Former President Trump, in exile in Mar-a-Lago, doesn’t act much like a retiree.
A week ago, he announced that his media business venture, Trump Media & Technology, had lined up $ 1 billion in investor pledges, in addition to the $ 250 million already pledged.
He raises money from worshipers for a set of political committees who had over $ 100 million in cash the last time they disclosed their holdings.
And he has supported candidates for public office much more often than former presidents normally do: 14 candidates for the Senate, 21 for the House of Representatives, 10 candidate governors and 12 state lawmakers so far.
He also developed a keen interest in one of the most obscure jobs in state policy: secretary of state.
In Georgia, he backed a challenger to Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the man who last year rejected Trump’s demand to “find” 11,780 more votes – the number he needed to defeat Joe Biden .
In Arizona, Trump backed a GOP candidate who publicly proclaimed himself a member of the Oath Keepers militia and traveled to Washington on Jan.6 to urge Vice President Mike Pence to reject his state’s electoral votes. (He also walked the Capitol that day, but says he did not witness the building storming.)
In Michigan, Trump is backing a candidate who accused Biden of winning the state because rigged voting software overturned thousands of votes. (An investigation by Republicans found his claim to be false.)
There is nothing random in the choices of the former president. All three races are in swing states that Biden won.
In all three, Trump loyalists insisted Biden’s victory was fraudulent, even though after more than a year they found no evidence.
The last time those jobs were cut, Trump made no approval for the secretary of state job in Georgia or elsewhere. It shouldn’t have seemed important to him at the time.
Now it is.
The reason is no mystery: in most states, the secretary of state is the chief electoral officer, responsible for administering election laws. In many states, including Arizona and Georgia, the secretary of state is the official who declares the winner.
Trump says he hasn’t decided whether he will run for president again in 2024. But just in case, he wants to pick as many arbitrators as possible before the competition begins. If he ever finds himself disputing the vote count or trying to block a state’s electoral votes, he wants someone who owes him a favor on the other end of the phone.
“What we have seen over the past year is a coordinated national campaign… which has attempted to overturn the results of the last election [and is] now laying the groundwork for potentially overthrowing the next one, ”Jocelyn Benson, Michigan Democratic Secretary of State, said last month on MSNBC.
Trey Grayson, a Republican who served as Kentucky’s secretary of state until 2011, agrees. “As a Republican, I’m really bothered by the way Trump recruits people for these jobs purely on the basis of their personal loyalty to him,” he told me. “The worst part is everything is based on a lie” – the baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen.
An irony, Grayson noted, is that secretaries of state do not have the power to alter election results.
“The function of the job is basically to count the votes under the laws in force,” he said. “To count voices is to count voices. “
What they can do, however, is create doubt. Secretaries of state can refuse to certify the result of an election if they believe – or pretend to believe – that something went wrong.
“The Secretary of State can create uncertainty or cause delays,” Grayson said. “Eventually the courts will stop you, but you can cause problems in the short term. “
That’s what Trump wanted Raffensperger and others to do: refuse to certify their states’ elections to prevent some of Biden’s electoral votes from reaching Congress.
This mini-crusade to put Trump loyalists in the state’s most obscure office isn’t just an act of revenge on Republicans who didn’t do what they wanted. It’s part of a larger effort to ensure that every GOP office holder, from senators to city councils, is loyal to the Trump cause.
“We are taking control of the Republican Party … neighborhood by neighborhood,” boasted former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon last month.
The GOP’s new slogan might as well be “No non-Trump Republican allowed.”
The question is whether Trump supporters will be able to take over without too much fighting, especially when the fight is over low-visibility jobs at the bottom of the ballot.
“Other Republicans may not want to take the risk of running against the Trump people,” Grayson warned.
“How do you get people to care? ” He asked. “No one is losing sleep over who their state secretary is. “
Thanks to Trump, they should do it.