How Early Did Trump’s 2020 Election Overturn Conspiracy Start?

INSIDE: Richard Donoghue ... Bernie Kerik ... Greg Abbott
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 29: U.S. President Donald Trump pauses during a news conference at the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House February 29, 2020 in Washington, DC. Department of Health in Washi... WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 29: U.S. President Donald Trump pauses during a news conference at the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House February 29, 2020 in Washington, DC. Department of Health in Washington State has reported the first death in the U.S. related to the coronavirus. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo. Sign up for the email version.

Jack Smith Reaches All The Way Back To February 2020

An intriguing new report yesterday found that Special Counsel Jack Smith has been inquiring about a February 2020 White House meeting as part of his investigation of Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election.

That is far earlier than we generally understood Smith to be looking. It’s even earlier than when we at TPM have generally regarded as the starting point for conspiracy. We’ve pegged it as April 2020, when the COVID pandemic prompted a nationwide wave of changes to voting practices in the interest of public health. Trump saw expanded voting as a threat to his re-election and began the drumbeat of claims about massive election fraud.

To be clear, the CNN report suggests not so much that the conspiracy started in February 2020, but that as late as February 2020 Trump was generally positive and upbeat about the prospects for a safe and secure election:

In the meeting with senior US officials and White House staff, Trump touted his administration’s work to expand the use of paper ballots and support security audits of vote tallies. Trump was so encouraged by federal efforts to protect election systems that he suggested the FBI and Department of Homeland Security hold a press conference to take credit for the work, four people familiar with the meeting told CNN.

Those details offer a stark contrast to the voter-fraud conspiracy theories Trump began spreading publicly just weeks later and continued to use to question the 2020 election results.

At that point, we didn’t fully realize that COVID was already rapidly spreading in the United States; Trump was preparing to tout the steps he’d taken to protect the election; and he hadn’t yet started making his wild and unfounded election fraud claims. It’s as if Smith has reached all the way back in time to find the last pristine, pre-bamboozlement moment so that he can contrast Trump’s actions and mindset from before and after the switch flipped to election fraud inanity.

Don’t Forget The Big Picture

One more point on the CNN report about how far back Jack Smith is looking. I don’t have doubt that the 2020 coup attempt grew out of Trump’s attacks on COVID-era voting workarounds. That’s a neat, clean, logical starting point for the conspiracy.

But big picture, don’t forget that the first impeachment was all about Trump’s re-election, too. His pressure on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to manufacture dirt on Joe Biden peaked with the July 2019 “perfect call.” It’s all of a piece: the lying, scheming, conspiring, and taking affirmative steps to hold on to power no matter what.

And, not incidentally, that is why you can’t separate what House GOP chairs Jim Jordan and James Comer are doing now with the powers of their offices to paint Joe Biden as the godfather of a sprawling crime family. Again, it’s all of a piece.

The Failed Decapitation Of Trump’s Own DOJ

Former Trump DOJ official Richard Donoghue has been interviewed in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s Jan. 6 probe.

Interesting …

Rudy G protégé Bernie Kerik coughed up a trove of documents to Special Counsel Jack Smith on Sunday.

McCarthy Warns Of Biden Impeachment

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who is struggling to hold his conference together enough to pass this year’s appropriations bills, is leaning harder into a Biden impeachment. I don’t think those two things are unrelated.

Border War

The Justice Department has sued Texas over Gov. Greg Abbott’s buoy barrier in the Rio Grande.

Great Read

WaPo: How right-wing news powers the ‘gold IRA’ industry


Get Ready To Stretch Your Brain

The new Oppenheimer film is a chance to explore the mind-bending scale of of kilotons v. megatons:

Barbie Is Uncompromisingly Subversive

LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 28: Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are seen rollerblading on the set of “Barbie” on June 28, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by MEGA/GC Images)

I saw Barbie Sunday evening, but I wanted to wait a day to let my reaction to it settle before writing about it. I walked out of the theater feeling exhilarated that a Hollywood blockbuster (which I rarely go see) had somehow against all odds managed to be uncompromisingly subversive. After two nights of sleep, my feeling hasn’t changed.

What got me to go see it in the first place was Greta Gerwig commenting that she couldn’t believe they let her make this movie. That intrigued me, but I still went in expecting a few broad, inoffensive, waves of the hand toward the well-worn and familiar criticisms of the Barbie doll – before Gerwig’s ambitions would buckle and the movie veer back into the tired cliches of Hollywood storytelling with a heavy dose of commercialism and product placement.

That’s not what Barbie the movie is about at all. It’s bitingly subversive from beginning to end. It started so well that I began to feel tense anticipating when it would go off the rails and turn into schlock. But fairly early on, there’s a lol moment when the Indigo Girl’s “Closer to Fine” begins playing and I realized, with delight, that Gerwig and Noah Baumbach had managed to steer this pink convertible of a film straight and true despite Warners Bros. Discovery, Mattel, and all the commercial pressure that a summer blockbuster brings to bear.

Could you find a more sophisticated critique of the patriarchy? Sure. Could you find one that with an opening weekend haul of $155 million, meaning millions of unsuspecting bubble gum conservatives in red states got an unexpected blast of feminist theory?

I saw it in Bethesda, within the DC liberal bubble. I’m really curious how it plays in more conservative environs. If you had that experience, shoot me an email. Link just below.

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Notable Replies

  1. You know they HAD to go there

  2. I was thinking he started planning on about 1/21/17.

  3. The moment he figured out he could get away with any crime he could commit.

  4. The 2020 election overturn conspiracy started in 2016 when Donald Trump asked himself how he could become King.

  5. Public Opinion polling is done by every one, but no one does more polling than the GOP. Their polling revealed he was going to lose re-election, so they started scheming and lost their collective minds, inventing ways to defraud us of our right to vote. To hell with trump, his family, and all of his co-conspirators. They wanted to take away our democracy, and place an authoritarian as head of our Country.

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