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The high costs of election denial

Former New York mayor and presidential attorney Rudy Giuliani does not have $148 million.

We know this because Giuliani has for some time been scrambling to manage his escalating debts, debts that include the rapidly increasing costs of the attorneys that he’s had to retain to defend him in court. One of his former attorneys is suing him for more than $1 million, but, given the events of the past 24 hours, that’s a relatively minor item among Giuliani’s problems.

On Friday afternoon — as you almost certainly already know — a jury determined that Giuliani should pay $148 million to two Georgia election workers who he’d repeatedly claimed had helped undermine the 2020 election in favor of Joe Biden over President Donald Trump. That amount is 100 times what he owes his attorney, all because Giuliani, in service to Trump’s efforts to retain power despite losing that election, insisted on disparaging Ruby Freeman and her daughter Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss. Freeman and Moss sought $48 million. The jury thought they were owed far more than that.

This massive penalty was modest compared to the settlement Fox News reached with Dominion Voting Systems because the channel’s hosts and guests repeatedly alleged that Dominion machines had facilitated election fraud. You’ll recall that in April, Fox agreed to pay more than $787 million, more than five times what Giuliani owes Freeman and Moss.

Others also have paid for backing Trump’s false claims of having won the 2020 election. Earlier this year, the Guardian tallied the fines and restitution amounts levied against those who participated in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. At that point, nearly $900,000 was demanded from riot defendants.

Combine those penalties, and the cost of Trump’s effort to retain power has cost his allies more than $936 million — without including attorney costs and other incidentals. Without including, too, the costs of the attorneys for the hundreds of other defendants in riot prosecutions, fake-elector cases or the indictments targeting Trump. Even without that, it’s an enormous amount of money, a sum that is hard for a normal person to grasp.

But let’s try.

It is an amount of money equivalent to collecting $2.79 from each of the United States’ 336 million-odd residents. Like having every person in the United States buy a McDonalds’ apple pie.

If we were to head to our local Bank of America and ask for $936 million in ones — perhaps giving the branch a heads-up on our request, just as a courtesy — the result would be a stack of bills that soared more than 63 miles into the sky. The boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space, known as the Karman line, sits 62 miles above Earth’s surface. So our stack of Trump penalties would extend 1.6 miles into space.

If we were instead to lay those bills end to end, they would wrap around the entire planet. And wrap around it again. And again. And then wrap around it nearly two-thirds of the way yet again.

If you started in D.C. and lined the bills up heading to the west, you’d go around the Earth three times and then end up near the Prime Meridian.

Of course, you’d have a bit of a problem just moving the bills around. The total would weigh about as much as 2½ Boeing 747s fueled for takeoff.

Perhaps this is still a bit hard to parse. If so, here’s another example.

The New York judge overseeing the fraud trial targeting Donald Trump for manipulating the value of his properties determined that Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort was worth as much $28 million — somewhat less than the $612 million claimed in Trump Organization financial documents. With nearly $937 million, you could buy the more-accurately-valued Mar-a-Lago more than 33 times over.

Moss and Freeman almost certainly will never receive $148 million from Rudy Giuliani. The number probably should be seen less as a windfall for them and more as a statement about the ramifications of Giuliani’s dishonesty. It is a robust statement, as is the cumulative toll incurred by those who worked to amplify or act on Trump’s dishonest claims about the 2020 election.

It does not seem, at this point, to be much of a deterrent for Trump. Of course, the final cost he incurs remains to be seen.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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