Editor’s Note: Michael D’Antonio is the author of the book “Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success” and co-author, with Peter Eisner, of the book “High Crimes: The Corruption, Impunity, and Impeachment of Donald Trump.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
One by one, new excerpts of books about the end of Donald Trump’s presidency are bringing to light appalling reports on his final year in office.
In “I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year,” Carol Loennig and Philip Rucker show how the nation’s top military leaders were poised to thwart a coup, had Trump or his allies attempted one. In “Landslide,” Michael Wolff writes that as late as the morning of January 6, Trump and his former lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, may have believed the election wasn’t over. And in “Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost,” Michael C. Bender depicts Trump shouting “treason!” and saying those who leaked the story about his family taking cover in the White House bunker during Black Lives Matter protests should be “executed.” (Trump has already denied much of the reporting in the new books.)
The authors vary in style and approach to the Trump presidency. And their assertions and sources have yet to be fully investigated by other media outlets. But their books about the recent past share one common theme relevant to America’s immediate political future: Trump has an insatiable desire for attention and will continue to sink to whatever depths necessary to keep the attention focused on him.
As the former president keeps fueling speculation over his future political ambitions, Americans would be wise to remember that public service is likely not foremost in his mind. Trump is devoted to his need for the spotlight and whatever additional benefits it may bring. As such, Americans can expect him to continue to peddle the “Big Lie” about the 2020 election being stolen and to attack all those who fall short of his expectations of loyalty.
Trump’s penchant for displays of dominance was evident Thursday, as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy met with him at his New Jersey golf club. McCarthy said the focus of the meeting was winning the 2022 midterms, but it came just a day after the US House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection announced it would hold its first public hearing at the end of the month. McCarthy has yet to name his selections to the committee, though many suspect he will try to place several strong Trump defenders on it – a decision the former president would likely wholeheartedly support.
In addition, in meeting with Trump, McCarthy reprised his tail-between-his-legs trip to another of the former president’s resorts. During his January visit to Mar-A-Lago, McCarthy met with Trump to atone for criticisms he had voiced against the former president after the insurrection and to ensure his support in future fundraising for congressional races.
As McCarthy bows to a one-term former president, he resembles a courtier terrified of a wannabe king who will do and say almost anything to get what he wants. In this case, Trump wants attention, and he’s willing to repeat and amplify the lies about the 2020 election that led to the violence on Jan. 6. At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, for example, Trump repeated the lies that drove his supporters to attack the Capitol. In doing so, he ensured his remarks would make at least a few national headlines.
On that same day, Trump called those at that rally that precipitated the insurrection “peaceful people” and “great people,” while grossly inflating the size of the crowd in attendance. He also fueled the growing effort to make Ashli Babbitt – a rioter who was shot by police as she tried to climb through a broken window leading to the Speaker’s Lobby and later died – a martyr for the Trump cause. And he turned the circumstances of her death into some sort of conspiratorial cause for alarm.
In discussing Babbitt, the former president suggested she was shot by a security officer “for a certain high official, a Democrat.” He added, ominously, “And we’ll see, because it’s going to come out.” According to NBC News, the officer did not work for a Democratic official. And anyone who wonders why the officer’s name has not been made public might consider the state of those who ransacked the Capitol that fateful day. After all, many, including Babbitt, were animated by Trump-related conspiracy theories that drove them to violence.
Trump’s exploitation of Babbitt’s tragic death will keep the fires of outrage burning among his followers and bind them even closer to him. In fact, according to political scientist Steven Webster, politicians are “increasingly” and “deliberately” likely to use rage to reinforce loyalty, since it has a significant impact on bringing their supporters to the polls.
Like the many anecdotes documented in the latest books on the Trump presidency, the former president’s irresponsible comments on Sunday confirm what we all should know about him by now. Trump is, first and foremost, an attention-seeking machine. And when he feels his star is receding, he will continue the whirl of fantasy-making – potentially with more energy behind it.
All this bodes poorly for the months to come, as prosecutors in New York press their case against the Trump Organization, and as August 13 – the supposed date Trump’s most deluded loyalists are marking for his return to power, set by political fantasist Mike Lindell – comes and goes with Joe Biden still as president.
Sadly, for all Americans, the tragic story continues.