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Trump’s first interview since losing reelection was a smorgasbord of disinformation

The president spread conspiracy theories about rigged voting machines, mail-in voting, and more.

Trump, half in darkness, walks with a slight frown. A portrait of George Washington and an undecorated Christmas tree are behind him. He is wearing a navy suit, blue shirt, and red tie.
President Donald Trump at the White House, after speaking to troops on November 26.
Erin Schaff/Getty Images

President Donald Trump made his first television appearance since losing reelection on Sunday in an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox News’s Sunday Morning Futures.

Over the course of 45 rambling minutes, Trump, mired in election denialism, used the platform to promulgate a slew of thoroughly disproven lies, disinformation, and conspiracy theories about nonexistent election fraud, aided and abetted by Bartiromo.

Specifically, Trump trotted out his usual false claims about rigged voting machines and mail-in voting and shared overly optimistic takes on his many, many election lawsuits. He also held forth on a handful of random topics, including Iran and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

“I was called by the biggest people saying congratulations, political people, congratulations, sir. You just won the election. It was 10 o’clock and you looked at the numbers and I’m sure you felt that way,” Trump falsely told Bartiromo early in the segment when asked about his election fraud claims. “This election was over and then they did [ballot dumps], they call them dumps, big massive dumps in Michigan, in Pennsylvania, and all over.”

In reality, those “dumps” were just mail-in votes being counted — something Trump had been told ahead of the election would add more votes to President-elect Joe Biden’s vote total than to his, in part because he spent the weeks leading up to the election telling his supporters not to vote by mail.

Trump also launched a confused and false attack on the upcoming Georgia Senate runoffs. Set for January 5, the two runoffs will decide control of the US Senate — if Democrats win both, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be able to provide the tie-breaking vote; however, if Republicans win even one, they will maintain a slim majority in the chamber.

“You’re using the same garbage machinery, Dominion, and [voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams is] going around, she’s going around screaming she’s got 800 or 850,000 ballots. What kind of an election is it?” Trump said.

It’s not the first time Trump has attacked the integrity of the Georgia elections — he lost the state in the presidential election, the first time a Republican has done so since George H.W. Bush in 1992 — and as Vox’s Aaron Rupar has explained, those attacks are engendering “remarkably half-baked” efforts by some Republican operatives to encourage GOP voters to sit out the runoffs.

Trump has repeatedly questioned the competency of Georgia’s election officials, casting doubt on their ability to conduct future contests — and has maintained, despite all evidence to the contrary, that voting machines and software made by Dominion Voting Systems changed votes cast for him in order to help Biden. He has been so successful pushing this particular conspiracy theory that Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel was forced to spend part of her trip to the state trying to convince Republican voters that they could trust the process and vote for the GOP Senate nominees in January.

Trump, who spent the past three days golfing at one of his properties and only this Thursday answered a question from the press for the first time since Election Day, also told Bartiromo that he would “use 125 percent of my energy” to prove voter fraud (which, again, has been shown not to exist to any meaningful degree) and overturn the results of the election.

Trump’s fusillade of inane lies, of course, has become more or less par for the course these days, but on Sunday, he wasn’t screaming his conspiracies into the void of Twitter: instead, he had Bartiromo and a national audience.

And Bartiromo didn’t exactly attempt to push back on the president’s assault on the most basic underpinnings of American democracy.

In response to one Trump lie, for example — the president claiming falsely that “there’s no way Joe Biden got 80 million votes ... there’s no way it happened. This election was a fraud and it was a rigged election” — Bartiromo didn’t press for evidence supporting his claim or call out the lie in real time. Instead, she said that “this is disgusting, and we cannot allow America’s election to be corrupted,” then moved onto a new topic and offered up some conspiracy theories of her own.

Bartiromo’s acquiescence to Trump’s disinformation peddling is especially striking on the heels of the president’s repeated attacks on Fox News for not being sufficiently pro-Trump.

“@FoxNews daytime is virtually unwatchable, especially during the weekends,” Trump tweeted Saturday. “Watch @OANN, @newsmax, or almost anything else.”

Whatever the president’s mercurial opinion of Fox, though, the reality bears repeating: Joe Biden won well over 80 million votes, beating out Trump by more than 6 million, and the election was neither a fraud nor rigged. That all happened, no matter what the president says, and Biden will take office in January 2021.

Unfortunately, Trump’s voter fraud rhetoric has taken deep root in the Republican Party. Recent polls — including one conducted by Vox and Data for Progress on November 16 — show that majorities of Republican voters believe there was fraud in the 2020 presidential election (there wasn’t).

In the case of the Vox/Data for Progress poll, fully 75 percent of likely GOP voters agreed that “there was voter fraud during the election that helped former Vice President Joe Biden.”

Trump’s lies aren’t going to stop Joe Biden from taking office

For all of the president’s frantic protestations, he’s quickly running out of time to dispute the election results. States — including Pennsylvania — are beginning to certify their results, and the federal certification deadline is approaching on December 8. After that, the Electoral College will meet on December 14, and Biden will be formally elected as the next president.

In both Wisconsin and Georgia — swing states won by Biden — recounts have confirmed the former vice president’s victory. Lawsuits intended to overturn the will of the people in states like Pennsylvania have been slapped down in courts, with even Trump-nominated judges rejecting his lawyers’ arguments.

One such judge, Stephanos Bibas, wrote in a Friday decision handed down by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that “the Campaign cannot win this lawsuit. It conceded that it is not alleging election fraud. It has already raised and lost most of these state-law issues, and it cannot relitigate them here.”

Separately, in Sunday’s interview, Trump told Bartiromo that Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mike Kelly had “a great case” to invalidate mail-in ballots in the state “because the legislature didn’t make the decision on this stuff.” Not only was Kelly’s case dismissed with prejudice by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Saturday, but the president misstated the facts of the case to Bartiromo — the state legislature passed vote-by-mail into law in 2019.

A trip to the US Supreme Court will also likely prove futile for the president, experts say, if any Trump campaign lawsuit makes it that far in the first place. After Trump campaign senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis pledged to appeal the campaign’s Third Circuit loss to the Supreme Court in a tweet Friday, University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck pointed out that “any appeal is [dead on arrival],” even with a new 6-3 conservative majority on the Court.

The transition to a Biden administration has also officially begun: General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy ascertained the election results Monday after public outcry over the delay, and federal funding has been made available to the Biden-Harris transition team. So as damaging as Trump’s tweets and Sunday interview might be to confidence in American democracy, there’s no reason to believe they will lead to anything but President Joe Biden on January 20, 2021.

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