Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference on August 6, 2022, in Dallas, Texas.
CNN  — 

Say this for Donald Trump: He isn’t subtle.

That lack of subtlety was on display during Thursday’s January 6 committee hearing, when evidence was presented – over and over again – suggesting that Trump had long planned to simply declare victory no matter what the results on Election Day 2020 actually were.

“It was a premeditated plan by the President to declare victory no matter what the actual result was,” committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren said during Thursday’s hearing. “We also interviewed Brad Parscale, President Trump’s former campaign manager. He told us he understood that President Trump planned as early as July that he would say he won the election, even if he lost.”

Which, when you look back at what Trump was saying and doing in the summer and fall of 2020, should surprise exactly no one. He wasn’t keeping the plan he eventually executed – insisting the election was stolen – a big secret.


* In a July 2020 interview with Fox News, Trump was asked directly whether he would accept the election results whether or not he won. “No. I have to see,” he responded. “Look you – I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say ‘yes.’ I’m not going to say ‘no.’ And I didn’t last time, either.”

* At an August 2020 campaign rally, Trump said this: “So this is just a way they’re trying to steal the election, and everybody knows that. Because the only way they’re going to win is by a rigged election,” he said.

* At a mid-September rally that year, Trump said this: “The Democrats are trying to rig this election because that’s the only way they’re going to win,” he said.

* At a press conference later that month, Trump was asked directly whether he would ensure a peaceful transition of power if he lost. “Well, we’re going to have to see what happens,” he said. “You know that. I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster. … We want to have – get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very … there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation. The ballots are out of control. You know it.”

* Around that same time, Trump said this: “But in terms of time, we go to January 20. But I think it’s better if you go before the election because I think this – this scam that the Democrats are pulling – it’s a scam – this scam will be before the United States Supreme Court. And I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation, if you get that.”

It’s all right there! The whole plan:

1) Declare victory no matter what.

2) Insist that fraud had been committed no matter what.

3) Force the matter into the courts no matter what.

Which is exactly what happened – except that the Supreme Court didn’t side with Trump, refusing to even hear a challenge to the results. “Just fyi. POTUS is pissed – breaking news – Supreme Court denied his law suit. He is livid now,” a Secret Service message said, presented by Rep. Adam Kinzinger during Thursday’s January 6 committee hearing.

In digging back through old quotes of Trump talking about the 2020 election, I came across a piece I wrote in May 2019 headlined: “What happens if Donald Trump refuses to admit he lost in 2020?” That piece includes these lines:

“It’s not much of a stretch then to imagine that Trump, if he does come up short in the 2020 election, wouldn’t be willing to simply go quietly into that good night. For Trump, refusing to admit defeat and hand over power voluntarily would be the final sacred cow he could slaughter. He’s built a political career on a willingness to break with long-held traditions, the venerated elements of our capital “D” democracy that have long distinguished us from the rest of the world. Trump scoffs at all that sort of stuff, the trappings, he would argue, of an arcane system put in place by elites who can’t channel the will of the people like he can.”

It was all right there, staring us in the face. We might not have wanted to believe that Trump would take it so far, but he was literally telling us not only that he would but how he would do it. We should have believed him the first time.