“I’m just not going to leave,” Trump told one aide.
“We’re never leaving,” he said to another. “How can you leave when you won an election?”
Those comments — both of which were reported by The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman for her forthcoming book on the former President — make a few things clear.
1. By January 2021, Trump had become utterly convinced — contra facts — that he had, in fact, been robbed of a victory in the 2020 election.
2. This was not only a public affect, but also a position Trump held privately.
3. He had seemingly no regard for democracy and the idea of a peaceful transfer of power that sits at the heart of our governing system.
It’s that last point that I think is the most important both as we look back at what happened in 2020 (through the lens, largely, of the January 6 committee) and forward to the likelihood of Trump running again for president in 2024.
Time and time again during his presidency, Trump demonstrated a decidedly cavalier view of the boundaries his predecessors adhered to in office — parameters that, whether they liked them or not, had constrained their behavior and their worst instincts.
Trump viewed the military as his personal plaything, regularly referring to “my generals” and “my military.” He openly wondered why the Justice Department wasn’t doing his bidding when it came to who they were investigating — and who they weren’t. He bullied, cajoled and fired advisers who wouldn’t go along with his wishes.
And so, Trump’s seeming blind spot to the damage done to American democracy if he had just refused to leave the White House at the end of his term fits into a broader pattern.
For Trump, it’s always about Trump. What’s best for him? What is the path to looking like a winner, of emerging triumphant? Everything else pales in comparison to that goal.
And I mean everything — up to and including undermining the American public’s belief that we as a country conduct free and fair elections.
The Point: Donald Trump has always been about Donald Trump. The presidency didn’t change that. Nothing can.