Trump Outdoes Himself in Desperation

A desperate, unhinged Donald Trump went beyond reason by trying to persuade Georgia’s secretary of state to recalculate the presidential election votes so that he would emerge as the winner.

President-elect Joe Biden won Georgia by 11,779 votes. But Trump repeatedly badgered Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger during an hourlong phone call Saturday to “find” 11,780 votes that would overturn the election in his favor. Raffensperger refused.

Trump’s phone call is “irrefutable proof of a president pressuring and threatening an official,” Biden senior adviser Bob Bauer tweeted Sunday.

Trump is infamous for flaunting the laws, rules and traditions of the presidency with impunity. The House impeached him for it. But this latest unconscionable act to flex his official muscle to subvert an election is beyond the pale and may not be legal.

“Trump’s contempt for democracy is laid bare,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chair of the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted. “Once again. On tape. Pressuring an election official to ‘find’ the votes so he can win is potentially criminal and another flagrant abuse of power by a corrupt man who would be a despot, if we allowed him. We will not.”

Schiff prosecuted Trump during the impeachment trial that involved another phone call in which he threatened to withhold military equipment unless president of Ukraine got dirt on Biden and his son, Hunter. The Republican Senate did not convict him.

The text of Saturday’s phone conversation speaks for itself in showing its unprecedented, unorthodox, unreasonable, irresponsible and completely unfathomable nature. And this from a president of the United States. Incredible.

“The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry,” Trump told Raffensperger, according to a recorded version of the phone call obtained by the media. “And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated” the votes.

“Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data is wrong,” Raffensperger replied.

“So look,” Trump said at another point, “All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.”

“There’s no way I lost Georgia,” Trump said at still another point, which The Washington Post said he repeated over and over again. “There’s no way. We won by hundreds of thousands of votes.”

Trump repeatedly has insisted since the Nov. 3 election that he beat Biden by overwhelming numbers of votes and challenged the outcome in courts in six states. The courts threw out the lawsuits, saying they were baseless. Trump and his lawyers never presented any evidence of fraudulent voting to back up his claims.

In a wider perspective of Trump’s term of office, Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole wrote in a Dec. 26 piece:

“Trump’s aim, in the presidency, as in his previous life, was always simple: to be able to do whatever the hell he wanted. That required the transformation of elective office into the relationship of a capricious ruler to his sycophantic courtiers.” Of which he has many.

Trump’s repeated obsessive attacks against the election, his unsuccessful attempts to get the results overturned and the Republican congressional lapdogs who still are at it are destroying the legitimacy of Biden’s victory on the cusp of his presidency.

The disinformation and persistent lying over four years affects the viability and acceptance of a Biden presidency and the future of Trump’s presence in a post-White House world. Will his sycophants and followers in the public stick with him while he bellows from Mar-a-Lago?

“There is an enormous percentage of the population who sees the word ‘election official’ and . . . decodes that as liberal, anti-Trump,” Whitney Phillips, a communications professor at Syracuse University, told Lois Beckett in The Guardian.

“The impulse to throw facts at these problems is really strong,” she said, “and it’s understandable. But simply saying what the facts are is not going to convince minds that aren’t already open.”

Disinformation is difficult to overcome. There’s been no indication how many of the 74.2 million people who voted for Trump did it because they’ve swallowed his lies and his fuming diatribes against his perceived enemies and social media outfits that have censored him. How many voted for him hoping for more tax cuts?

Ways must be found, starting with the Biden administration, to give the voters what they need and to educate them about democracy and its values compared with the Trumpian style of a madman’s rule. Congressional elections are less than two years away.

Irish columnist O’Toole lamented that Trump got his votes “even while his malign incompetence was killing his own people. He got those votes, moreover, having made it abundantly clear that he would never accept the result of the election unless he won. They were votes for open autocracy.

“This is his legacy: he has successfully led a vast number of voters along the path from hatred of government to contempt for rational deliberation to the inevitable endpoint: disdain for the electoral process itself.”

He concluded with this zinger: “Trump has unfinished business. A republic he wants to destroy still stands. It is, for him, not goodbye but hasta la vista. Instead of waving him off, those who want to rebuild American democracy will have to put a stake through his heart.”

Such is the evil that lurks beneath all of that serious buffoonery.

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.