People For the American Way

This week in “Trumptastrophe”: Trump’s desperate attempts to steal the election

News and Analysis
This week in “Trumptastrophe”: Trump’s desperate attempts to steal the election
Members of the Proud Boys attend the "Stop the Steal" march (also referred to as "March for Trump" and "MIillion MAGA March") on Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14. (Photo: Kristen Doerer)

Welcome to our weekly “Trumptastrophe” series, that will serve to remind us all of the destructive policies, decisions, and actions we encountered during the Trump presidency and the threats that he and others in the MAGA movement still pose – and to keep those moments clear in our memory as we fight to defeat Republican extremists during the upcoming elections.

Quick programming note: this will be the last Trumptastrophe for 2023 – we will resume the series in January, but you can review this and all other Trumptastrophes by visiting our blog (just in case you need some evidence to settle any disputes at the holiday table or if you’d like to share on social media). But until 2024, thank you for going with us on this frightening, yet necessary journey to ground us in what we are all fighting for in the year ahead.

This week’s recap brings into focus how Trump and his band of MAGA loyalists sought to overturn the results of the 2020 election despite the complete lack of evidence to support the “Big Lie” they continued to spread. These extreme and anti-democratic efforts will no doubt be intensified if Trump and his fellow right-wing fanatics ever retake the White House in 2024:

By the middle of December 2020, Trump’s efforts to stay in power after losing the presidential election were becoming increasingly desperate.

Dozens of court challenges filed by his lawyers and political allies had been rejected by judges. Members of his own inner circle were telling him that conspiracy theories about rigged voting machines were nonsense. Even his lawyers knew they had no evidence to back up their claims. And on Friday, Dec. 11, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit filed by the state of Texas asking the justices to toss out the results in four battleground states won by Joe Biden. The decision was the nail in the coffin of Trump supporters’ hopes that the courts would intervene to hand him the election.

But Trump and his power-at-all-costs allies were not done.

Just a few days before the Electoral College votes were cast in state capitols, giving Biden a clear victory, a large group of right-wing movement leaders signed an open letter falsely declaring, “There is no doubt President Donald J. Trump is the lawful winner of the presidential election.” They urged legislators in six states to override voters and name pro-Trump electors. When that didn’t happen, groups of Republican leaders and MAGA activists falsely declared themselves their states’ legitimate electors.

Meanwhile, Trump supporters began giving clear indications of the violent thuggery to come on Jan. 6. At a Dec. 12 rally organized by Christian nationalists on the National Mall, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes threatened bloody civil war if Trump didn’t remain in power.  At a competing rally downtown, violence-prone groups like the Proud Boys gathered with allies, and white nationalist Nick Fuentes led the crowd in chants of “Destroy the GOP!

In the White House, tensions were rising between Trump and staff who wanted him to accept that he had lost. On December 18 came what Rep. Jamie Raskin called the “craziest meeting of the Trump presidency.” Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, conspiracy-spouting attorney Sidney “Kraken” Powell, and right-wing businessman Patrick Byrne were snuck into the White House for an unscheduled meeting with Trump. In a meeting that became superheated after White House attorneys joined, the don’t-leave diehards encouraged Trump to declare martial law, seize election machines, and have the National Guard re-run the election.

After the hours-long meeting failed to give Trump what he wanted, he sent his followers a call to arms, tweeting, “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

A few days later, on Dec. 21, eleven House Republicans met with Trump to plot efforts to block congressional certification of Biden’s victory; six of them later sought pardons.

As the year came to a close, Trump sent additional tweets on Dec. 27, 30, and Jan. 1 urging supporters to come to D.C. on the 6th. Trump, his attorneys, right-wing leaders, and loyalists in Congress schemed to stop certification in Congress. Trump pressured Mike Pence to accept bogus legal theories that he had the power to unilaterally refuse to accept electors certified by swing states.

Trump relentlessly bullied the Justice Department, while lawyer Jeffrey Clark did the same from within, angling for Trump to make him attorney general so he could force the DOJ to take Trump’s side.

In short, Trump fomented the insurrection every step of the way. We all know where his efforts led: a violent attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power, millions of Americans believing lies about election fraud, and Trump continuously stoking his supporters’ grievances so they will turn out to put him back in power.

Trump’s illegal attempts to overturn the election remind us how dangerous he would be if he ever returns to power:

  • Trump not only showed a willingness to lie, cheat, and steal an election, he demanded that his supporters do the same. We can all be grateful for officials in the White House and Justice Department who placed their oaths to the Constitution above their personal loyalty to Trump—and we should remember that Trump has vowed never to hire anyone like that again.
  • Officials who tried to help Trump overturn the election remain in his inner circle, and are likely to be given powerful positions in a new Trump term. For example, Jeffrey Clark, who tried to throw the weight of the Justice Department behind Trump’s lies about voter fraud, is still on Team Trump, working alongside other administration alumni at Russ Vought’s Center for Renewing America.
  • Trump continues to command nearly universal loyalty from Christian nationalist leaders who helped fuel the insurrection. As Right Wing Watch has reported, “Scholars have documented that Americans who hold strongly Christian nationalist views are also more likely to support authoritarianism and to believe that violence may be justified in the pursuit of political goals. That explains why Samuel Perry and Philip Gorski, authors of ‘The Flag and the Cross,’ describe Christian nationalism as ‘a fundamental threat to democracy.’
  • Trump’s pledge to rule as a dictator on Day 1 will face no resistance from the MAGAfied right-wing political movement. More than 80 organizations have fallen in line with Project 2025, a plan hatched at the Heritage Foundation for Trump to purge thousands of civil servants and replace them with MAGA true believers, do away with safeguards protecting Justice Department law enforcement officials from political pressure, and impose his unchecked will on every executive branch and independent agency.

These are just some of the reasons we need YOU in this fight. So, find your favorite way to unwind after reading through this week’s recap, and then make a plan for how you will fight back THIS week, this MONTH, this election cycle.


Donald Trump, Elections, January 6 Insurrection