It’s hard to find words to express just what Donald Trump has pulled off.
By all accounts, Trump lost in a historic blow out. Forty days after the election with all 50 states having certified, Biden won with 306 electoral votes and defeated Trump by some 7 million popular votes. Trump lost 57 times at court, including twice at the Supreme Court. Judges across the country, including many Republican judges and one appointed by Trump himself laughed him out of court. Regardless of all of his screaming and yelling about fraud, Trump failed to present any evidence of fraud at court (contrary to his stump speeches, many of Trump’s suits weren’t even alleging fraud). During Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation proceedings, Trump stated that getting her on the Court would secure his ability to win the election, as if he expected to lose all along but hoped to prevail by stacking the Court in his favor. Nevertheless, all of his appointees ruled against him (twice).
All of this would mean a humiliating defeat for Trump. But not so fast. Since election day, we kept hearing Trump surrogates saying that the president deserved his day in court and that he had every right to exhaust his legal remedies. As any lawyer will tell you, the decision to litigate is essentially a business decision: is the risk of losing worth the financial investment? If a litigant has no money to put up but has a strong case, then he’ll have no problem finding a competent lawyer to do the work on a contingency fee basis, meaning the litigant only pays the lawyer if his wins the case. Furthermore, a reputable lawyer won’t put his name on a case that is doomed to failure, even if the client is paying big bucks. This is how the American free market manages frivolous lawsuits.
So step into Trump’s world. Trump puts up no money at all. None of the leading Republican election lawyers want anything to do with the case, and instead of agreeing to take the case on contingency, Rudy Giuliani increases his fees to the astronomical amount of $20,000/day regardless of having no expertise in election law. In other words, neither Trump or anyone around him actually believes that he will prevail.
But who cares, right? Trump is America’s greatest conman. One of the keys to being absolutely convincing is to show absolute conviction to your target audience (and that your audience wants more than anything to believe the con you are selling, like a make-it-rich-quick university degree). And that is exactly what Trump did and continues to do.
After collecting over $200 million in donations for his legal defense, of which Trump is only required to allocate 15% to the actual legal defense, Giuliani has lost those 57 cases I have mentioned. But again, who cares? Trump keeps screaming and yelling and people keep handing him over their hard-earned cash. Fifteen percent goes to Giuliani at a rate of $20,000/day and Trump gets to keep the rest for whatever yes whatever he wants. When you are racking in hundreds of a millions of dollars without having to win a single lawsuit, losing is a pretty lucrative business model. In fact, why would you ever want to win if the suckers keep paying you to lose?
But this is what confuses me: does Trump truly, honestly and sincerely believe that he is the biggest victim in American history — the victim of a conspiracy so wide, so vast and so deep that the entire American eco-system and all of its players, including Republican election officials, attorney generals, secretaries of states, and Republican appointed judges at all levels have conspired against him – or whether this is just Trump using his unique skills to pull off one final con job before leaving office? Either way, it is absolutely, undeniably pathological. Worse are all those suckers who keep falling for another classic Trump swindle.