I told you last week our pretend President is mounting a pretend coup. The actor Ed Norton thinks it's time to stop pretending and call his bluff.
In a remarkable series of Tweets that went viral here on Thursday, Norton likened Trump's refusal to concede a clear loss to a desperate poker player pulling a bluff.
The goal? A get-out-of-jail-free card for Trump in return for leaving the White House without wrecking it.
In case you missed Trump's latest antics living safely 7000 miles away:
• On Thursday, Trump's lawyers argued that the Pennsylvania vote Biden won was "rigged" by "communist money" in a scheme devised by Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, using compromised voting machines and hacked vote-counting software to steal millions of Trump votes. There are a few problems with the case: 1. There isn't the slightest evidence to support it. 2. The same machines and software somehow managed to correctly elect Trump in other states. 3. Chavez has been dead for seven years. It's hard to track them all, but by my count, Trump has now lost at least 29 election lawsuits so far. Including this one, dismissed by a federal judge at the weekend.
• On Tuesday, two Republican officials refused to certify the Detroit vote Biden won massively, claiming what seem to be utterly bogus irregularities. No surprise from the Chavez team. But the Detroit vote was essential to Biden winning Michigan by about 150,000 votes. A huge outcry arose when thousands of Michigan locals heard about this and took to Zoom. The officials backed down, reversed themselves and certified the vote. Then Trump called the officials, and afterwards they said they wanted to reverse their reversal and decertify their certification. The Michigan Secretary of State said: Yeah nah, no backsies.
• On Friday, still trying to steal the state, Trump called the two Republican leaders of the Michigan legislature to the White House. He said it was to discuss Covid and other issues. It was plain the topic was how the state legislature might overturn the Biden vote. And the leaders, to their great credit so far, apparently refused to join Trump's latest scam. They said nothing they were told by Trump convinced them the normal process of certification should be delayed. Good news, if they don't reverse themselves too.
What the hell is going on? Norton has it right. Trump the showman is putting on a show, or more precisely he's running a bluff, like in a card game. Why? I'll let Ed Norton explain. He, after all, starred in Rounders, a 1998 film about the underworld of high stakes poker.
He wrote on Twitter: "I'm no political pundit but I grew up w a dad who was a federal prosecutor & he taught me a lot & I've also sat a fair amount of poker w serious players & l'll say this: I do not think Trump is trying to 'make his base happy' or 'laying the groundwork for his own network' or that 'chaos is what he loves'.
"The core of it is that he knows he's in deep, multi-dimensional legal jeopardy & this defines his every action. We're seeing 1) a tactical delay of the transition to buy time for coverup & evidence suppression 2) above all, a desperate endgame. ... Which is to create enough chaos & anxiety about peaceful transfer of power, & fear of irreparable damage to the system, that he can cut a Nixon-style deal in exchange for finally conceding. But he doesn't have the cards. His bluff after 'the flop' has been called in court...
"His 'turn card' bluff will be an escalation & his 'River card' bluff could be really ugly. But they have to be called. We cannot let this mobster bully the USA into a deal to save his ass by threatening our democracy. THAT is his play. But he's got junk in his hand. So call him.
"His contemptible, treasonous, seditious assault on the stability of our political compact isn't about 2024, personal enrichment or anything else other than trying to use chaos & threat to the foundation of the system as leverage to trade for a safe exit. Call. His. Bluff."
That, my friends, is the single best explanation of what's going on here. Trump is playing poker with America. His goal is to escape from the many potential legal charges he may face. At the federal level, for alleged corruption and obstruction of justice, as well as possible state charges for bank fraud and tax evasion. In addition, one state attorney general told me, he could get hit with massive civil fines for everything from unpaid taxes to his negligent Covid response.
Horrible, yes. But there is a silver lining here. Assuming the pretend coup fails, Trump is giving those of us who want him in prison the ammo to demand it. Yes, everyone agrees Biden must reach out to Trump's voters; whatever you think of their taste in leaders, they number almost half the vote. But Trump is not his voters. Every day this high-stakes game of chicken with our democracy continues undermines America, delays the presidential transition, delays our Covid response and kills Americans.
So I'm with Ed. There can be no pardons for enemies of the Constitution or would-be tyrants. No leniency. No looking the other way. Sorry. This has now crossed the line.
Or as Ed Norton put it: Call his bluff.
• Dick Brass was vice-president of Microsoft and Oracle for almost two decades. His firm Dictronics developed the first modern dictionary-based spellcheck and he was an editor at the Daily News, NY.