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Donald Trump is suddenly in as much news as his beleaguered successor.

As Joe Biden is mired in a border crisis, Covid conundrum and Democratic paralysis, Trump is remaking the Republican Party in ways that seemed unimaginable after the election and the Capitol riot.

It’s akin to denouncing the media on a daily basis, but more importantly, it’s trying to redefine who can be considered a Republican in an increasingly narrow way. That’s why dismissing it as a distraction doesn’t work. He is the undisputed leader of the GOP and could well run in 2024.

Perhaps the biggest dilemma, especially for the press, is: what to do when Trump’s version of reality comes up against objective and verifiable facts? And that no longer means fighting the last war, continuing to investigate efforts to overthrow what the former president describes, without evidence, as a rigged election.

The Arizona audit, commissioned by Republicans and funded in part by Trump’s allies, was, by any reasonable standard, a disaster for Donald. It showed, as state officials have always maintained, that Biden had indeed won the state – in fact, he should have got 99 more votes and Trump 261 less.

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In the process, Friday’s report from Cyber ​​Ninjas – an organization with no previous electoral experience – raised a bunch of hypothetical questions. To be clear, there was no documentation that any individuals had committed fraud, with Biden winning the state by more than 10,000 votes.

Instead, the Ninjas said that duplicate ballots may have been counted, mail-in ballots may have come from the wrong addresses, some people may have voted in multiple counties, and perhaps 282 voters were be dead. But it’s all about potential problems.

For example, the audit found voters with the same name who were born in the same year, but did not verify dates of birth – so it is entirely possible that they were simply people with common names.

And yet Trump said the results were “so shamefully reported” by “virtually every mainstream media source,” citing “dishonest” media outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN.

Trump said “we won” the audit and called for the decertification of the Arizona election. He cited the report’s assumptions as facts, saying many votes “could not have been cast physically,” nine times more than needed to override the results.

When I reported on the audit, I was personally attacked by many Trump fans on Twitter as being silly, biased and a liar, although anyone can go online and read the report. These supporters only echo his demands. If he says he won, then he won – just as they think the whole election was stolen (although new reports show the Trump campaign itself privately debunked some of the more popular claims. crazy about rigged voting machines).

Trump long ago made it clear that he would retaliate against Republicans who supported impeachment, like Liz Cheney, and to some extent, that is just tough politics. He has now extended that to George W. Bush, who is organizing a fundraiser for his vice president’s daughter – and that’s not surprising, since Trump ran against Bush and the Iraq war in 2016.

What I found striking was that Trump just called Bush a RINO. The Republican In Name Only insult was directed at those who were insufficiently conservative, ridiculed as spongy moderates.

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But how can the former GOP president, the son of the late ex-president, be called RINO, even though he has presented himself as a compassionate conservative? Isn’t Bush the epitome of the Republican establishment?

Trump now says he’s the establishment. This is how he can constantly attack Mitch McConnell, a true Blue Tory who helped him deliver a huge tax cut and a phalanx of right-wing judges – but who also held Trump accountable in the aftermath of the 6th. January.

PHOENIX, ARIZONA – JULY 24: Former U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to speak at the Rally To Protect Our Elections conference on July 24, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. Phoenix-based political organization Turning Point Action welcomed former President Donald Trump alongside GOP Arizona candidates who have started running for government-elected positions. (Photo by Brandon Bell / Getty Images)
(Brandon Bell / Getty Images)

Now Trump is slamming two Tories who were among his closest allies in the Senate, Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee. The reason? Bob Woodward-Robert Costa’s book described them as unconvinced by the electoral fraud arguments advanced by Rudy Giuliani and other Trump attorneys, with Graham describing them as “third year” stuff.

“Lindsey and Mike should be ashamed of not having led the fight necessary to win,” Trump said in a statement to reporters, adding, “The RINOs are fighting the Republicans harder than the Democrats. “

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The new definition is therefore clear. A RINO is any Republican Trump deems insufficiently loyal. It doesn’t have much to do with ideology – Trump didn’t show up or rule as a little conservative. He wants to purge the party of its detractors and install real Trumpians in their place.

It could happen. Some GOP veterans are retiring rather than racing again; others will be eliminated in the primaries. And that’s why many mainstream Republicans are trying not to get involved in the rigged election claims, in the hope of avoiding the wrath of the party’s most powerful force.

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