Donald Trump’s response to the imminent subpoena from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot was exactly what you would have expected.
The word “hoax” appears twice, as does “radical left.” (Or, actually, “Radical Left,” employing Trump’s idiosyncratic capitalization standards.) “Russia” is included four times. “Unselect” — Trump’s weak attempt to rebrand the committee — three times. “Illegal” five times.
But the champion is “fraud,” which appears 10 times. This is Trump’s trump card: that the evidence of fraud is so obvious and widespread that it, not the violent assault on the Capitol, should have been the focus of investigation.
“You have not gone after the people that created the Fraud, but rather great American Patriots who questioned it, as is their Constitutional right,” the letter reads. “These people have had their lives ruined as your Committee sits back and basks in the glow” — so mixed a metaphor that it actually causes you to stop and consider it. What, exactly, is glowing?
What hinders Trump’s response, of course, is that there was no rampant fraud in the 2020 election. This is by now so concretely established — following nearly two years of desperate digging and countless tennis matches of debunking and rebunking — that it barely merits lengthy examination. If you’re curious, here’s my standing summary of the lack of evidence of fraud. If, by now, you refuse to accept that reality, that’s a function of your own choices, not of reality itself.
Yet this didn’t stop Trump from including several pages of purported evidence to bolster his claim that the election was stolen. He picks out five “swing states” as targets for his … I don’t want to say analysis, since that implies deliberate consideration. For his flailing? That seems more apt. And, in each case, what he presents is a mix of long-debunked claims and completely irrelevant assertions. Necessarily, since if there were any actual evidence, we’d long ago have seen people in handcuffs and heard Trump talking about it to any microphone within a four-foot radius. All he has, and all he’s ever had, are insinuations and misrepresentations.
Consider his list of claims about Michigan, a swing state mostly in the sense that he barely won it in 2016 and lost it handily four years later. There were six states in which the margin was narrower than in Michigan, but since he considered Michigan one of his states (having flipped it in his first race) and, let’s be honest, because he can tap into stereotypes about Detroit and Detroiters, he always likes to include it in the mix.
When I read his presentation, though, I had a visceral reaction. It’s just total nonsense, from start to finish — and the same old nonsense as two years ago! I printed it out, wrote on it, taped it to the wall and took a picture of it.
Perhaps my dismissals on the paper are too terse; perhaps my handwriting is illegible. So let me quickly bolster my scribbling with actual links and discussion, something done by people who want to share accurate information.
1. “Officials in Detroit illegally blocked Republican poll challengers’ access, covered the windows, called the police, and denied lawful challenges in order to count ballots in secret.”
Here’s an article from 708 days ago explaining why the windows were covered and “poll watchers” (often simply protesters) were barred from entering. Far from being illegal, the goal was to uphold regulations: Only the media is allowed to film the process of counting ballots in order to protect confidentiality. What’s more, there were plenty of allies of Trump inside; his complaint conflates prohibition of more supporters from entering with prohibition of all supporters.
Regardless, there’s no evidence — and, in fact, no reason to think — that this in anyway affected the actual vote count. The implication is that something sketchy must have happened because this claim exists to suggest something sketchy happened. It’s turning on a smoke machine to imply there must be a fire.
2. “Affidavits and video evidence show thousands of ballots being delivered through a back door of the then-named TCF Center at 3:30 a.m. on Election night. The RINOs in the State Senate confirmed this also in their report analyzing the 2020 Election, and said a ‘large volume’ of ballots were delivered to the TCF Center with no chain of custody. Those ballots came from drop boxes.”
Sure. They did. Workers picked up ballots from drop boxes and brought them to be counted. Okay?
The “RINOS” — Republicans in Name Only — whom Trump derides are the members of a state Senate panel that produced a report debunking Trump’s claims about fraud in the state. Here’s the relevant section of their analysis related to these votes, with the “large volume” reference highlighted.
Does that suggest something nefarious happened? No, it recommends changes be made to avoid any questions about something nefarious happening. It is, in essence, saying that by making some changes, you can avoid people making bad-faith claims about the election results.
Trump’s mention that the ballots come from drop boxes is intentional. He’s trying to leverage his base’s distrust of ballot drop boxes — fueled largely by the evidence-free claims made in a recent film — to imply wrongdoing. Again, no actual evidence. Just an implication.
3. “Matt DePerno found voting machines were subverted and accessed remotely. In Antrim County, 7,048 votes were changed in favor of Joe Biden.”
Matt DePerno, now the Trump-endorsed Republican nominee for attorney general in the state, found no such thing. He claimed to have found that voting machines were accessed remotely, a claim that we can assess by quoting from the aforementioned state Senate report: “The Committee closely followed Mr. DePerno’s efforts and can confidently conclude they are demonstrably false and based on misleading information and illogical conclusions.” In fact, DePerno is now the subject of a criminal probe related to his efforts to “prove” election fraud.
Then there’s the Antrim County thing. What happened is simple: Elections administrators added a candidate to the ballot but didn’t update the scanning system to reflect that change. So when a batch of ballots was scanned and votes tabulated — that is, added to a table — a number of votes were added to the wrong columns. The error was caught (thanks mostly to Antrim being reliably red and the initial count showing Trump losing), and accurate totals were announced in short order.
That’s it. That’s the story. It’s been shown six ways from Sunday. But because it’s an example of (1) a voting machine (2) disadvantaging Trump, however briefly, it’s become central to his claims. Despite no other problem emerging anywhere else in the state.
See how long all of that took, though? That’s the point. Trump knows his supporters won’t bother looking into this. Or he knows that even if you debunk 999 things, that 1,000th thing will still be there to reinforce their doubt. He knows, too, that producing page after page of “election fraud” will be just as effective as producing page after page of actual evidence: The sense of wrongdoing is all he needs, just as a sense that covering windows was wrong is good enough as a trigger.
To a good-faith actor, regurgitating the same debunked nonsense would be embarrassing. To have every part of your claims collapse under scrutiny would be humiliating.
But Trump is not worried about it. He’s no more worried about all of this being wrong than he is about decrying the “Russia hoax.” He knows he can just produce this document and his allies will simply skim it and nod. And he knows that people who work for The Washington Post will angrily print it out and scribble on it and reinforce to the reality-adjacent that his arguments are reality-defiant.
This is not something that concerns him.