Jan 11, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Trump to elevate election deniers at Arizona rally

Donald Trump. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump announced guest speakers today for his Saturday rally in Arizona, and most of them share a common trait: they led efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Why this matters: Trump, who remains the most powerful figure in the Republican Party, is making his false claims about the 2020 election the centerpiece of the GOP platform.

Between the lines: Trump has made clear to all who seek his endorsement that if they want his blessing, they need to make overturning the 2020 election as much of a priority as subverting future elections.

The details: The guest list for Trump's Arizona rally is a who's who of election deniers.

  • The headliner, Kari Lake, who Trump endorsed for Arizona's gubernatorial race, told OAN she wouldn't have certified Biden as the victor if she'd been governor.
  • State Rep. Mark Finchem, Trump's endorsed candidate to oversee Arizona's elections as Secretary of State, not only denies the 2020 election result but attended "Stop the Steal" rallies in January.
  • Arizona Reps. Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs and Debbie Lesko all voted on Jan. 6 to object to the certification of Joe Biden's victory.
  • Kelli Ward, chair of Arizona's Republican Party, pushed the false conspiracy theory that foreign powers manipulated Dominion voting machines to secure Biden's election victory.
  • Boris Epshteyn, who co-hosts Steve Bannon's podcast, uses his platform to promote Trump's claims about a stolen election.
  • And Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow, is arguably even more committed than Trump is to overturning the 2020 election. He says he has spent $25 million so far on his campaign to undermine and subvert the election.
  • The one outlier in the speaking line-up is Alveda King, who is Martin Luther King Jr.'s niece. She is an outspoken Trump supporter, but unlike the other speakers, has not made it her mission to overturn the 2020 election.

The big picture: Trump is also working to install Republicans in election administration positions who could be well-positioned to overturn future elections.

  • And he is methodically driving out and destroying all Republicans who say President Biden legitimately won the 2020 election.

What we're seeing: To enforce party-wide obedience, Trump is jumping on anyone who contradicts his claims about election fraud. He punishes even the smallest of deviations.

  • On Sunday, Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that after investigating the 2020 election they found no evidence of fraud that "would have changed the vote outcome in a single state."
  • On Monday, Trump sent out an email statement blasting Rounds as "woke" and a "RINO" (Republican In Name Only) and promising to never again endorse him.
  • These attacks come at a high cost. Republicans who've contradicted Trump on the 2020 election — from the highest-profile like Liz Cheney down to obscure state officials — have been inundated with threats to themselves and their families from angry Trump supporters.

The bottom line: Trump's goal, his advisers say, is to either make life so miserable for them that they quit or end their careers by backing a successful primary challenge.

  • Trump's efforts are working. His few remaining opponents in the party are mostly either quitting out of exhaustion or choosing to keep their dissent to themselves.
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