In the end, a president who spewed years of fake claims about election fraud turns out to have built a startling case — against himself. Now that Donald Trump is out of power, evidence of his own election finagling piles up, with mainstream Republicans burdened by his tainted brand.
The twice-impeached president who left office last week now gets to see his leading lawyer be sued in court for helping to spread wild falsehoods about Dominion Voting Systems, a leading election machine company.
Now that Trump's profile in subversion is complete, with official reviews underway, it becomes easier to see his election tricks as part of a single corrupt plan of action.
Trump's clear goal for some time was to make sure a legitimate victory by Joe Biden or any other Democratic foe would be nullified either before or after the election. A clean contest was never on his agenda.
In its $1.3 billion suit against Trump personal and election lawyer Rudy Giuliani, the Dominion company states the obvious fact that it was not "founded in Venezuela to fix elections for Hugo Chávez," as Trump surrogates asserted. Hand recounts of votes cast on the Dominion machines confirmed their results.
The inspector general in the Justice Department, meanwhile, is investigating the circumstances of Trump's eleventh-hour push to get government lawyers to express doubt about the election's outcome.
Also under scrutiny is Trump's bid to have Vice President Mike Pence keep Congress from accepting Electoral College tallies on Jan. 6 — precipitating the lethal Capitol riot. In this unique case, the votes Trump sought to suppress were cast by elected representatives of both major parties.
The Dominion lawsuit, the IG probe, and continued fallout from the Jan. 6 insurrection all fit the dark theme of past Trump-vote episodes.
When Trump had Giuliani use White House clout in Ukraine to muddy Hunter Biden, the aim was to destroy his father, then Trump's possible election opponent. If successful, the plan could have derailed the Democrats' choice of candidates, a dirty way to get an edge.
When states' election officials sought to expand mail-in voting because of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump denounced the use of those ballots. He told unfounded and conflicting stories about how mail voting would promote "fraud." He gave away the game by complaining that the practice would favor Democrats.
When Biden led late in the polls, Donald Trump Jr. sent out appeals for a volunteer "army" of "poll watchers" — a potential intimidation tool to suppress the opposition.
On and after Election Day, in-person votes were counted before mail-in votes in some states. As totals updated with the full count, Trump falsely called it "rigged."
Trump's team tried to get thousands of valid votes dumped from Pennsylvania to Georgia to Michigan. His team targeted votes in majority-Black urban areas — a very old suppression story — because that's where Democrats' key strength would lie.
Now the question arises of how credible officials of the Grand Old Party will sound the next time they push for self-serving "reforms" such as voter IDs, mergers of polling places and purges of the voter rolls.
Pro-Trump peddlers of "fraud" tales have crippled their own credibility. Their "Stop the steal" slogan could have been more accurately recast as "Void any vote we don't like." In the end, it marked a humiliating failure for what is now the "out" party. The more powerful shouts for different kinds of reforms will come from their opponents.