Before leaving Washington in disgrace on January 20, 2021, Donald Trump swore: “We will come back in some form or another”. On that, at least, he was truthful.
The 45th president never really left as his nefarious influence lingers on and his election sours with most Republican lawmakers still scared of his personality cult. And on Tuesday, Trump will return for the first time since escaping a city traumatized by his attempted coup and belted in steel to deter his insurgents.
While exiled from Twitter and fuming at his Mar-a-Lago palace, Washington has spent nearly every day since his departure struggling with his legacy.
The day before a visit that will encapsulate Trump’s still-living threat to democracy as he launches a campaign in 2024 was no different. Monday’s revelations that a senior aide to former Vice President Mike Pence testified before a federal grand jury offered the first possible glimpse of a Justice Department investigation into the events surrounding the Jan. 6 insurrection. 2021.
The House Select Committee investigating the attack has released damning new evidence of Trump’s dereliction of duty as his mob ransacked America’s Democratic stronghold. And President Joe Biden has unleashed his most dismissive criticism yet of his predecessor on the “medieval hell” Trump visited on police officers who battled his “Make America Great Again” rioters on the US Capitol.
Only now, after a summer of successful House Select Committee televised hearings, is the full extent of Trump’s political misdeeds becoming clear. And the 45th president wants more.
He’s not returning to Washington for a ceremonial visit as a retired commander-in-chief claiming membership in the exclusive “president’s club.” It’s a brotherhood Trump would never want to join. And he wouldn’t be welcome anyway. The former president of 76 years is rather on the track of the return. He will address the America First Agenda Summit, a gathering of former aides and officials to his administration trying to impose a cohesive policy framework on the chaos of Trumpism.
Millions of Americans voted for Trump in 2016 because they rejected what they saw as distant political elites and global trade deals that cost them jobs and saw him as the guarantor of a majority conservative American culture. white people they saw threatened by rapid social change and a diverse nation. Yet Trump’s presidency and his exit from it pose a question that goes beyond the legitimate ideological struggles that have long divided Americans: what are the implications for the nation of a potential presidential candidate who was willing destroy American democracy to stay in power? and to crush the will of a majority of voters who wanted him gone?
Furthermore, Trump legitimized the use of violence to resolve political disputes and attempt to enforce the will of a minority – an act contrary to the spirit of American political experience more than two centuries old. This is why the prospect of a new Trump campaign for the White House comes with such a serious undercurrent.
Apparently, Tuesday’s appearance will give Trump the chance to start crafting a political agenda for the campaign that sources tell CNN he is desperate to launch any day, even though the GOP would rather he wait until after. mid-terms. But if recent experience is any guide, Trump’s speech will be overtaken by his lies and his obsession with his loss to Biden in 2020.
On the eve of his return, and even as Biden’s White House struggled to push back against the idea that the United States was plunging into a recession, Trump was at the center of big events in Washington that could still expose him to censorship. legal.
It emerged on Monday that Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff, testified before a federal grand jury investigating what happened on January 6, 2021. Short confirmed to CNN’s Erin Burnett on Monday evening that he had spoken under subpoena but said he could say no more, citing legal advice. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that a second former aide to Pence, Greg Jacob, was subpoenaed in connection with the investigation and testified before the federal grand jury.
The revelation that former top White House officials appeared before the grand jury has raised the possibility that a broad Justice Department investigation is underway that had not previously been visible – in what would be a development Extremely important.
On another front, the House Select Committee on Monday released damning new evidence that showed Trump was unwilling to forcibly convict the rioters a day after they rampaged through the Capitol. The then-president, whose handwriting was later identified under oath by his daughter Ivanka, deleted references in a speech to culprits deserving prison and not representing him.
Biden — whose political legacy will rest on confining Trump to a single wrecking-ball term in 2020 and may hinge on his ability to defeat him again — has tried to ignore Trump before. As he tried to move the country forward and bring it together, he called his predecessor “another guy”.
But on the eve of Trump’s return to Washington, Biden launched one of his most vocal attacks yet against his predecessor, prompted by the gruesome evidence gathered by the House committee.
The president was personal, dismissive and blunt about Trump.
“We saw what happened: Capitol Police, DC Metropolitan Police, other law enforcement agencies were attacked and assaulted before our eyes. Spear. Sprayed. Trampled. Brutalized. Lives have been lost,” Biden said in virtual remarks at a conference of black law enforcement officers in Florida.
‘And for three hours the defeated former President of the United States watched it all happen as he sat in the comfort of the private dining room next to the Oval Office,’ Biden said, describing the officers of the US Capitol as being subjected to “medieval hell for three hours, dripping in blood, surrounded by carnage.
“Face to face with a mad crowd who believed the lies of the defeated president, the police were heroes that day. Donald Trump didn’t have the guts to act,” Biden said, praising law enforcement for saving American democracy.
The president’s comments sounded a lot like a preview of a potential campaign against Trump, should the former president run for and win the GOP nomination and if the current president sticks to his vow to run for re-election.
While he remains deeply popular among conservative grassroots voters and polls show him to be the hottest prospect in the early rumblings of the 2024 Republican primary, Trump arrives in Washington with questions about his political strength. While many Republican voters tuned out of the summer of House Select Committee hearings, the revelations about his conduct did little to help him position himself among the general election public given his existing issues with suburban voters.
There are also signs of tentative but significant challenges for Trump. Pence, who hosted a dueling political event Friday with his former boss in Arizona, was scheduled to speak in Washington on Monday evening, but his flight was postponed due to stormy weather. The former vice president intended to draw a clear distinction between Trump’s lies about the last election and the evolution of the conservative movement at the Heritage Foundation.
“Some people may choose to focus on the past. … But I believe conservatives need to focus on the future,” Pence planned to say, according to his prepared remarks reported by CNN’s Michael Warren.
The former vice president has damaged his standing with Trump’s most loyal voters by refusing to cast his oath to the Constitution, ignoring Trump’s calls to block certification of Biden’s victory – a step that he had no power to cross. And polls show Pence is a long way off for the Republican nomination in 2024 if he does run.
But Trump’s ramping up of the 2024 presidential campaign, which will be front and center in his speech on Tuesday, forces a quick test of where the party wants to go. And other potential candidates, not just Pence, will have to decide whether they have the guts to stand up to the ex-president and buck the trend of Republicans who have always condoned or encouraged his extremism.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to indicate that it was Marc Short who confirmed to CNN’s Erin Burnett that he had complied with a subpoena.