Former President Donald Trump, known for his tumultuous and controversial tenure, has recently made a significant shift in his rhetoric regarding the 2020 presidential election. After months of fervent claims contesting the election results, Trump has now adopted a new narrative, asserting that the election was "long over" by the time he urged state officials and then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn his defeat.
This statement marks a stark contrast to his previous stance, where he was relentless in challenging the election outcome through numerous ad campaigns and legal battles, asserting to his supporters that the election was "a long way from over." Trump's latest assertion is part of his strategy to evade criminal charges by claiming "presidential immunity." His argument hinges on the notion that, as he was no longer a candidate but acting in his capacity as president, his efforts to ensure fair elections were part of his official duties.
However, this contradicts his earlier legal claims, where he actively filed lawsuits contesting the election results as a candidate, not as the sitting president. This contradiction was even evident in a brief filed to the Supreme Court on December 9, 2020, by his lawyer at the time, John Eastman, stating that Trump sought to intervene in his personal capacity as a candidate for reelection.
Trump's Legal Quagmire
This flip-flop in Trump's narrative poses significant legal challenges for him and his current legal team. As they push the courts to accept an aggressive immunity theory, they must now navigate the murky waters of whether Trump's actions to overturn Joe Biden's victory were official presidential acts or merely political maneuvers.
Legal experts like Steve Vladeck from the University of Texas note the rhetorical impact of Trump's inconsistency regarding his role during that period. Judges have already noted the contradiction between Trump's current legal arguments and those made during his Senate impeachment trial in 2021.
His earlier contention that he was filing legal briefs as a political candidate has drawn scrutiny, especially in light of the January 6 Capitol riot. Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan, in a unanimous ruling, pointed out Trump's recognition of his actions in his capacity as a presidential candidate, not as a sitting president.
In recent developments, Trump has been vocal in social media posts and in public statements, reiterating that he was merely performing his presidential duties in investigating election integrity in December 2020. However, his lawyers have not fully echoed this sentiment, maintaining a delicate balance in their arguments.
They continue to emphasize Trump's actions as reflective of his duties as the chief executive of the United States, advocating for the integrity of the federal election.