The morning after Donald Trump returned to frontline politics with a speech in North Carolina, a close adviser poured cold water on his reported belief that he will be reinstated in the White House when it is proved Joe Biden beat him thanks to electoral fraud.
Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s first campaign manager in 2016 and a loyal sidekick since, told Fox News Sunday Trump “lost the election”.
Indeed he did, by more than 7m ballots in the popular vote and by 306-232 in the electoral college, a result Trump called a landslide when it was in his favour against Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Experts agree there was no mass voter fraud in 2020. Nonetheless, according to multiple reports Trump has told aides he believes he will be reinstated.
Lewandowski said he had “spoke to the president dozens, if not more than 100 times since he has left the White House and I have never had that conversation about him being reinstated”.
But, he added: “I know of no provision under the constitution that allows it to occur, nor do I know of any provision under the constitution that allows an individual who lost an election to come back in if a recount is dubbed inaccurate.”
On Friday, Facebook announced that it was suspending Trump for two years, over the nadir of his push to overturn his defeat: his incitement of the deadly attack on the US Capitol on 6 January.
In Greenville on Saturday, Trump said he was “not too interested” in returning to Facebook in 2023. Facebook is however a vital fundraising and communications resource for candidates for office, which Trump could yet be in 2024. He also called the decision to suspend him “so unfair”.
On Sunday Nick Clegg, the former British deputy prime minister who is now Facebook’s vice-president for global affairs, told ABC’s This Week: “For Donald Trump, of course we don’t expect him to welcome [our] decision. We do hope, though, that reasonable observers will believe that we are acting as reasonably and proportionately as we can in these very difficult circumstances.”
In North Carolina, Trump also repeated his lies about the election, which he called “the crime of the century”, and referring to Republican attempts to restrict voting and overturn results, said: “I am not the one who is trying to undermine American democracy, I am the one who is trying to save it.”
Clegg was asked: “If the president gave the speech he gave last night in January 2023, would the suspension be extended?”
The Facebook executive declined to answer, saying he had not heard the whole speech, but did say he thought people did not want Facebook “to be a sort of truth police” and said inciting violence was more of a concern than telling lies.
“It doesn’t matter who you are,” Clegg said, “you can be the pope, the queen of England, the president of the United States, you cannot use our services … to aid, abet, foment or praise acts of violence.”
Trump’s spoke for 90 minutes on Saturday, ranging over familiar subjects as he began a series of appearances some think presage another run for the presidential nomination in a party he still dominates.
Repeatedly hitting out at Biden, Trump touched on hot topics among conservatives. His successor, he said in one such jab, was “pushing toxic critical race theory … into our nation’s schools. Joe Biden and the socialist Democrats are the most radical Democrats in our nation’s history.”
Trump also took sustained aim at Dr Anthony Fauci, the senior public health official with whom he was often at odds in his last year in office, as the coronavirus took hold.
Fauci, 80, has served seven presidents since 1984 and is now Biden’s chief medical adviser. Trump said he was “not a great doctor but he’s a hell of a promoter, he’s been wrong on almost every issue”.
On Sunday, Lewandowski said: “If we’re going to follow the science and listen to Dr Fauci, who has been lifted up by the media as the foremost expert on this matter in the world, listen to what Dr Fauci said.”
Lewandowski mentioned Fauci’s initial advice against the need to wear masks, which Fauci has said was meant to preserve supplies for medical personnel; Fauci’s view of travel bans, which he said would prove irrelevant if a pandemic began; and a claim that “through his government agency [Fauci] funded at least $800,000 of government taxpayer money to the Wuhan laboratory”.
US funds were routinely allocated to laboratories in China.
Republicans have seized on new interest among US intelligence agencies in the theory that the coronavirus escaped a Chinese lab. Most public health experts still think it more likely the virus reached humans via the consumption of animals, but Fauci is among those who have said the lab leak theory could prove true.
Lewandowski suggested the formation of an unlikely investigatory commission, featuring two former secretaries of state.
“Let’s appoint Secretary Mike Pompeo and maybe Secretary Clinton to look into why 600,000 Americans have died because of this. Let’s hold China accountable.”
Repeating a line from Trump’s speech, he also said the US should “ask for the reparations which they owe not only us but probably the world, and I think $10tn.”