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Taking Giuliani’s Insane, Un-American Press Conference Seriously

Trump’s election-theft conspiracy theory exists in an uncanny valley.
November 19, 2020
Taking Giuliani’s Insane, Un-American Press Conference Seriously
Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani perspires as he speaks during a press conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, DC, on November 19, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

My desire to check out from the Trump administration’s madness following his decisive electoral defeat was so deep that it emanated from the stem cells in my bone marrow.

I did not want to be made to care about My Cousin Rudy’s ham-fisted efforts to contaminate our election from outside a landscaping business. I chose not to click when the first tweets about its inanities began to roll in.

But we do not have the option to look away.

The press conference held today on behalf of the president of the United States was unconscionable and un-American. It struck right at the heart of the most fundamental building block of our democracy, ensuring free and fair elections.

Over the course of an hour-plus-long Infowars session, President Trump’s attorneys spouted a series of debunked claims and deranged accusations purporting to prove that our nation’s elections are fraudulent replicas of those rigged by tin-pot caudillos.

The trio of Trump lawyers at the lectern—Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and Jenna Ellis—claimed that our voting systems were created by the deceased Hugo Chavez for the purpose of election theft. That Trump’s team has enough evidence to “overturn”—their word—the election. That Democrats were following in the footsteps of “corrupt rulers” in other countries “willing to pay the highest price” for voting systems rigged in their favor. That the only reason this was uncovered was because our Great Leader’s victory was so overwhelming that it broke the systems. That the Biden campaign supplemented the voting-system hack with mail-ballot fraud on a massive scale. That George Soros, the Clinton Foundation, and “communistic” countries China, Cuba, and Venezuela were all tied into the fraud, too.

The most truthful statement made during the press conference came from Powell, who offered this unintentionally accurate assessment of their undertaking: “This is stunning. Heartbreaking. Infuriating. And the most unpatriotic acts I can even imagine for people in this country to have participated in in any way shape or form.”

Indeed it was.

The press conference began with Giuliani presenting as a “tumefied alcoholic from an Edvard Munch painting” replete with a black hair dye brook babbling down his cheek and wiping his brow with the vigor of a drag queen removing make-up between sets. His visage went from subtext to center-stage when the audio of the Trump livestream was interrupted by a pair of Beavis and Butthead-sounding tech managers saying: “Can they hear us on the stream. . . . I guess not. . . . See fuckin’ Rudy’s hair dye dripping down his face?”

And while the absurdity of it all gave the scene less authority, it also removed the natural constraints that prevent lawyers and government officials from making wildly false and unprovable claims.

Here is Sidney Powell explaining the voting-system fraud, sounding like a character from the ’90s classic The Net:

The software itself was created with so many variables, and so many backdoors that can be hooked up to the internet or a thumb drive stuck in it or whatever, but one of its characteristic features is its ability to flip votes. It can set and run an algorithm that probably ran all over the country to take a certain percentage of votes from President Trump and flip them to President [Ed. note: Great flub.] Biden. Which we might never have uncovered had the votes for President Trump not been so overwhelming in so many of these states that it broke the algorithm that had been plugged into the system and that’s what caused them to have to shut down.

She goes on:

That’s when they came in the backdoor with all the mail-in ballots, many of which they had actually fabricated. Some were on pristine paper with identically matching perfect circle dots. . . . Others were shoved in in batches.

How can one even begin to diagram this conspiracy? Here is the best I can come up with:

  • The Democrats paid the voting-system company to flip X percent of votes from Trump to Biden (but didn’t do the same for down-ballot Democrats).
  • Like the gang from Office Space, they put the decimal point in the wrong place and so the number of votes changed were not enough to overwhelm Trump’s landslide victory.
  • But luckily they had a back-up fraud plan in case their payment to the voting system company didn’t pan out.
  • Thousands of fraudulent mail ballots were sent in—as shown by the fact that some of them were very neatly filled out. And others were crammed in very messily.
  • This is further proven by the self-evident truth that obviously liberals cheat and something something Hugo Chavez.

This is obviously nuts. It doesn’t require Snopes or a team of investigative researchers to debunk it. But that is its power.

Unconstrained by having to present any evidence at all, the Apple Giuliani Gang concocts a conspiracy that sounds manifestly true to voters who have been trained to believe that the left is evil incarnate, but sounds so preposterous to everyone else that Republican elected officials can avoid engaging on the merits while they accuse The Media of being mean to them for asking about it and mock liberals for panicking over this subversion of our democracy.

And so the conspiracy theory exists in an uncanny valley: It’s advanced by the president of the United States and believed by untold millions of his followers but at the same time it’s so ludicrous that it’s impossible to put into context for audiences who do not exist in the Trump Alternative Universe. It is both deadly serious and utterly ridiculous. And it will persist in perpetuity if it is not decisively disproved and Republican leaders are not forced to reckon with it and crush it.

Otherwise the Trump team will get away with convincing millions upon millions of people that our democracy is no different than China’s or Venezuela’s. That President Trump had the election stolen from him by a shadowy cabal of Soros-funded Antifa and the ghost of Hugo Chavez.

They will get away with co-opting an entire political party for the advancement of this undemocratic charade.

And if they aren’t stopped, the next time there’s an election close enough to take by schnook or by crook, Republican voters will demand that they do it.

This is not the time to look away.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.