Elections

Trump’s Disgraceful Gambit

President Donald Trump delivers an update on the Operation Warp Speed program in an address from the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, D.C., November 13, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

The Rudy Giuliani–led press conference at the RNC yesterday was the most outlandish and irresponsible performance ever by a group of lawyers representing a president of the United States.

If Giuliani’s charge of a “national conspiracy” to produce fraudulent votes in Democratic cities around the country wasn’t far-fetched enough, attorney Sidney Powell ratcheted it up with the allegation that Communist-designed election machinery was used to change the vote from a Trump landslide to a narrow Biden victory. An obvious question is why, if you can manipulate the vote count via machine, you’d need to bother with old-fashioned fraudulent ballots. Powell’s story is that the surprisingly strong Trump turnout “broke the algorithm” of the corrupted machines, and then the fraudulent ballots were desperately hauled in to make up the difference.

This is lawyering worthy of the comments section of Breitbart News.

If there’s serious evidence for any of this, Giuliani and co. need to produce it immediately. Waving around affidavits at a press conference without allowing anyone to examine them doesn’t count.

The claims by the Trump team and its allies in court have been as far-reaching as possible and still haven’t come close to supporting the kind of feverish charges made yesterday afternoon. These cases have been dismissed or were whittled down until, as Andy McCarthy has noted, in Pennsylvania the Trump team isn’t even challenging enough ballots to come within hailing distance of overturning Joe Biden’s 83,000-vote lead — although we understand that the team is now attempting to file yet another amended complaint that would revive previously abandoned fraud charges and add still more.

The same is true in Michigan. Since courts generally won’t consider fraud claims that don’t involve enough votes to make a difference in an outcome, this is a major blow against the Trump litigation strategy. Giuliani tried to spin the Trump team’s withdrawal of its suit in Michigan as a big win — the litigation, in his telling, is no longer necessary because the team got the remedy it was seeking, namely a delay in the certification of the vote in Wayne County. In reality, the Wayne County vote was certified earlier in the week, even if the two Republicans on the board of canvassers now say they regret their vote.

This magazine has always taken voter fraud seriously, and we hope that any that occurred in this election is exposed and prosecuted. But it’s important to recognize that the broad contours of the 2020 presidential vote make sense. At the RNC press conference, Giuliani made much of how the count switched against Trump after he established initial leads on Election Night in key states. Yet this was expected and a function of the fact that same-day ballots strongly favoring Republicans were counted first, and early votes strongly favoring Democrats were counted last.

Across the country, the basic picture is the same, without any notable anomalies — Trump excelled in rural areas, got wiped out in urban areas but often by slightly smaller margins than in 2016, and lost soundly in suburban counties, which proved decisive.

As for the Dominion voting machines that Powell has been inveighing against, Georgia used them this year, and there’s no indication whatsoever that they contributed to significant mistakes, let alone that they were part of a vast plot to steal the election. Voters use the machine to register their choices, then a paper copy of the votes is printed and scanned. This paper record is what was used in Georgia’s hand recount, which has now been completed. It found no major discrepancies (Trump picked up several hundred votes owing to errors in several localities but still trails by more than 12,000). A Trump-appointed judge just dismissed a Republican suit to block the certification of Georgia’s election.

Getting nowhere in court, the White House appears to be shifting to a political strategy based on blocking the certification of results and getting state legislatures to appoint Trump electors in states Trump lost. This is a profoundly undemocratic gambit that, if it were to enjoy any success, would precipitate a major constitutional crisis. The Constitution gives state legislatures the power to appoint electors, but it has been the norm for legislatures to appoint those electors on the basis of state elections for about 200 years. For any legislature to turn around now — solely because its party’s candidate lost and refuses to accept the result — and appoint electors in defiance of the public will would lack all legitimacy. It’d also be legally dubious, at best, to bypass state laws establishing elections as the mechanism for selecting presidential electors.

The most obvious way to prevent this travesty is for Republican state legislators to continue to reject it, the way almost all have done to this point. But they haven’t yet experienced a potential full-court press from Trump and his supporters (the Republican leaders of the Michigan state senate and house have been summoned to a White House meeting today). It’s also important for Republican senators to speak out against this effort and make it clear that they won’t stand for it when it comes time for Congress to consider electors. Finally, it’d be best of all if the president reconsidered going down this route.

He’s turning a narrow election defeat into a bid for infamy.

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