By Dana Bash, Veronica Stracqualursi and Jim Acosta | CNN
Donald Trump is more obsessed than ever with the 2020 election and pushing his lie that there was widespread fraud that led to his defeat, according to several former advisers and allies still close to the former Republican President.
Some of the people around Trump are telling him that he should move on from fighting over the campaign and instead focus on policies. But the former President is most focused on the people encouraging him to continue drawing attention to the issue.
Trump is listening to “the bottom of the bottom of the crazies in the barrel,” one former adviser told CNN.
Trump’s obsession with 2020 has sharply divided the Republican Party, pitting those who embrace the “big lie” against those who have debunked the former President’s falsehoods about the election — which has often led to them being punished or denounced. More broadly, his attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the results threatens American democracy and has already led some of his GOP supporters to openly question the integrity of the US electoral process.
Trump continues to tout partisan-led efforts like the so-called audit of Maricopa County ballots in Arizona, which will not change the outcome of the results in the state that Joe Biden carried by more than 10,000 votes.
Trump has been asking advisers in recent weeks if he could somehow reassume the presidency this year after listening to farfetched suggestions from conservative commentators and allies, a well-placed source familiar with the conversations confirmed to CNN.
“What do you think of this theory,” Trump has asked people close to him, the source said, adding that advisers have attempted to persuade the former President that there is zero chance he will return to power this year.
“People have told him that it’s not true,” the source said.
The source went on to say it’s unlikely Trump now believes he could be reinstated as president, following his conversations with his advisers.
“I don’t think he thinks in his heart of hearts that it’s going to happen,” the source said.
However, the source said it appears Trump continues to hold on to the hope he could return to power through some other means, outside of the election process.
“It’s very dangerous,” the source said.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Trump is “increasingly consumed” with the idea that the partisan ballot reviews in Arizona and other states could prove that he won the 2020 election and has recently suggested to some allies that the audit results could put him back in the White House.
Far-right personalities, such as MyPillow founder Mike Lindell, have claimed Trump could somehow be reinstated as president, if state election audits could upend the 2020 results.
Lindell, who takes credit for the idea of Trump’s reinstatement, confirmed to CNN that he has spoken with the former President in recent weeks.
According to Lindell, Trump called the pillow salesman after an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
Since leaving office, Trump, who remains the most influential figure in the GOP and shares strong support among the Republican base, has made limited public appearances and has been banned from social media platforms Twitter and Facebook. He plans to reemerge to address the North Carolina Republican Party’s state convention this weekend.
But instead of focusing on helping his party make gains in 2022, Trump has taken to recounting his grievances and debunked claims about 2020. In his televised interviews with right-wing media outlets, Trump has continued to tease a potential White House bid in 2024 but also play into false beliefs from some of his supporters that he’ll be reinstated as president.
The false narratives about the 2020 election stoked Trump supporters to storm the US Capitol on January 6 and are now creating concern on Capitol Hill that they could incite further violence.
QAnon conspiracy theorists and Trump-supporting online forums have promoted the dangerous suggestion that a military coup like the one in Myanmar should occur in the US so Trump can be reinstated as president in the coming months.
At an event in Dallas last Sunday, Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, appeared to support a Myanmar-style coup but later claimed he hadn’t endorsed any such action.
Flynn’s lawyer Sidney Powell, who repeatedly pushed baseless theories about the 2020 election, also appeared at the event and said Trump should be “simply reinstated” and that a “new inauguration day is set.”