There are many deeply puzzling aspects to the Trump phenomenon. Not least among them is how such a dishonest and disloyal man can attract so much abject loyalty. If Trump has proven anything he has proven his willingness to discard his most ardently devoted followers without so much as a backward glance.
Michael Cohen comes immediately to mind. No sooner had Cohen outlived his usefulness to Trump than Cohen was gone. Cohen’s years of devotion to Trump counted for absolutely nothing. Trump disavowed him, discounted his years of service to him and relegated him to the status of a minor player that he barely knew. If you’re around Trump long enough, sooner or later he will betray you.
And so it goes with Trump’s slavish MAGA followers who stormed the Capitol. In a conversation with Donald Trump, Journalist Olivia Nuzzi said Trump actually disputed the fact that many who entered the Capitol after he addressed them were even his people. “When I asked if the insurrection had embarrassed him, he disputed the premise that it was committed on his behalf,” Nuzzi said. She says Trump told her that “They did it on their own behalf.”
The fact that they were wearing MAGA hats, carrying Trump flags and chanting Trump’s name didn’t play a part in the former president’s calculations. Their march on the Capitol had nothing to do with him. Even though he said in his speech to them that he was going to join them. “After this — and I’ll be there with you — we’re going to walk down … to the Capitol,” Trump told the crowd, “and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them.”
Gone are the days when he promised to pardon everyone who participated in the riot should he get re-elected. He’s still pursuing re-election, to be sure, but as a means to escape justice, not to settle some imagined score on behalf of his followers. Four sources inside Trump’s inner circle recently confirmed to “Rolling Stone” that Trump is seeking the presidency for a second term because prosecutors have a much harder time bringing charges against a sitting president for “political reasons.”
Nowhere in Trump’s thoughts are the men and women who believed they were doing exactly what Trump told them to do when they stormed the Capitol. So they can abandon the remarkably naive fantasy that Trump will be re-elected and, once back in office, he will make it his first order of business to pardon all of them. That fantasy belongs with the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, and other mythologies of childhood.
Thanks to the investigations of the January 6 Committee, the rioters have become an encumbrance to Trump. From this point forward watch Trump entirely turn his back on them. They will soon join the list of human beings who are no longer useful to Donald Trump. And if history has taught us anything, no one is immune from membership on that list. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.