I have an open mind when it comes to Donald Trump’s literary ventures, as evidenced by my defense of his $230 picture book. But his latest book-related gambit is foolish on multiple levels.
As Politico Playbook reported, Trump’s Save America group on Wednesday gifted every House Republican a copy of Mollie Hemingway’s book Rigged: How the Media, Big Tech, and the Democrats Seized Our Elections along with a signed note from the former president.
“Republican leadership should never have certified the election on January 6, and now Democrats will never stop their assault on America,” Trump wrote. “I hope you find this book informative and encouraging in your battle for the heart of our Nation.”
The biggest issue here, obviously, is that the former president is pressuring elected officials to back his lies about the legitimacy of the last presidential election. Trump’s note asserts falsely, “There is no question, American Democracy was under siege during the 2020 Presidential election. Facts are coming out weekly — and election fraud, media bias, and voting irregularities continue to be unearthed.”
Of course, as a person who works for a media organization that’s clearly biased against Trump’s elaborate efforts to undermine our democratic system, I would say that. But I think it should be obvious even to proponents of the so-called Big Lie that this is a bad move.
First, it’s unnecessary and makes Trump looks desperate. Hours after the Capitol riot, at the nadir of support for Trump, 139 out of 221 House Republicans voted against certifying Joe Biden’s election win. Trump’s hold on the Republican Party has only grown since then: He has made support for his claims of a “rigged” election a litmus test for GOP candidates, and party members who’ve challenged his efforts are being driven out of office.
Trump, according to Playbook, isn’t actually worried that he’s losing his general hold on House Republicans. He just wanted to signal that they should continue highlighting his stolen-election claims in their midterm messaging — though his note says nothing about the upcoming election:
While Kevin McCarthy led more than 100 House Republicans in objecting to the election that day, the GOP leader has been trying to pivot away from 2020 and focus on Biden ahead of the midterms. But as a House GOP aide who tipped us off said, Trump’s gift is the latest sign that the leader of the party doesn’t want that and expects House Republicans to fall in line.
“Just shows how Trump is continuing to pressure members/Republicans to embrace the Big Lie,” the person said.
How effective is your threatening gift if it requires this much explanation? When Jack Woltz found a horse head in his bed, he didn’t have to consult Playbook to figure out what Luca Brasi was trying to tell him.
Second, Trump sending additional reading material goes against everything he and his Big Lie are all about. During his presidency, Trump would sometimes pose in front of comically large stacks of paper to prove a point, but the pages were usually blank. He’s known to prefer single-page memos filled with charts and bullet points. Hemingway’s book runs 448 pages, and Trump suggests he actually wants members to read it, writing, “I hope you find this book informative.”
While I have not and will not read Rigged, I can’t imagine it really advances Trump’s goals here as his assertions about the 2020 election don’t make sense if you think about them for more than a few minutes. (If voter fraud is as rampant as Trump claims, why isn’t he raising alarms about all those rigged down-ballot races, some of which were won by Republicans?) There are circumstances in which feeding elected officials cockamamie legal arguments make sense, like when you’re trying to convince your insufficiently loyal vice-president he should overturn the election for you (though the Eastman memo didn’t even work on Mike Pence). When it comes to rank-and-file House Republicans, Trump assigning homework just weakens his appeal.