Consider the evidence from the published record that already indicated that Trump knew he had lost sometime in November. In February, The New York Times reported that as early as Nov. 12, Trump knew there was no hope of winning enough legal challenges to undo Biden’s lead. In February, William Saletan of Slate put together a series of articles that pushed that date back even further. Specifically, Trump probably knew as early as the weekend of November 7 that his presidency was on life support.
We can now put together a timeline of events leading up to Giuliani and Powell’s press conference that puts that damning internal memo into context and shows that the press conference was the first overt act in a rebellion.
- Nov. 7: According to Axios, within hours of Biden’s election as president-elect, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien and deputy campaign manager Justin Clark told Trump that he needed the political equivalent of a Hail Mary pass to run for a second term. to win. In particular, he had to win outstanding votes in Arizona and Georgia by a landslide, while also winning a lawsuit against electoral practices in Wisconsin. Even then, Clark said, their chance of getting this done was 5% to 10% at best. According to The Washington Post, Trump “indicates he understood” how long his chances were.
- November 12: According to Axios, Trump’s long-standing chance of hitting 270 shrank to near-impossible. That night, all the remaining Arizona news stations called for Biden. According to the Time, Trump’s legal team had filed objections to 191 ballots — not even a fraction of Biden’s 10,000-vote lead. The Gray Lady also reported that earlier in the day, Trump’s campaign attorneys concluded they had no chance of winning enough legal challenges to undo Biden’s lead. And yet, despite all this, Trump was open to Giuliani’s claims that Dominion machines switched voices. As the Gray Lady put it, this was the start of an “extra-legal campaign” to overthrow Biden’s lead – a term that, in light of what we now know, reads as “rebellion” or “attempted self-coup.” .
- November 13: Trump appoints Giuliani and Powell to lead his legal efforts to challenge the election results. On the same day, the Time Deputy Campaign Communications Chief Zach Parkinson asked his team Monday to “support or disprove” Dominion’s claims.
- November 14: Parkinson’s team drafts a memo that thoroughly debunks the most bizarre claims about voter fraud. Not only did Dominion have no current relationship with Smartmatic, but he also had no ties to Venezuela, George Soros, or antifa.
- November 19: Giuliani, Powell and Ellis hold a press conference reiterating some of the claims that were thoroughly debunked (if private) five days earlier.
Let’s revisit it: The Trump campaign knew on Nov. 7 that it was about to fire its final legal bout. It knew on November 12 that the bout had missed. On November 14 — within 48 hours of finding out that the campaign’s last legal options had run out — Trump’s campaign team was told in no uncertain terms that the Big Lie was, well, a lie.
So when Giuliani, Powell and Ellis stepped in front of the cameras on Nov. 19, they knew or should reasonably have known that they were blowing crystal meth smoke. Which means Trump almost certainly knew it too. Although he reportedly pushed Powell aside shortly after, the lies continued to trickle in. The Trump campaign continued to spread razor-sharp fundraising emails about fraud, and the deplorable ecosystem continued to spread lies about the election being stolen.
It is now clear that the snowball that finally crashed into the Capitol on January 6 began rolling down the hill on November 19. And it is equally clear that Trump’s followers started this attack on democracy knowing there was no evidence of fraud.
I don’t think we talked about the thin line between protected speech and unprotected speech after November 19. We’re talking about action. We’re talking incitement and potential wire fraud.