Donald Trump yesterday delivered his lengthiest public address since the election to detail what he described as a coast-to-coast scheme mounted by Democrats to tilt the election in Joe Biden’s favour.
If only he had the evidence to back up his claims, he could have offered it. If only he had summoned the day’s press pool to view the filming of the 46-minute video he released on social media, he could have taken some questions.
Instead, Mr Trump ranted and raved and made unsupported claim after unsupported claim for nearly an hour, brandishing charts that appeared to show Mr Biden did indeed win key states.
The outgoing president called it the “most important speech I have ever made” as he described a "co-ordinated assault and siege" on the election by Democrats. In his telling, he merely wants to “protect our election system” rather than secure a second term and its many legal protections as he faces a slew of state and federal lawsuits, as well as creditors to whom he collectively owes $400m.
In his telling, the big bad Democrats – who in reality are barely able to keep the peace among themselves on a conference call – kept secret a complex scheme to use the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to mail out millions of ballots then fraudulently ensure they were cast for Mr Biden.
This is, of course, nonsense. The president-elect – who at 78 is in one of the most at-risk Covid demographics – did not campaign very much for two obvious reasons: to set a good example for folks to mostly isolate themselves, and to avoid contracting and spreading the sometimes-deadly disease himself.
But Mr Trump wants his base – whom he needs to continue pouring millions into what looks to be a post-presidency slush fund, and to remain by his side for a potential 2024 White House run – to believe that Mr Biden avoided the trail as part of the alleged secret scheme.
“My opponent was told to stay away from the election. ‘Don't campaign. We don't need you. We've got it. This election is done,’” Mr Trump ventriloquised. “In fact, they were acting like they already knew what the outcome was going to be. They had it covered, and perhaps they did, very sadly for our country. It was all very, very strange.”
(Because this speech wasn’t strange?)
“I want to explain the corrupt mail-in balloting scheme that Democrats systematically put into place that allowed voting to be altered, especially in swing states which they had to win,” the president said. “They just didn't know that it was going to be that tough, because we were leading in every swing state by so much far greater than they ever thought possible.”
The president was leading on Election Night in many swing states. But that was because in-person ballots in most of those places, by law, were counted first. Republicans tend to vote in person. Then counters turned to the mailed-in ballots. Democrats, multiple studies have found, are the ones most likely to cast their ballots that way.
But don’t tell that to Mr Trump. He could not have possibly lost. “Winning, winning, winning,” is his thing, his brand.
“While it has long been understood that the Democrat political machine engages in voter fraud from Detroit to Philadelphia to Milwaukee, Atlanta, so many other places, what changed this year was the Democrat Party's relentless push to print and mail out tens of millions of ballots sent to unknown recipients with virtually no safeguards of any kind,” he said, implying yet again – without evidence – that mailed-in ballots, by definition, always entail fraud.
Trump aides just shrug when one points out heavily GOP Utah has switched to voting-by-mail with little to no evidence of problems or fraud.
“This allowed fraud and abuse to occur on a scale never seen before using the pandemic as a pretext,” the ever-aggrieved Mr Trump said on his hostage video from his self-imposed hunkering down in the White House.
But one question was at front of mind while watching the spectacle: Why isn’t Mr Trump instructing his legal team to actually allege voter fraud in court?