Trump’s online posts on Saturday — including a message in which he wrote that “VIZIOUS FRAUD REQUIRES A DELICIOUS GUY!” — represented a significant escalation in his attacks on American institutions and democratic norms, one that scholars said should be taken as a sign of how far he is willing to go to regain power.
“A massive fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” Trump wrote on the Truth Social platform. “Our great ‘Founders’ did not want, and would not tolerate, false and fraudulent elections!”
But only a handful of Republican lawmakers have joined the White House and Democrats in condemning Trump’s claims. Representatives for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not respond Sunday to requests for comment.
Last month, McCarthy announced that Republicans would read every word of the Constitution aloud on the House floor when the GOP takes control of the chamber in January.
Some GOP lawmakers, asked on Sunday’s political shows about Trump’s latest letter, said they disagreed with the former president. However, most were still hesitant to say they would oppose Trump if he becomes the GOP presidential nominee in 2024.
Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio), chairman of the Republican caucus, avoided answering directly when asked on ABC’s “This Week” about Trump’s comments, saying he “didn’t make a habit of speaking out on his tweet du jour” when Trump was in office. When pressed by host George Stephanopoulos, Joyce said he would “support whoever the Republican nominee is” — but didn’t think Trump would “be able to get there.”
“Well, first of all, he doesn’t have — he has no ability to suspend the constitution,” Joyce said. “You know, he says a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean it’s ever going to happen.”
Laurence H. Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School, said there has been a legitimate, intellectual debate among constitutional scholars about whether the flaws in the nation’s founding documents are so fundamental that there should be a new constitutional convention.
But what Trump is engaging in is “not debate, but destruction,” Tribe said in an interview. “What he is doing is openly shouting in desperation that anything standing in the way of him becoming omnipotent should be swept away.”
Trump announced his re-election campaign last month after a number of Trump-backed candidates lost key midterm races, complicating questions within the Republican Party about how to navigate their relationship with the former president.
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While Tribe acknowledged that Trump has said many outrageous things that shouldn’t always garner attention, he doesn’t think this latest statement should be dismissed, especially after Trump’s baseless claims about the 2020 election sent a pro-Trump mob storming the US capital on January 6, 2021 in an attempt to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory.
“It’s a characteristic statement. It kind of says the quiet part out loud — that he has no reverence for the country, for anything but himself,” Tribe said. “It’s like saying, ‘You want to see a riot? I’m going to show you a riot. I’m just going to tear it all apart.'”
Trump’s defenders moved Sunday to quell the controversy. A Republican operative close to the former president, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, argued that the post did not literally advocate or call for the repeal of the Constitution.
When asked to clarify how Trump did not at least advocate for the termination of the Constitution, the agent said: “He is comparing the unprecedented nature of Big Tech’s meddling in the 2020 election to benefit Joe Biden with the unprecedented action to terminate the Constitution,” suggesting without evidence that tech platforms had tipped the scales for Biden in 2020.
Trump’s post on Saturday came a day after Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, claimed he would reveal how Twitter engaged in “suppression of free speech” in the run-up to the 2020 election. But his “Twitter files” did not show that the tech giant bent to the will of the Democrats.
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Some GOP members were stronger in their rebuke of Trump’s comments. On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), that he “absolutely” condemned Trump’s remarks, but stressed that there was a long political process left before Trump could be considered a front-runner in 2024.
“I strongly disagree with the statement that Trump has made. Trump has made a thousand statements that I disagree with, Turner said. He added that voters “will definitely take a statement like this into consideration when evaluating a candidate.”
Trump’s comments drew a stern rebuke from the White House and from several Democrats, as well as from Republicans who have fallen from grace within their party for their longstanding criticism of Trump. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) called Trump a enemy of the constitutionand Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) questioned how their fellow Republicans could continue to support him.
“When the former president calls for throwing away the Constitution, not a single conservative can legitimately support him, and not a single supporter can be called a conservative,” Kinzinger tweeted Sunday, while in his message he tagged the Twitter handles of McCarthy, as well as Reps. Elise Stefanik (RN.Y.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). “This is insane. Trump hates the Constitution.”
Rep.-elect Mike Lawler (RN.Y.) echoed several other Republicans in their response to Trump, saying it was generally time to look forward rather than renegotiate the 2020 election.
“The Constitution was established for a reason, to protect the rights of every American. And I certainly don’t support that [Trump’s] language or that sentiment,” Lawler said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think the former president would be wise to focus on the future if he wants to run for president again.”
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (DN.Y.), who is set to become the Democratic minority leader in January, dismissed Trump’s comments as another “extraordinary” statement by the former president and ultimately an identity crisis for the GOP.
“I thought it was a strange statement, but Republicans are going to have to figure out their issues with the former president and decide whether they want to break away from him and return to some kind of reasonableness or continue to lean into the extremism. , not just of Trump, but of Trumpism,” Jeffries said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Several top Republicans — including former Vice President Mike Pence — issued rare rebukes of Trump recently after he dined with white nationalist Nick Fuentes and rapper Ye, both of whom have a history of anti-Semitic remarks.
On Sunday, Israel’s Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu said he believed Trump “probably understands” that the dinner crossed a line, but hesitated to blame Trump or his rhetoric for a rise in anti-Semitism. He instead blamed social media for exacerbating such divisions.
“There are many, many blessings in the Internet age, but it also comes with a curse. And the curse is polarization,” Netanyahu said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Anti-Semitism, he said, is “the oldest hatred, as I say, one of the oldest hatreds of humanity. It was wrong then, it’s wrong now. But it’s probably taken on an extra life in the United States and in other countries in the age of the Internet .”
Isaac Arnsdorf, Karoun Demirjian, Toluse Olorunnipa and Missy Ryan contributed to this report.