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It’s there in one long regurgitation of the last six years this country has endured: All the bile, glistening with half-chewed chunks of Big Macs bathed in the chemical-y brown residue of Diet Cokes. It’s as if someone sat down to write a Robert Caro-ish history of the Trump Era and discovered it wasn’t necessary to go back to the beginning, to the descent down the escalator cheered on by screaming “fans” hired from an extras agency and the hint of what was to come with the denunciation of Mexican immigrants as “drug dealers and rapists” and the Muslim ban and the “great big beautiful wall” which would never be completed.
This is the chronicle of the petulant ravings of the Man-child Denied – Donald Trump being told “no” for perhaps the first time in his life on November 3, 2020, and the most painful thing of all was that “no” came in the form of seven million votes he didn’t get, each one of them from those nasty people he had looked down on from his gold-plated mansion in the sky in Trump Tower for all those years – the ill-dressed and the well-dressed; the ill-coiffed and the expensively-coiffed; the un-tanned and the tanned; the ones who never got “on the list” and the ones who did get past the velvet ropes at the door of Studio 54. The worst thing of all was that he could get himself into all the nouveau-riche glitter palaces, but it was never enough because it wasn’t a mark that he truly belonged. That was the source of all his resentment.
Worst of all was the rejection for decades by the exclusive clubs in Manhattan that he tap-tap-tapped on the doors of – the Union League, the Metropolitan, the Century Association, The Harmonie Club – the stuffy, WASPy, wood-paneled inner sanctums of Those Who Mattered. They wouldn’t accept him, so he started clubs of his own – golf clubs and Mar-a-Lago – with rules that he set and he understood: You were accepted when your check cleared.
And then he did what none of those rankling WASPs could – he got himself elected president and moved into the White House, the one place in America where -- he thought -- no one would ever say no to him again. From his chair in the Oval Office, he could have it all – the meetings with powerful leaders of countries he admired like Russia and Saudi Arabia and Turkey and even little Belarus. He wanted a tax cut; he got a tax cut. He wanted a tough border policy; he got a tough border policy that ripped children from parents’ arms and locked them in cages and made the point he always made at the Trump Organization but could now make on a global stage: I’m in charge here, and if I say I want it, you goddamn make it happen. Let’s see the Union League Club get Sergey Lavrov to come for lunch, huh? Let’s see the Metropolitan hang a “beautiful” letter from Kim Jong Un on their cherrywood wall!
It was glorious for nearly four years, and then on November 3, 2020, it was over. They said “no” and he wouldn’t take it anymore than he would take the “no” from the Union League Club. They say I lost the election? Fuck that. I’ll hold my own election, and I’ll fix this one so I can’t lose.
That’s where the final report of the House Select Committee takes up the story. What happened when Donald Trump was told “no?” Where were the edges of his tantrum? Who answered his calls and his text messages and his tweets and enabled his stomping and shouting and fit-throwing attempts to re-do the election and win it this time?
The final report reads like a metaphorical replay of the last six years. He did all the stuff he had been doing for years: he told lie after lie after lie until he compiled so many they became The Big Lie, a gargantuan pile of lies so deep and so wide nobody could see over or around them. Just as he had called President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and asked him “for a favor” that was bald-faced extortion, he made call after call after call to Republican elected officials around the country and asked them “to find 11,780 votes,” or they would face legal consequences, and if that wouldn’t work, he would turn his MAGA mob on them and they would be defeated the next time they ran for office.
He called them and asked for the “favor” of holding a special session of their legislatures so they could appoint new slates of electors, Trump electors, and overturn the results of the election in their states. And when that didn’t work, he asked them to cobble together fake slates of electors and send them to the National Archives so he could use them to fuck up the certification of electoral ballots on January 6. And when that didn’t work, he tweeted to his MAGA base and asked them to come to Washington, D.C. on that date and “be wild” and fuck up the Capitol so the certification would stop and the whole thing would be thrown into such a panic, they’d just give up and ask him to come back from his political death and be president for them again.
He had spent a lifetime before he came down that escalator in July of 2015 violating one law after another: only fools and little people paid their taxes. Not Donald “I’m Being Audited” Trump. Only fools and little people paid their bills on time. Not Donald “Sue Me” Trump. Only fools and little people paid back the money people loaned them. Not Donald “I Make the Bankruptcy Laws Work For Me” Trump. Only fools and little people told the truth about how many stories were in the buildings they put up and the number of condos they sold. Not Donald “The Number is Whatever I Say It Is” Trump.
Only fools and little people accepted the will of the people, the fools and little people who voted against Donald “I’m Not a Loser” Trump. Only fools and little people took “no” for an answer. Not Donald “Frankly, We Won This Election” Trump.
In going through all the ways that Trump conspired to overturn the election of 2020, it’s as if the House Select Committee was retelling the Trump story as it had already happened before, with all the law-breaking and exaggeration and lying and bragging and scowling and faking everything from the top of his wispy coif to the corset holding in his expansive belly to the business-black-lace-ups he put on every morning as if to prove to his daddy that he was actually a man. Nothing he said about himself – and all he talked about was himself – was true. He wasn’t worth 10 billion dollars. He wasn’t a successful businessman. He didn’t pay his taxes. His apartment in Trump Towers wasn’t the biggest, most expensive apartment in New York City. Trump University didn’t teach you all the tricks of the trade he had learned over the years, except perhaps one: it was a complete scam.
Nothing he said before and especially after November 3, 2020, was true. There weren’t any voting machines that “flipped votes from Trump to Biden.” Hugo Chavez didn’t come back from the dead to fix the election for Biden. There weren’t any “Chinese ballots” flown in to serve as votes for Biden. There weren’t any “suitcases full of votes for Biden” in the counting center in Atlanta on election eve. There weren’t any immigrants bussed in to vote for Biden and the Democrats – not “thousands of them,” as he contended.
Everyone today, from the most powerful front page in the world at the New York Times to lowly Substack columns, is mining the final report for nuggets of new information. There is some, of course – the stuff about Cassidy Hutchinson being encouraged by her lawyer to perjure herself is new. There are some new details about Trump, Giuliani, and Meadows being involved early-on in the fake elector plot, and there are some fairly strong hints, but so far only hints, that Homburg-wearing swinger Roger Stone was the contact man between Trump and the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, and that all of them knew from the get-go that the “march” on the Capitol was going to be violent because it had been planned that way from the day Trump issued his “be wild!” tweet.
Rather than reacting to the news that there would be violence associated with his January 6 rally and trying to prevent it, Trump wallowed in it, enabling the militia groups and right-wing bloggers and the likes of Steve Bannon and Alex Jones and the rest of his cast of professional troublemakers, each of whom was one of the “go get’ em boys…I’ll be right behind you” variety of tough guy.
But the truly astounding thing about the report is how familiar it all is. Much of the information it contains has seen the light of day before, in newspaper reports, on cable news shows, and of course from Trump himself, who wasn’t exactly shy about what he was doing throughout the time between his loss of the election and his MAGA minions storming the Capitol. Especially familiar is how soaked the committee narrative is with Trump’s grudges and resentments and bitterness and jealousy and incompetence and cruelty and everlasting instinct for revenge.
By compiling its report on Trump and the insurrection in narrative form, the House Select Committee has done the favor of reminding us that this is who he was from the very beginning. He didn’t just commit insurrection on January 6, 2021. He committed insurrection the day he descended the escalator and hasn’t stopped yet. They should have illustrated the front page of the report with a big piece of yellow crime scene tape across the title. It’s going to take everything the Department of Justice can bring to bear to stop him long enough to indict him and put him on trial.
That’s the big take-away from the committee’s final report. Donald Trump is a crime in progress.
Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.
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