Donald Trump’s so-called big lie that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” has reportedly cost $519 million so far, a growing total largely attributable to enhanced security prompted by the stunning breach of the U.S. Capitol that he is charged with inciting. Taxpayers will have to foot the bill that the former president racked up in his attempt to undermine the integrity of the election—costs including “legal fees prompted by dozens of fruitless lawsuits, enhanced security in response to death threats against poll workers, and costly repairs needed after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol,” the Washington Post reports. More than $480 million of the mounting costs are the military’s estimated expenses for the deployment of National Guard troops—as many as 25,000—to Washington, D.C., through mid-March, a presence triggered by the Capitol attack and the need to fortify the city afterwards, including for President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Outside of Washington, too, state officials beefed up security due to increased threats of violence from pro-Trump extremists, such as Utah Highway Patrol superintendent Michael Rapich, who reportedly spent $22,000 on January 17 to deploy 300 troopers to the state’s Capitol. “It is an incredible amount of money to spend,” he told the Post, which notes that other states spent even more. California officials reportedly estimated they spent $19 million to fortify the state Capitol and other locations; Ohio taxpayers paid $1.2 million to deploy Guard members to Columbus’ closed Statehouse. The state costs associated with January 6 and inauguration-related security, at least $28 million, come as an added bill to state legal challenges and security for election officials prompted by Trump’s election misinformation, the subtotal of which is at least $2 million. But “because many state officials did not specifically track their legal expenses,” according to the Post, the ultimate financial burden to taxpayers is unknown.
The mounting financial toll may or may not play into Trump’s upcoming Senate impeachment trial, which begins this week and centers on charges that the former president’s conduct on and around January 6 incited the violence perpetrated by his supporters at the Capitol. Democrats have focused on the speech Trump made minutes before the siege, when he urged his supporters to march on the Capitol to protest Congress’ certification of Biden’s election win and reiterated his baseless fraud claims. Trump is likely to be acquitted, as most Republicans, rallying behind the argument that the trial is unconstitutional, already voted against moving forward with one altogether. While no president has ever faced an impeachment trial after leaving office, 144 constitutional lawyers this weekend wrote a letter disputing an argument central to Trump’s impeachment defense, which is that the First Amendment protects him from being held accountable for his election falsehoods. “Any First Amendment defense raised by President Trump’s attorneys would be legally frivolous,” the group wrote, noting the constitutional protections do “not apply in impeachment proceedings.”
For Democrats, supporting evidence to aid their argument isn’t exactly in short supply. “This is an impeachment based on what we experienced, and what the president of the United States said, in speeches, that day, that were videotaped. All the evidence is really right in front of us,” Senator Debbie Stabenow, the No.4 Senate Democrat, said in an interview, and Democrats reportedly plan to show video clips of the insurrection, as well as Trump’s rally address on the Ellipse ahead of the chaos. Meanwhile, according to Politico, Trump’s lead impeachment attorney Bruce Castor suggested he will also make his case using audio and video footage—of Democrats’ own remarks. Asked by Fox News’ Laura Ingraham whether he’ll be presenting “dueling video” with Democrats, such as of “a number of other Democrat officials not speaking out about the Antifa and other extremist rallies over the last summer,” Castor replied: “I think you can count on that,” adding: “If my eyes look a little red to the viewers, it’s because I’ve been looking at a lot of video.”
More Great Stories From Vanity Fair
— Embedding With Pentagon Leadership in Trump’s Final, Frenzied Days
— Donald Trump Refused to Take ‘No’ From Women—And Then From America Itself
— How Trump’s COVID Chaos Drowned the FDA in Junk Science
— Inside the Epic Bromance of Jeffrey Epstein and Donald Trump
— After Wrecking the Country, Jared and Ivanka Plot Vacation Plans
— Can Trump’s Cult of Followers Be Deprogrammed?
— Trump Makes an Exit With His Brand in Tatters
— From the Archive: How Donald Trump Turned Palm Beach Against Him
— Not a subscriber? Join Vanity Fair to receive full access to VF.com and the complete online archive now.
— to www.vanityfair.com