Talking Points

Why Trump is demanding a 2020 election audit — in Texas

The Arizona audit of the 2020 presidential election has been leaked, and Joe Biden is still the president. In fact, a draft report of the months-long review by Cyber Ninjas shows that Biden won Maricopa County over Donald Trump by a slightly larger margin than the county's official results.

That's the good news. The bad news? These results won't put a stop to Trump's efforts to relitigate and recount the election. The audit was never intended to ferret out new and surprising truths — it was about sowing enough doubt and suspicion among the American public to make his false claim to the presidency seem faintly plausible. The real news this week is not about the Arizona results, but Trump's bizarre demand for an Arizona-style audit in Texas.

Yes, Trump won the Lone Star State and its electoral votes — albeit by a mere 5.5 percentage points. Even if it somehow would turn out he won Texas by a larger margin than previously reported, it wouldn't make a difference: That wouldn't give him more electoral votes, after all. No matter. "Texans know voting fraud occurred in some of their counties," Trump wrote this week in a public letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbot, a fellow Republican. "Let's get to the bottom of the 2020 presidential election scam!" On Thursday night, Texas capitulated to the former president's demands, announcing it has begun re-evaluating election results in the state's four largest counties.

The only way Trump's effort in Texas makes sense is to understand that it can't possibly be intended to make sense. The former president is an agent of chaos, and he probably doesn't mind keeping himself in the headlines.  But confusion is also Trump's ally. The more he can make people doubt the 2020 results — even in places he won handily — the more he can make the case that the whole system is irredeemably corrupt, and can only be brought to heel by one man: himself.

We shouldn't mistake Trump's persistence for sincere-but-misguided belief. Just this week, journalists revealed that his team knew its allegations of election fraud were baseless almost from the beginning. They're still baseless, but the result is that nearly a year after Biden won the presidency, we're still enduring a slow-motion constitutional crisis. If you want a picture of the future, imagine an unending series of 2020 election audits — forever.