Donald Trump Jr. claps back at GOP after losing Senate — then vainly tries to control Capitol chaos

But a senior campaign official says the president's "addiction to every conspiracy theory" made victory impossible

By Roger Sollenberger
January 6, 2021 7:58PM (UTC)
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Donald Trump Jr. speaks during a rally of supporters of US President Donald Trump on The Ellipse outside of the White House on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. - Demonstrators across Washington are protesting the 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification by the US Congress. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Donald Trump Jr., the eldest adult child of outgoing President Donald Trump, shot back Wednesday morning at his father's Republican detractors, declaring that "this is Donald Trump's Republican Party" just hours after the GOP appears to have lost control of the Senate in spectacular fashion.

Addressing a crowd of protesters who descended on the nation's capital to demand that Republican lawmakers object to the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's victory, Trump Jr. sent "a message" to officials who have pushed back against the doomed effort.

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"This should be a message to all the Republicans who have not been willing to actually fight. The people who did nothing to stop the steal," Trump Jr said. "This gathering should send a message to them: This isn't their Republican Party anymore. This is Donald Trump's Republican Party. This is the Republican Party that will put America first."

Later in the day, as Congress debated Republican objections to the electoral votes and pro-Trump protesters broke through police lines and tried to storm the Capitol itself, Trump Jr. sought to strike a different tone. At this writing, however, his father has said nothing about the unprecedented violence.

Trump Jr.'s remarks came hours after Democrats Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock stunned the GOP with two apparent upsets in Georgia's Senate runoffs, defeating multimillionaire incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. (The race between Ossoff and Perdue has not yet been called by the Associated Press, but Ossoff's victory seems nearly certain.) If Democrats win both seats, the resulting victories 50-50 partisan split in the upper chamber would give their part an effective majority, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote as Senate president.

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Trump Jr. told Republican lawmakers that they could be a "hero" or a "zero," suggesting that if they failed to object to the Electoral College votes, "I'm gonna be in your backyard in a couple of months."

"You have an opportunity today: You can be a hero or you can be a zero. And the choice is yours, but we are all watching," Trump Jr said. "If you're gonna be the zero and not the hero, we're coming for you and we're going to have a good time doing it."

"I suggest you choose wisely," he warned, adding: "These guys better fight for Trump. Because if they're not, guess what? I'm gonna be in your backyard in a couple of months."

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Trump Jr.'s remarks appear aimed at a faction of conservatives who have over the last two months resisted the president's doomed efforts to sow doubt in the public about the Democratic process and rewrite the results of the election he lost. Although the Georgia debacle is still brand new, party leaders have already begun to signal it may be time to jettison Trump.

A senior Trump campaign official blamed Georgia on Trump's "addiction" to conspiracy theories, which the official told Salon had turned off independents and drummed up the Democratic base to a degree that virtually candidate no one could overcome.

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"The president's addiction to every conspiracy theory has pushed out the middle independents, and disenfranchised soft Republicans. His continued rhetoric also drove record money and enthusiasm to defeat Republicans," the official said. "Unfortunately, he made the math too difficult to overcome for nearly any candidate."

A Republican who worked on the Georgia races told Politico a similar story.

"Turns out if the leader of a party spends two months actively delegitimizing elections and saying voting doesn't matter, voters listen," the operative said, adding: "There was one decisive factor in Georgia and anyone who says otherwise is probably sharing substances with Lin Wood." (That factor, to be clear, was Trump himself.)

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Wood, a Georgia attorney and Trump ally, has in recent weeks pumped up the Trump base with bizarre QAnon conspiracy theories, arguing that Vice President Mike Pence's resistance to throwing out Electoral College votes was equivalent to treason, and suggesting that Pence should be executed. Wood told Salon in a recent phone call that he had heard rumors about Pence having sex with children, a libelous and scurrilous claim that has evident roots in QAnon lore.

As the Georgia runoffs approached, Trump chose instead to throw his energy into pushing false claims that the state's election system was rigged and attacking its Republican leaders, a narrative that fit his misguided attempts to overturn his own historic defeat in the Peach State. He did not campaign in Georgia until the eve of the election, and threw a wrench into on-the-ground strategy with a last-minute endorsement of $2,000 direct stimulus checks.

Asked why Loeffler and Perdue lost, a senior Senate Republican aide told Politico the reason was simple: "Donald J. Trump."


Roger Sollenberger

Roger Sollenberger is a staff writer at Salon. Follow him on Twitter @SollenbergerRC.

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