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There aren’t many constants when it comes to Donald Trump. He’s as flexible a politician as this nation has seen in a good while, willing to swap allegiances at a whim and to reverse himself at a whiff of weakness. It’s why, in one secret recording, his own sister declared, “You can’t trust him.”
And, yet, for almost eight years, Republicans looking to get a piece of the Trump action have set aside that undeniable fact, thinking that they’d be the exception to the rule. And time and time again, they’ve been burned. Outside Trump’s immediate family, loyalty is a commodity that sees its market rate revalued on the regular. And the faintest stench of loser is sufficient to send the ex-President racing in the other direction. Just ask the three people who led his campaign over five tumultuous months in 2016, his battlefield of discarded aides and Cabinet members, or any of the lawmakers critical of his conduct who now face his revenge-driven efforts to oust them from power.
Now, even the first member of Congress to vote against certifying the results of the 2020 elections on Jan. 6, 2021, is getting reminded of Trump’s intolerance for anything but what he has scripted in his political reality show. And even more than that: his intolerance for losing.
Rep. Mo Brooks—about as Trumpy a figure as you’ll find in Washington—on Wednesday had his Trump endorsement withdrawn as he pursues the Republican nomination for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama.
Brooks’ sin? Telling Trump—and the public—there was no legal pathway to reinstate Trump immediately as President and discard Joe Biden. That’s right: Trump is still pursuing an unrealistic strategy of setting aside the 2020 results right now and simply moving back into the White House as though he won. Which, to be clear, he did not.
The irony is that Brooks tried on Jan. 6 of last year to block certification of the results showing Biden won in 2020. Brooks spoke at the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the violence that unfolded at the Capitol. A former Leadership aide has said Brooks was upbeat about what transpired, an allegation Brooks has denied. Brooks says he was as upset as anyone by the destruction at the Capitol; he says the intruders destroyed months of evidence that would have proven Trump won. Despite the failed insurrection by Trump supporters—and the first siege of the U.S. Capitol since 1814—lawmakers returned to their workplace across shards of glass and the sting of chemicals in the air and certified Biden the winner. Fourteen days later, Biden took office while Trump left Washington without so much as a word to the incoming First Family.
But if even his most ardent followers like Brooks have begun to move on, Trump has not. “Mo Brooks of Alabama made a horrible mistake recently when he went “woke” and stated, referring to the 2020 Presidential Election Scam, “Put that behind you, put that behind you,” despite the fact that the Election was rife with fraud and irregularities,” Trump said in a statement. As recently as last week, Trump had been pushing Brooks to decertify the results of 2020, remove Biden, and schedule a special election for the balance of this presidential term, Brooks said. Such a move is not only unprecedented. It’s impossible, and possibly illegal.
But perhaps Brooks’ real sin? Failing to gain traction. Trump is incredibly boastful of his endorsement record. A tap from Trump is akin to a crown. It’s not an exaggeration when Trump’s team brags that it’s the most powerful endorsement in politics. It’s usually enough to slay anyone who doesn’t get the MAGA blessing. But Brooks—campaigning as “MAGA Mo”—didn’t quite win over Republican voters in Alabama, perhaps because in recent months he’s been telling his audiences that the Republican Party needs to look to the future, not the past. The latest poll shows both of Brooks’ challengers with a double-digit lead over him. “When I endorsed Mo Brooks, he took a 44-point lead and was unstoppable,” Trump said in a statement. Then according to Trump, when Brooks started talking about moving on from 2020, his “lead totally evaporated.” Trump continued: “I said, ‘Mo, you just blew the Election, and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ Very sad but, since he decided to go in another direction, so have I.”
Trump, who obsessively believes he won in 2020, took that as a slight. He feels aggrieved and cheated. And anyone looking to move anywhere outside the aura of Trump will feel his wrath. As a reminder of how petulant Trump can be when he’s feeling insulted, he put out the withdrawal of the endorsement to his list of reporters without calling Brooks first.
Trump has other options to endorse in the state, including a former Shelby chief of staff who now runs a state business group and a Black Hawk Down pilot who was shot from the skies of Somalia in 1993. Trump has met with both within the last month. Each has raised more than Brooks, and Trump seems open to either.
If all of this feels chaotic, that’s probably the right assessment. As President, Trump fired Cabinet secretaries by tweet and pitted aides against one another. He has been vicious to even his most loyal aides when he feels let down and lashes out at anyone who doesn’t fall in line. It’s even worse if those who speak up can’t guarantee Trump bragging rights.
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