and fulminations and his meeting the day before with the vice president, nobody in the White House was much participating or even present in this fight.”

What about the Capitol Hill riot on Jan. 6? Didn’t Trump send the mob from a rally at the Ellipse across from the White House to the Capitol, even saying, “I’ll be with you”?

What is the good news for Trump in all this?

Wolff’s account shows Trump did not organize the riot at the Capitol. Instead, Wolff explains that Trump’s incompetence kept him from knowing even what was going on with the rioters. According to Wolff, Trump was not the leader or even a plotter in the attack on the Capitol.

If investigators from the U.S. House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 attack agree with Wolff’s finding, they will not hold Trump responsible for planning the attack.

That is the good news for Trump. His bad news is there is still much more for which he will have to account.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch” Sunday 3:30 p.m. and Tuesday at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. The program also airs on the North Carolina Channel Tuesday at 8 p.m. and other times.