Election complaints about 2020 dominate the lively night of Trump and his allies at Mar-a-Lago

The former president and his supporters gathered for the premiere of a short film about Facebook’s involvement in the alleged voter fraud.

Former President Donald Trump and a group of his top allies, donors and paying club members gathered at his palatial beachfront establishment Tuesday night for a reunion of sorts: drinking Trump-brand wine, nibbling on a hors d’oeuvre of fried shrimp and hot dogs in puff pastry on the patio at Mar-a-Lago and, most importantly, re-litigating parts of the 2020 election that he lost 17 months ago.

The fraud party on a sultry spring night showed how focused Trump and the ecosphere around him remain on the last election and his false claims of fraud, and how he now inhabits a comfortable club life in which he is the roundly cheered, and rarely challenged, star that everyone pays to see. As he toured the club, he repeatedly asked guests and members about fraud in certain states and made vague claims about explosive finds that he said were not yet known.

The occasion: the premiere of a 42-minute film called Rigged:The Zuckerberg Funded Plot to Defeat Donald Trump (Manipulation: The Zuckerberg-Funded Plot to Take Down Donald Trump) by Citizens United President and Trump ally David Bossie, which features a number of Trump advisers and alleges that Facebook helped Democrats by pouring money into states to promote voter education and participation. A hyperbolic billboard for the film, depicting Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg fiendishly clutching cash, was set up poolside for a cinematic sunset as guests strutted between drinks.

Nothing has buoyed Trump more in the past two years than his efforts to nullify the 2020 election, and he seemed especially elated before seeing the film, saying he hoped it would be shown more eagerly than “Citizen Kane”, “Titanic” Y “Gone With the Wind“.

“Would you like some Trump wine?” a Mar-a-Lago employee offered in a gracious voice to each guest who entered the patio.

Guests walked past Trump’s private quarters as they moved from a small, crystal-chandeliered ballroom where they dined, past an outdoor esplanade and past Trump’s private residence, to a larger, packed ballroom. of crystal lamps, where they would see the projection of the film. A makeshift wall separated the makeshift movie theater from the dining room, where employees cleaned up after dinner for paying club members.

As guests passed by, they posed for photos with Trump, who was smiling broadly. Trump drew raucous applause every time he walked in — and before and after every time he spoke — and raised funds from every guest there.

Trump’s false claims about the election have destabilized American democracy and led much of his party to distrust the 2020 results. At least in part, they fueled the deadly attack on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021. And have been widely debunked – even many Republicans have urged him to move on and focus on rivaling President Joe Biden.

At the gilded Mar-a-Lago, where a model of Air Force One sat on a table and hundreds of photos and tributes to Trump hung on the wall, there was no mention of the January 6 commission investigating the pro-Trump gang. Trump who ransacked the Capitol after his false accusations of fraud. No one disputed any of Trump’s claims about the election. The outside world – where he has often struggled to exceed 40 percent popularity, and his control of the Republican Party has somewhat faded – seemed planets away from the mangroves, palm trees and ostentatiously gilded rooms of Mar- a-Lake.

“Some of those present say that we should not talk about 2020,” said Bossie, the convener of the evening. “I think it’s vital that we do. If we don’t prove what happened in 2020, how can we prevent it from happening again?”

A who’s who of prominent advisers and election deniers and prominent hopefuls from his campaign to overturn the 2020 election gathered for this event – along with random donors who were in the club for another event and who dropped by, some supporters and Washington operators looking for business, and other candidates seeking their support or help. Kari Lake, a prominent Republican gubernatorial candidate from Arizona and an advocate of Trump’s denunciations, addressed the members, calling the “mainstream media” “enemies of the people,” urging them to step down and expose their owners.

There was attorney Cleta Mitchell, who worked closely with Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to push fraud allegations after the 2020 election and appeared with Trump at the call demanding officials elections in Georgia who “find” votes to nullify the results. This is now under criminal investigation in Georgia.

Michael Gableman, the retired Wisconsin Supreme Court justice who oversaw a criticized voter audit in that state, appeared in person and on film. “Michael, you’ve been amazing,” Trump said, thanking Gableman and drawing applause. Guests crowded to greet Gableman. His investigation was not intended to be highly neutral and was led by figures who have shown allegiance to Trump or embraced false claims of fraud, and his conclusions were criticized.

When Peter Navarro, the former Trump adviser who put forward some of the most extreme theories about nullifying the election and who is now in contempt proceedings by the House of Representatives, entered the room at the last minute, the veteran Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski shouted “Doctor!” and hugged him.

“Oh, that vote,” Navarro sneered, referring to the contempt proceeding against him, as he entered the ballroom for the screening ahead of the rest of the guests, looking totally unconcerned.

Trump spoke both at the dinner and before the premiere; he repeatedly told the crowd that Russia would not have invaded Ukraine if he were president, that there would be fewer civilian deaths, and that inflation and gas prices would be lower if the elections had not been “rigged.”

“It just never would have happened,” he said, describing the grim civilian deaths in Ukraine he had seen on television and saying “rigged” elections had fueled them. He attacked Republicans for not doing enough to help him deliver results. elections and reviewed a series of theories about the elections and claims in several states, such as Wisconsin and Arizona.

Trump promised that next week, the crowd will see levels of “vote harvesting they never thought possible” as part of a report by an outside group. It was not clear what he was referring to, but he said his advisers had been working on the project. Among others, he praised Susie Wiles, who heads his Political Action Committee, and Reince Priebus, his former chief of staff, for working on the project.

When he reached the second room, he delivered a similar but shorter speech to almost the same audience.

The video shows how a foundation, led in part by Zuckerberg, funded efforts to increase turnout and help protect against coronavirus in connection with the election. He doesn’t accuse Zuckerberg of doing anything illegal, but instead says he packed his foundation with prominent partisan Democrats, setting examples. “zuckerdollarssaid person after person in the film, describing their money.

Bossie and others said they were not trying to litigate some of Trump’s most incendiary theories, such as falsehoods about Dominion’s voting machines. Instead, they said, the film showed that much of Zuckerberg’s foundation money went to areas where Biden won, and that turnout rose in the 2020 election. The film repeatedly referenced how the coronavirus led to state officials to change election laws.

Bossie was the main presenter of the video. He recounted that the budget for the film was about $500,000.

Zuckerberg said in a statement last week to Fox News, through a spokesman: “When our nation’s election infrastructure faced unprecedented challenges in 2020 due to the pandemic, and the federal government failed to provide adequate funding to enable states and localities to hold elections, Mark Zuckerberg and [su esposa] Priscilla Chan stepped up to close that funding gap with two independent, nonprofit organizations to help the American people vote.”

Trump, in the film, alleged that Zuckerberg was afraid of his employees and people on the left. Trump once boasted a close relationship with Zuckerberg – who has drawn considerable criticism from the left for not doing more to temper Trump’s rhetoric on Facebook – and even invited him to dinner at the White House.

Among those starring in the project and attacking Zuckerberg are Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, who lost to Trump in a ruthless 2016 primary in which Trump criticized his wife’s looks, and former House Speaker of Representatives Newt Gingrich.

The evening was a kind of homecoming for some Trump aides, who thronged to see the chief and greet each other, like former spokesman Hogan Gidley, with a caramel tan, who said it was the first time he had been in Mar-a-Lago in a year. He now works on “election integrity” efforts for a Trump-related group.

Hope Hicks, one of Trump’s most senior advisers who reportedly broke with him over allegations of voter fraud in 2020 and resigned before he left office, was present at the event sitting near the front of the room and chatting with Priebus. and hugged others. Trump praised her from the podium. “We love Hope!” he said. Hicks has pushed Trump to endorse David McCormick, a Senate candidate for whom he works in Pennsylvania, and has partially returned to his orbit. She refused to speak officially.

Kellyanne Conway, who stars in the film, stood near the front of the room and joked with other Trump advisers about how they could get hurt in her next book, due out this spring. “A tickle,” she told one, promising the tickle would be “gentle.” “Should I take a bow?” She asked her as she entered the premiere, before doing so.

Conway and Priebus stayed afterward and could be heard arguing over who stabbed who in the Trump White House. “It could be heartbreaking,” Bossie said, laughing, about his book.

Lewandowski, who was temporarily pushed out of Trump’s orbit following allegations of misconduct by a Trump donor last year, engaged in stinging back-of-the-room TV spots with Newsmax and the Steve Bannon podcast, and Trump and others received him warmly.

Devin Nunes, the CEO of the battered Truth Social, Trump’s new social media platform, walked through the room and was later seen on the patio with Priebus. Christina Bobb, the host of One America News who has fueled some of Trump’s exposure and speaks regularly with him, interacted with guests without a camera.

Trump repeatedly signaled to the crowd that he might run for president again, and they cheered and shouted. “We’ll be back to make America great again,” he said.

Bossie repeatedly introduced him as the “45th – and 47th – President of the United States.”

At the end of the film, Trump greeted the crowd of guests waiting behind a red rope and walked a few steps to his quarters, his Secret Service entourage in tow.

Washington PostParmy Olson

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Election complaints about 2020 dominate the lively night of Trump and his allies at Mar-a-Lago