Donald Trump has already telegraphed the remarks he plans to give at Mar-a-Lago on Thursday, the anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
If he follows the script laid out in his announcement of the news conference, he will commit a whitewashing of the day, repeating the lie that the 2020 election was rigged and defending his part in fomenting the insurrection — all while a solemn prayer service is held at the Capitol, in a vivid split-screen moment. And, as Trump castigates Republicans not toeing his line, his event will also serve as a marker of Trump’s extraordinary dominion over the GOP.
One year ago, many prominent Republicans predicted Trump’s behavior on and ahead of Jan. 6 would relegate him to the fringes of the right, shaming the GOP back into the mainstream. Instead, the opposite has happened. When Trump speaks, he will set the table for a midterm election year with him firmly at the Republican Party’s center.
“It’s become almost a religion in the Republican Party,” said Jason Shepherd, the former Cobb County, Ga., GOP chair, who resigned from his local party after it voted to censure Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, one of Trump’s political enemies. “You have your believers, and you have your heretics, and anyone who isn’t willing to follow Trump 100 percent, or wants to question Trump, that’s now the new definition of a RINO“ (Republican in Name Only).
One year after the riot at the Capitol, nearly three-quarters of Republicans still believe Trump’s baseless claim that Joe Biden won the presidency due to voter fraud, according to a Monmouth University poll. Rank-and-file Republicans’ interest in litigating the events of Jan. 6 has faded. And according to a Quinnipiac University survey, nearly 8 in 10 Republicans want Trump to run for president again in 2024.