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Trump at CPAC called out his GOP critics and again claimed he won the 2020 election, showing he’s still determined to undermine US democracy

Summary List PlacementIn the wake of the Capitol riot, Donald Trump's political career seemed over. The attack showed that Trump's refusal to accept his defeat in the November 2020 election was not just a cynical ploy to maintain his hold over supporters, but a threat to the integrity of US...

Trump

Summary List Placement

In the wake of the Capitol riot, Donald Trump’s political career seemed over.

The attack showed that Trump’s refusal to accept his defeat in the November 2020 election was not just a cynical ploy to maintain his hold over supporters, but a threat to the integrity of US democracy itself, some experts warned. Administration officials told Reuters that Trump’s refusal to accept his defeat would permanently stain his political brand.

But less than two months later, Trump is back, unrepentant, and again pushing his myth that the election was stolen from him by Democrats, disloyal Republicans, and their allies in the judiciary and media. 

In his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Sunday — his first since leaving the White House on January 20 — Trump repeated the lie that he was the real victor of the 2020 presidential election. 

“You won! You won!” supporters chanted at the former president. 

“We did,” Trump replied.

“Actually, as you know, they just lost the White House,” Trump said of the Democrats.

“Who knows, I may even decide to beat them for a third time,” he added, teasing plans for a 2024 presidential run. 

He went on to attack Supreme Court justices for rejecting his legal challenges to the election, which he lost by more than 7 million votes.

“They didn’t have the guts or the courage to make the right decision,” he said of the nation’s highest court.

Trump’s speech was more than just rhetorical showmanship, too, with the former president using his election-fraud lie to push for reform of voting laws, including canceling early voting and tougher voting rules. No evidence has emerged to substantiate Trump’s claim that current US voting rules are exposed to widespread fraud. 

Trump calls out Republican critics 

After the Capitol riot there was a move by some Republican leaders to distance the party from Trump, and put it on a new track. But their challenge to Trump’s dominance fizzled out as his popularity among grassroots GOP supporters held firm.

And in his Sunday speech, Trump called out his most adamant Republican critics by name. They include Rep. Liz Cheney, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, and Sen. Mitt Romney.

“Get rid of them all,” he said of the lawmakers.

Their failure to successfully challenge Trump means he is set to remain the most powerful figure in the GOP, and his election-fraud lie one of its central myths. 

A straw poll of CPAC attendees on Sunday found that 95% want the Republican Party to advance Trump’s policies and agenda. (It is worth noting, though, that only 68% wanted Trump to be their 2024 candidate.)

The stolen-election myth could harm the GOP

Trump loyalists in state GOP parties are already citing Trump’s stolen-election myth in their bids to tighten voting rules, The New York Times reported, with low voter turnout long seen as an advantage to the GOP in key districts.

The national Republican Party last week followed suit, setting up a Commission on Election Integrity to tighten voter laws.

Trump’s lie about the stolen election doesn’t just have potential implications in the battle over election laws, but for US national security. An assessment by US intelligence agencies after the Capitol riot, seen by The Washington Post, found that Trump’s myth would likely continue to be a key driver in far-right violence. 

But there’s a serious potential downside for the GOP.

A Morning Consult poll published on January 27 found that only 33% of Republicans trust US elections, while only 36% said they were motivated to vote in future elections.

It’s a dynamic that played out in January’s Georgia Senate runoffs, where Republican strategists believe that Trump’s attacks on the state’s election officials for refusing to pursue his voter-fraud claims drove down GOP turnout. 

So the longer the Republican Party helps sustain Trump’s stolen-election myth, the more it could erode Republicans’ faith in the integrity of US democracy and damage the party’s chances of success at the polls. 

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