Former Congressman Denver Riggleman Quit The GOP-- Every Patriot Should
Denver Riggleman was a one-term congressman from Virginia's 5th district. He seemed like a conservative but... an odd one. He made some conservatives uncomfortable because he officiated at a same sex marriage between two of his campaign volunteers and because he-- along with 2 other Republicans (Kinzinger and Fitzpatrick)-- signed on to Tom Malinowski's House resolution, H.Res 1154, Condemning QAnon. It passed 371-18, embarrassing the 18 fruitcake Republicans who were QAnon believers, in a pre-Marjorie Traitor Greene/Lauren Boebert world, people like Paul Gosar, Scott Perry, Mo Brooks, Steve King... (Many GOP crackpots couldn't pull themselves to vote against QAnon, so they abstained, including Gym Jordan, Matt Gaetz, Thomas Massie, Jody Hice, Andy Biggs, Louie Gohmert, Michael Cloud and Barry Loudermilk.
Riggleman also co-authored a widely-read paper that debunked QAnon and warned of the dangers posed, THE QANON CONSPIRACY: Destroying Families, Dividing Communities, Undermining Democracy. Writing before the Trump coup attempt, he seemed prescient: "When ideas or fantasy are weaponized, there is a metamorphosis from harmless, bizarre theories to a dangerous bloom of tribalism and dehumanization of others. This bloom expands digitally from person to person, absorbing and then converting a tribe that believes alternate realities based on a directed stream of algorithmically and group targeted data, ignorant analytic white papers, memes, ideas and coded language."
For these deviations from the new GOP orthodoxy, Trumpism, he was censured and then defeated at a party convention, his seat going to a Liberty University crackpot Bob Good, a QAnon kind of guy. Until last week, Riggleman has been working as a top staffer for the Select Committee investigating Trump's coup.
Yesterday, Riggleman told Jake Tapper on State of the Union that he is no longer a Republican. Later in the day he told CNN he had decided a couple of months ago to leave the GOP. He now considers himself an independent. Speaking of the Select Committee evidence, he said "What I've seen behind the scenes has pushed me further away. That the party has moved away from conservative principles to this cult of personality that Liz Cheney is talking about. She's absolutely correct. And when you see it behind the door, when you see the data, when you see the investigation, when you see those smart people and what they come up with, Jake, it's absolutely stunning that cult of personality and also the belief systems. I don't think any real conservative could follow at any point... It's absolutely insane what people have sort of put their arms around. If you look at 'Stop the Steal,' if you look at, you know, some of the Covid issues with the vaccination conspiracy theories, when you look at all the things in total, the fact is that a lot of that has been pushed by people around [Trump]."
Also, yesterday, writing for the Washington Post, Woodward and Bernstein weren't shy in expressing what they think about the presidential perfidy they witnessed first hand, from both Nixon and Trump. "President George Washington," they began, "in his celebrated 1796 Farewell Address, cautioned that American democracy was fragile. 'Cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government,' he warned. Two of his successors-- Richard Nixon and Donald Trump-- demonstrate the shocking genius of our first president’s foresight. As reporters, we had studied Nixon and written about him for nearly half a century, during which we believed with great conviction that never again would America have a president who would trample the national interest and undermine democracy through the audacious pursuit of personal and political self-interest. And then along came Trump.",that from both Nixon and Trump. "President George Washington," they began, "in his celebrated 1796 Farewell Address, cautioned that American democracy was fragile. 'Cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government,' he warned. Two of his successors-- Richard Nixon and Donald Trump-- demonstrate the shocking genius of our first president’s foresight. As reporters, we had studied Nixon and written about him for nearly half a century, during which we believed with great conviction that never again would America have a president who would trample the national interest and undermine democracy through the audacious pursuit of personal and political self-interest. And then along came Trump."
Trump not only sought to destroy the electoral system through false claims of voter fraud and unprecedented public intimidation of state election officials, but he also then attempted to prevent the peaceful transfer of power to his duly elected successor, for the first time in American history.
...By legal definition [Trump's premeditated coup attempt] is clearly sedition-- conduct, speech or organizing that incites people to rebel against the governing authority of the state. Thus, Trump became the first seditious president in our history.
...Nixon believed that his political survival was a “greater good,” worth subverting the will of the people.
“A man is not finished when he is defeated. He is finished when he quits,” Nixon wrote in a note to himself in 1969. It was a classically Nixonian adage-- embraced by Trump, who had been defeated in the 2020 election but, armed with falsehoods and a scheme to hold on to power, refused to quit.
Even before the election, Trump relentlessly tried to maneuver and claim that the electoral process was rigged against him, laying the groundwork for an assault on the legitimacy of its outcome, which he continues to this day.
On June 22, 2020, for example, nearly five months before Election Day, he tweeted: “MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!”
At 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 4, as the presidential vote count solidified Biden’s path to victory in the electoral college, Trump told the nation and the world: “This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.”
Three days later the Associated Press and the rest of the media declared Biden the victor. Trump, however, said: “We all know why Joe Biden is rushing to falsely pose as the winner, and why his media allies are trying so hard to help him: they don’t want the truth to be exposed. The simple fact is this election is far from over...
“Our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court...
“I will not rest until the American People have the honest vote count they deserve and that Democracy demands.”
Unlike Nixon, Trump accomplished his subversion largely in public. He pursued attacks on the legitimacy of the 2020 election process from campaign rally podiums, the White House and his popular Twitter feed. Nonetheless, he lost 61 of his court challenges, even from judges he had appointed.
After Election Day, Trump began another, more deadly assault on the electoral process.
“JANUARY SIXTH, SEE YOU IN DC!” he tweeted on Dec. 30, 2020, from Mar-a-Lago, where he was spending the holidays.
Longtime chief strategist Steve Bannon, who had been in and out of Trump’s favor, picked up the thread in a phone conversation with Trump that same day.
“You’ve got to return to Washington and make a dramatic return today,” Bannon told him, according to reporting in Woodward and Robert Costa’s book, “Peril.”
“You’ve got to call Pence off the f---ing ski slopes and get him back here today. This is a crisis,” Bannon said, referring to the vice president, who was vacationing in Vail, Colo.
“We’re going to bury Biden on January 6th,” Bannon said.
If Republicans could cast enough of a shadow on Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, Bannon said, it would be hard for him to govern. Millions of Americans would consider him illegitimate.
“We are going to kill it in the crib. Kill the Biden presidency in the crib,” Bannon said.
Trump’s attack on Biden’s legitimacy included a stream of public statements, legal deceptions and a constant focus on disruption of the Jan. 6 certification in Congress.
In a two-page “privileged and confidential” memo, dated Jan. 2, ultraconservative lawyer John Eastman set out in six points how Trump would be declared the winner. It was a blueprint for a coup. The memo said, “7 states have transmitted dual slates of electors.”
If even a single state had dual slates of electors, that could cause havoc in the congressional certification.
...The evening of Jan. 5, the day before the formal certification process, Trump met with Pence. He urged Pence as the presiding officer at the certification session to throw Biden’s electors out.
Pence said he didn’t have the power.
“What if these people say you do?” Trump asked. He gestured outside, where a massive crowd of his supporters had gathered. Their cheering and bullhorns could be heard through the Oval Office windows.
“I wouldn’t want any one person to have that authority,” Pence said.
“But wouldn’t it almost be cool to have that power?” asked the president of the United States.
“No,” Pence said. “I’m just there to open the envelopes.”
“You don’t understand, Mike, you can do this. I don’t want to be your friend anymore if you don’t do this.” Trump’s voice became louder, and he grew threatening. “You’ve betrayed us. I made you. You were nothing,” he said. “Your career is over if you do this.”
After Pence departed that evening, Trump invited a group of his press aides into the Oval Office. He had opened a door near the Resolute Desk. It was about 31 degrees outside, and cold air streamed in. Trump was oblivious to his shivering aides and instead seemed to bask in the cheers of his supporters outside.
“Isn’t that great?” he said. “Tomorrow is going to be a big day. It’s so cold, and they’re out there by the thousands. There is a lot of anger out there right now.”
Trump threatened to encourage primary challenges against those in Congress who supported Biden’s certification as president.
At 1 a.m. on Jan. 6, 2021, Trump tweeted: “If Vice President @Mike_Pence comes through for us, we will win the Presidency … Mike can send it back!”
Twitter and social media posts lit up with threats of violence. I’m going to kill this person. Shoot this person. Hang this guy.
In a 10 a.m. call to Pence, Trump gave it one more try. “Mike, you can do this. I’m counting on you to do it. If you don’t do it, I picked the wrong man four years ago.”
At Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally that morning, several thousand people gathered on the Ellipse in the cold. “Let’s have trial by combat,” Giuliani said as the crowd cheered their approval.
Trump followed. “We will never give up. We will never concede. … You’ll never take back our country with weakness,” he yelled to the crowd from the stage.
“I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,” Trump said.
A determined crowd of more than 1,000 descended on the Capitol. Soon after 2 p.m. the mob became violent. Glass began to shatter, doors were forced open. An unprecedented assault and insurrection were in full progress. “Hang Mike Pence,” they chanted, while roaming the halls of Congress. Some were dressed in garish costumes. Outside, a makeshift gallows was erected to hang Pence.
In the White House, Trump watched the riot on television.
...Both Nixon and Trump created a conspiratorial world in which the U.S. Constitution, laws and fragile democratic traditions were to be manipulated or ignored, political opponents and the media were “enemies,” and there were few or no restraints on the powers entrusted to presidents.
Both Nixon and Trump had been outsiders, given to paranoia, relentless in their ambition, carrying chips on their shoulders. Trump from the outer boroughs of New York City, not Manhattan. Nixon from Yorba Linda, Calif., not San Francisco or Los Angeles. Even after achieving the most powerful office in the world, these two men harbored deep insecurities.
...The question hovers: Why would two men who held the highest office in the land engage in these assaults on democracy?
Fear of losing and being considered a loser was a common thread for Nixon and Trump.
In an interview with The Washington Post in 2015, Trump explained that he thought he had always been successful with his real estate, his books, his TV show and his golf.
Asked if he was afraid of losing someday, Trump said, “I’m not afraid of it, but I hate the concept of it.”
“What do you hate about it?”
“I hate the fact that it’s a total unknown,” he said, giving a classic Trumpian response of total confidence, and adding, “If there is a fear at all, it is a fear of the unknown because I’ve never been there before.”
In a March 31, 2016, interview as Trump was about to secure the Republican nomination for president, the question of how he would define power arose.
Trump said, “Real power is-- I don’t even want to use the word-- fear.”
...Another dominating personal trait binds Nixon and Trump together: Each viewed the world through the prism of hate.
Woodward visited Trump on Dec. 30, 2019, at Mar-a-Lago to interview the president. The Democratic-controlled House had voted to impeach him for withholding military aid to Ukraine at the same time he was asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens.
After an hour of Trump defending his request to Zelensky, Trump’s media director, Dan Scavino, joined the interview. Trump asked that Scavino open his laptop and show a clip of the president’s 2019 State of the Union speech. Instead of Trump’s words, hyped-up elevator music played as the camera panned for extended shots of members of Congress watching and listening to the president.
The first shot was of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who looked bored.
Trump was watching over Woodward’s shoulder and was agitated.
“They hate me,” the president said. “You’re seeing hate!”
The camera stopped on Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts liberal. She was listening and had a bland, unemotional look on her face.
A shot of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was next. She had no expression on her face.
“Hate! See the hate!” Trump said.
The camera lingered a long time on Sen. Kamala Harris. She would be chosen as Biden’s running mate the next year. She had a bland, polite look on her face.
“Hate!” Trump said loudly within inches of Woodward’s neck. “See the hate! See the hate!”
It was a remarkable moment. A psychiatrist might say it was a projection of his own hatred of Democrats. But it was so intense that it did not resemble the subdued reaction of the Democrats. His insistence that it was “Hate!” was unsupported by the images on Scavino’s computer. Many Democrats, of course, did hate him. They were vocal and angry opponents of his presidency. But this Trump spectacle was unforgettable and bizarre.
...Never a coherent strategist, Trump can be a powerful propagandist. He has woven together a series of assertions that he won in 2020, though there is no evidence to support it.
More than a year after Joe Biden’s inauguration, polling shows that only 21 percent of Republicans say they believe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States.
Their reasoning shows how the Trump rhetoric and playbook have convinced them. Between 74 and 83 percent of the Republicans who denied Biden’s victory were swayed by Trump’s false claims of massive voter fraud.
Trump’s claims have always been presented with unwavering, emotional consistency, revealing little or no self-doubt. As the 2024 election approaches, Trump seems on the verge of once again seeking the presidency.
Both Nixon and Trump have been willing prisoners of their compulsions to dominate, and to gain and hold political power through virtually any means. In leaning so heavily on these dark impulses, they defined two of the most dangerous and troubling eras in American history.
As Washington warned in his Farewell Address more than 225 years ago, unprincipled leaders could create “permanent despotism,” “the ruins of public liberty,” and “riot and insurrection.”