OPINION: Donald Trump is back, and he’s still lying about the last election

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a Save America rally Friday, July 22, 2022, in Prescott, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

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Former President Donald Trump speaks at a Save America rally Friday, July 22, 2022, in Prescott, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

I had a bizarre conversation with a Republican lawmaker last week. We were talking about the state’s new abortion restrictions, which he supports, but he wanted to talk about something else — the 2020 election.

“Why do you guys always just call it ‘baseless claims of election fraud?’” he asked, referring to the AJC’s description of former President Trump’s claims about his 2020 loss in Georgia. “You’ve never gone point-by-point to prove it was baseless.”

I was shocked at what he said because the AJC’s Mark Niesse and David Wickert spent more than a year cataloging and reporting on every state investigation that did, indeed, show that Trump’s claims of election fraud in Georgia were baseless.

They detailed the lengthy investigation by Attorney General Chris Carr’s office debunking Trump’s false claim in his call with Brad Raffensperger that “close to 5,000 dead people voted” in Georgia.

Investigators found that most of the so-called “dead people” were alive and well. A total of four absentee ballots were cast for people who had died — all of them cast by relatives trying to vote as they thought their loved ones would have wanted.

One, a 74-year-old widow, voted Republican for her late husband. “She now realizes that was not the thing to do,” her lawyer said.

State investigators also found no merit to Trump’s claims that thousands of underage teenagers and others who were not registered to vote had cast ballots.

The FBI also investigated Trump’s false claims of fraud at State Farm Arena, where he told Raffensperger “maybe 18,000″ fake ballots had been brought out of “what looked to be suitcases or trunks…but they weren’t in voter boxes.”

BJay Pak, Trump’s U.S. Attorney based in Atlanta, told the Jan. 6th committee in sworn testimony that his office and the FBI interviewed State Farm witnesses themselves and concluded that “there was nothing to substantiate” anything Trump was claiming about fraud there. Also, the “suitcases” Trump talked about were, in fact, ballot boxes.

Bobby Christine, Pak’s replacement as U.S. Attorney after Pak resigned under pressure from Trump, agreed and closed the State Farm investigation, telling his staff of the allegations on a phone call, “There’s just nothing to them. There’s no there there.”

More false claims spun off more state investigations. In one, the head of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation told the Georgia Republican Party that there was never enough evidence presented to pursue Trump’s allegations of “ballot harvesting.

The State Board of Elections agreed and voted unanimously in May to dismiss claims, including one from the movie, “2000 Mules.”

“Just because something looks compelling doesn’t mean it’s accurate,” said Matt Mashburn, the Republican chairman of the State Election Board.

Trump’s lies about election fraud in Georgia are too numerous for one column. But I hope you’ll go back and read the AJC’s years-plus worth of reporting on Trump’s disproven claims of everything from ballot shredding, fake ballots, hacked voting machines, out-of-state voters, ballot harvesting. Different GOP groups and actors came forward with accusations — but none ever produced evidence to back up their suspicions.

At the federal level, the Jan. 6th committee hearings have shown over and over that Trump’s own staff and cabinet knew Trump’s claims were baseless, too, and told him so.

There was Trump’s Attorney General, Bill Barr, describing the many times he told the president and his outside lawyers the theories he was spreading about winning the election were nonsense.

“I told them that it was crazy stuff and they were wasting their time and that it was doing grave, grave disservice to the country,” Barr testified.

Cassidy Hutchinson, one of the youngest aides in the White House, described her horror watching the Capitol violently overrun on Jan. 6 because of Trump’s dishonesty.

“It was unpatriotic. It was un-American,” she said. “We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie.”

If it all seems like I’m repeating myself, I am. I have written many times that the election was not stolen.

Professional federal and state investigations and more than 60 different court cases have proven that’s the case.

And if you’ve lost track of the official tally by now, the 2020 election wasn’t even close. Joe Biden won the White House by more than 7 million votes, 4.4% of the popular vote, and 74 electoral votes.

But true or not, Trump’s lies about the election not only spawned the attack on the Capitol, they also led to death threats for election workers and elected officials across the country, including in Georgia.

Just as dangerous, they’ve eroded people’s trust, not just in their own government, but in each other.

Mark Niesse reported this week that Republican activists are working to disqualify thousands of voter registrations they’ve deemed to be suspicious.

Language in SB 202, the state’s election law overhaul passed as Trump continued to claim the Georgia election was stolen, empowered any individual citizen to challenge as many registrations of their neighbors as they like. Plenty of people are taking their opportunity to do just that.

Trump’s claims were false, but the effect they’ve had on the country has sadly been very real.

And yet, almost like clockwork on Friday night, the former president was back in Arizona on a rally stage lying about the 2020 election again.

“The election was rigged and stolen and now our country is being systematically destroyed because of it,” Trump said.

“I ran twice, I won twice, and I did much better the second time than I did the first…and now, I may have to do it again.”

The crowd roared for Trump when he said it. Incredibly, they still seemed to believe every word.