Trump's daughter-in-law vows to 'protect the vote.' He tried to steal the 2020 election.

Donald Trump is many things – a bankrupt real estate developer recast on television as a business savant; a New York playboy adjudicated liable for sexual abuse; a law-and-order politician convicted of 34 felonies.

The one-term president knows the power of telling his own story and the dangers of having others define him. So he hammers away with his preferred narrative until it spreads from the supporters who never question him to undecided voters who absorb it from sheer repetition.

In these tales, Trump is always a winner beset by people trying to swipe his victory. And there is no fiction Trump loves more than the notion that he is always cheated at the ballot box during elections.

That was the insidious undercurrent his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, brought to Pennsylvania on Tuesday with Michael Whatley, her co-chair at the Republican National Committee.

Trump knows he has to cater to Pennsylvania voters

Lara Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, D.C., on Feb. 22, 2024.
Lara Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, D.C., on Feb. 22, 2024.

She and Whatley were hyping an "election integrity" volunteer training as part of a "Protect The Vote" tour of four swing statesMichigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia.

More than 100 people packed into a stuffy room in a suburban office park in Newtown, an affluent Philadelphia suburb in purple-ish Bucks County, where President Joe Biden beat Trump in 2020 by 4.4 percentage points.

Lara Trump lamented her father-in-law’s 2020 loss of Pennsylvania and the presidency while not directly echoing his lies about that election being “rigged” or “stolen.”

“I want to make sure that every person in this country feels confident when they cast a ballot, for whoever it is, whether you are voting for a Republican, a Democrat, a third-party candidate, you should go to vote on Election Day, mail vote or early vote, knowing your vote counts,” she said.

That would sound far more reasonable – laudable, even – if her father-in-law had not spent nearly a decade attacking elections, big city voters and election administrators when he simply couldn’t accept the outcome.

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A majority of the people in the room rushed to depart after she spoke, not sticking around for the training for election watchers and poll workers that the RNC said media members could not watch or listen to. Whatley said the RNC is seeking 100,000 volunteers, hoping for 5,000 in Pennsylvania.

Trump is still telling his 2020 election lies

Former President Donald Trump marks his 78th birthday on June 14, 2024, by addressing supporters in West Palm Beach.
Former President Donald Trump marks his 78th birthday on June 14, 2024, by addressing supporters in West Palm Beach.

Trump has been casting doubt – without evidence – about elections in Pennsylvania for a solid eight years. He started in August 2016, when polling showed him trailing Hillary Clinton in the state that year.

We’re going to watch Pennsylvania," Trump said during a campaign rally in Altoona that month. "Go down to certain areas and watch and study and make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times. If you do that, we’re not going to lose. The only way we can lose, in my opinion – I really mean this, Pennsylvania – is if cheating goes on."

It was a rare and remarkably irresponsible thing for any Republican nominee for president to declare. Trump being Trump, he just kept on declaring it, even as Pennsylvania election officials – Republicans and Democrats – insisted that election fraud was a rare occurrence.

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Let's pause to remember a time when it was rare for a politician to make baseless claims about election fraud just because his or her ego could not withstand the notion of defeat.

Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 but still ranted about losing the popular vote nationwide.

Trump has also been attacking the voting process

People fill out their ballots at an early voting site in Arlington, Va., in 2020.
People fill out their ballots at an early voting site in Arlington, Va., in 2020.

Trump is so dedicated to lying about election fraud that he'll keep at it even when it becomes a lability. Speaking to the conservative group Turning Point Action on Saturday, he again called the 2020 election "rigged" and lamented the use of mail ballots in places like Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

"Listen, we don't need votes," said Trump, who desperately needs votes to win in November. "We need to watch the vote. We need to guard the vote. We need to stop the steal."

Trump's odd play for Black voters: Why did the Trump campaign start Black voter outreach in a white Philly ZIP code? They wouldn't say.

Trump also called mail ballots "treacherous" and "horrible" – inconvenient messaging when his daughter-in-law and Whatley spoke Tuesday about the RNC's effort to encourage the use of mail ballots.

Saturday's comments came two days after Trump called Milwaukee a "horrible city" during a meeting with congressional Republicans, which a campaign spokesperson later attributed to troubles with crime and election issues there.

Trump will be officially nominated for president next month during the Republican National Convention … in Milwaukee. Way to win over the locals in a critical swing state.

Trump dislikes the truth. That's how you know it's true.

Trump may win the presidency for a second time in November. Or he may lose an election for a second time. Either way, there's no sign of looming election fraud.

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That won't stop him from lying about our elections. We must keep countering with reality, demanding evidence and pointing out when he can't provide it.

Trump pours on the lies, hoping they seep into the American conversation at every level so that potential voters not paying attention to election news hear his deceptions and, maybe, fall for it all.

Truth is the only antidote. You know it's working when it infuriates Trump and his followers.

Follow USA TODAY elections columnist Chris Brennan on X, formerly known as Twitter: @ByChrisBrennan

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump tried to steal the 2020 election. Does he think we forgot?