“Do you think Donald Trump won the 2020 election?”
The question came at Mike Durant and he looked as if he did not want to answer. An audience member had asked following Durant’s campaign speech to the Republican Women of Huntsville on Jan. 19.
Now the frontrunner in Alabama’s Republican Senate primary, Durant flinched on the question 2½ months ago. He gave a big smile and paused before speaking. The wrong answer to the Republican club in his adopted hometown, of course, could have major repercussions.
“Oh, look, we’re out of time,” Durant said as a joke, glancing at his watch.
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Jokes aside, he went on to answer, “What is the ground truth? No one will ever know. It’s gone by. I can’t speculate to, you know, if all votes were absolute legitimate what the outcome would have been.”
But last week in an interview, Durant didn’t flinch on the question and he didn’t pause and he didn’t joke that he was out of time.
“The bottom line is, I don’t think Joe Biden won the election,” Durant said during a March 25 interview on Capitol Journal.
Why the change?
The timeline of the change matches up to a dramatic development in the Senate race: Unlike 2½ months ago, Trump’s endorsement is now available after the former president withdrew his support of U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks.
And Durant, who met with Trump late last month at his Mar-a-Lago residence in south Florida, said in the Capitol Journal interview that the meeting was an effort to land Trump’s endorsement. Trump has said he will make another endorsement in the Alabama Senate race but is yet to do so. He has also met with another leading Senate candidate, Katie Britt.
The Republican primary is May 24.
“My opinion on this is clear: I believe that Joe Biden was not rightfully elected and the American people were robbed of four more years under President Trump because of unconstitutional changes to the process,” Durant said Friday in a statement to AL.com. “The Democrats changing election laws and the liberal media’s cover up of Hunter Biden’s laptop scandal are just two examples of the many injustices against President Donald Trump in the 2020 elections. The Hunter Biden laptop issue alone is likely enough to have changed the outcome of the election. The media also failed to acknowledge the effectiveness of President Trump’s policies and instead took every opportunity to attack him.”
Stunning as it was to see Trump walk back his backing of a congressman long viewed as a staunch ally on election theft, Durant’s position change on the 2020 election is stunning in its reversal. During a 19-minute speech on Jan. 15 to the Republican Men’s Club in Huntsville, Durant didn’t even mention Trump’s name, much less delve into Trump’s insistence that the 2020 election was “rigged” so President Joe Biden would win.
There has been no proof of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.
Yet in the Capitol Journal interview last week, Durant said “voting integrity” first when asked about Alabama issues he saw as a Senate candidate.
“Voting integrity is, if not at the top of the list, is very near the top of the list,” Durant told host Todd Stacy. “The things that happened in 2020 cannot happen again. We were robbed of what I believe should have been President Trump’s second term. And we can’t let that happen again. We’ve got to fix that.”
Later in the interview, Stacy circled back to the issue of voting integrity and Durant’s description of the country being “robbed” of a second Trump administration. He asked Durant on what he was basing that assessment. Durant’s answer ranged from voting rule changes across the country — some due to COVID-19 — to the purported laptop story of Biden’s son Hunter that the media “buried” in an effort to aid Biden’s election.
None of Durant’s explanations, however, accounted for Biden improperly receiving votes or Trump improperly being denied votes.
“Changing the rules,” Durant said in response to Stacy’s question. “When you suddenly make voting by mail easier than showing up in person, that just begs for fraud. You can’t deny that. That’s why most voters, on both sides, believe voter ID is appropriate. Because we want everyone to be able to vote but they are supposed to be a legal citizen to vote. And if you can’t identify who’s voting or you don’t even know if they are the ones who filled out the ballot, how can you possibly argue that that is a valid vote? That’s the easiest one. In Pennsylvania, they extended the due date (for mail-in ballots, approved by a Republican legislature, to be received). All these things, changing the rules to basically help Joe Biden.
“And the final one that’s come out in the last few days is Hunter Biden’s laptop. That came out before the election. People who voted for Joe Biden, the report I read, 17% said they would have changed their vote if they thought that whole story was real. And it got buried and now it comes back to light as, ‘Oh, it was real.’ But now the election’s over. All those things together, I think, really cheated us as a nation out of who should be in the office right now and is not and we’re paying a heavy price for it.”
It’s not clear from Durant’s comments which report to which he was referring and if the 17% of voters who said they would have changed their vote would have affected the outcome of the election.
The laptop, which Hunter Biden is alleged to have owned at one time, reportedly would contain incriminating evidence via documents and emails to the president’s son regarding his overseas business dealings, including with an oil and gas company with ties to communist China. Hunter Biden has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
In an investigative report this week, The Washington Post found that a Chinese energy conglomerate and its executives paid $4.8 million to Hunter Biden over 14 months in 2016-2017. The Post also reported it found no evidence the president personally benefited from or knew details of the transactions, which occurred before he announced his candidacy for the White House.
Still, for Durant, not even mentioning Trump’s name during one January Huntsville speech to the assertion of the 2020 presidential election being “robbed” marked a sharp pivot on an issue that has divided the Republican Party.
And a departure in the answer he gave to the audience member days later at the Republican Women of Huntsville luncheon.
After saying there was no way to ever know if Trump won the election, Durant said it was “impossible to speculate” on the winner of the 2020 election. What was clear, however, was that Durant wanted Trump to win.
“I can tell you I wish he had won,” Durant said. “I think we would be in a lot better shape than we are right now. I voted for him both times. I think most people today who didn’t vote for him probably regret the fact that they did not. It’s impossible to speculate on whether he did or didn’t win with legitimate votes. But we all wish he did, no question about it.”