Maggie Haberman Is Right

Then–President Donald Trump departs the White House, January 12, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Donald Trump really does believe that he, along with two former GOP senators, will be ‘reinstated’ to office this summer.

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Donald Trump really does believe that he, along with two former GOP senators, will be ‘reinstated’ to office this summer.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE T wo days ago, the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman reported that Donald Trump “has been telling a number of people he’s in contact with that he expects he will get reinstated by August.” In response, many figures on the right inserted their fingers into their ears and started screaming about fake news.

Instead, they should have listened — because Haberman’s reporting was correct. I can attest, from speaking to an array of different sources, that Donald Trump does indeed believe quite genuinely that he — along with former senators David Perdue and Martha McSally — will be “reinstated” to office this summer after “audits” of the 2020 elections in Arizona, Georgia, and a handful of other states have been completed. I can attest, too, that Trump is trying hard to recruit journalists, politicians, and other influential figures to promulgate this belief — not as a fundraising tool or an infantile bit of trolling or a trial balloon, but as a fact.

It will be tempting for weary conservatives to dismiss this information as “old news” or as “an irrelevance.” It will be tempting, too, to downplay the enormity of what is being claimed, or to change the subject, or to attack the messengers by implying that they must “hate” Trump and his voters. But such temptations should be assiduously avoided. We are not talking here about a fringe figure within the Republican tent, but about a man who hopes to make support for his outlandish claims “a litmus test of sorts as he decides whom to endorse for state and federal contests in 2022 and 2024.” Conservatives understand why it mattered that the press lost its collective mind over Russia after Trump’s fair-and-square victory in 2016. They understand why it mattered that Hillary Clinton publicly described Trump as an “illegitimate president” who had “stolen” the election. And they understand why it mattered that Jimmy Carter insisted that Trump had “lost the election” and been “put into office because the Russians interfered.” They should understand why this matters, too.

The scale of Trump’s delusion is quite startling. This is not merely an eccentric interpretation of the facts or an interesting foible, nor is it an irrelevant example of anguished post-presidency chatter. It is a rejection of reality, a rejection of law, and, ultimately, a rejection of the entire system of American government. There is no Reinstatement Clause within the United States Constitution. Hell, there is nothing even approximating a Reinstatement Clause within the United States Constitution. The election has been certified, Joe Biden is the president, and, until 2024, that is all there is to it. It does not matter what one’s view of Trump is. It does not matter whether one voted for or against Trump. It does not matter whether one views Trump’s role within the Republican Party favorably or unfavorably. We are talking here about cold, hard, neutral facts that obtain irrespective of one’s preferences; it is not too much to ask that the former head of the executive branch should understand them.

Just how far out there is Trump’s theory? Consider that, even if it were true that the 2020 election had been stolen — which it is absolutely not — his belief would still be absurd. It could be confirmed tomorrow that agents working for a combination of al-Qaeda, Venezuela, and George Soros had hacked into every single voting machine in the country and altered the totals by tens of millions, and it would remain the case there is no mechanism within the American legal order for a do-over of any sort. In such an eventuality, there would be indictments, an impeachment drive, and a constitutional crisis. But, however bad it got, Donald Trump would not be “reinstated” to the presidency. That is not how America works, how America has ever worked, or how America can ever work. American politicians do not lose their reelection races only to be reinstalled later on, as might the second-place horse in a race whose winner was disqualified. The idea is otherworldly and obscene.

There is nothing to be gained for conservatism by pretending otherwise. To acknowledge that Trump is living in a fantasy world does not wipe out his achievements or render anything else he has said incorrect. It does not endorse Joe Biden or hand the Republican Party over to Bill Kristol or knock down an inch of the wall on the border. It merely demands that Donald Trump be treated like any other person: subject to gravity, open to rebuttal, and liable to be laughed at when he becomes so unmoored from the real world that it is hard to know where to begin in attempting to explain him.