The Morning Jolt

Elections

Where We’re at This Morning

Supporters of President Donald Trump hold placards at a “Stop the Steal” protest outside Milwaukee Central Count the day after all of Milwaukee County’s absentee ballots were counted, in Milwaukee, Wisc., November 5, 2020. (Bing Guan/Reuters)

On the menu today: If President Trump and his campaign have compelling evidence of an election being stolen, the venue for it is a courtroom, not angry tirades on social media or cable news; an update on the vote count; follow-ups on some of the intriguing news items from yesterday; and word of a potential dramatic turn of events overseas.

If You’ve Got Evidence of Election-Related Crimes, It’s Put Up or Shut Up Time

If you’re convinced that the election is being “stolen” through fraudulent votes or the destruction of legitimate ballots, you can post all you want on social media or maybe go on cable news and make accusations. But if you have witnessed a crime in the process of voting or vote-counting, you shouldn’t be trying to build your audience or brand; you should be going to law enforcement. Don’t take it from me, take it from Attorney General William Barr:

In consultation with federal prosecutors at the Public Integrity Section in Washington, D.C., the District Election Officers in U.S. Attorney’s Offices, FBI officials at headquarters in Washington, D.C., and FBI special agents serving as Election Crime Coordinators in the FBI’s 56 field offices will be on duty while polls are open to receive complaints from the public.

Election-crime complaints should be directed to the local U.S. Attorney’s Offices or the local FBI office.  A list of U.S. Attorney’s Offices and their telephone numbers can be found at http://www.justice.gov/usao/districts/.  A list of FBI offices and accompanying telephone numbers can be found at www.fbi.gov/contact-us.

Public Integrity Section prosecutors are available to consult and coordinate with the U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the FBI regarding the handling of election-crime allegations.

If “they’re trying to steal an election,” as the president claimed last night — on a scale large enough to overcome five-figure margins in most of these swing states —  the Trump campaign’s lawyers should be describing who is doing what, where, and when, in detail in their lawsuits and requests for injunctions. So far, they’re not doing this.

In Georgia, the Trump campaign argued that Chatham County had improperly counted 53 absentee ballots that arrived after the deadline. The Board of Registrars chairman and supervisor testified all the proper protocol had been followed regarding those ballots in question and time-stamped, indicating they had been submitted before the 7 p.m. deadline on Election Day. Superior Court judge James Bass concluded there was no evidence that the county had violated any state election laws.

In Michigan, the Trump campaign filed a suit seeking a halt to the vote count, contending that there weren’t enough poll challengers in place. (Poll challengers are different from poll watchers; poll watchers cannot challenge a person’s eligibility to vote or the actions of an elections inspector, but election challengers can.) Michigan Court of Claims judge Cynthia Stephens rejected the request on several grounds — local election officials had been instructed to allow the poll challengers; the complaint didn’t list specifically which local election officials who had been denied access, or when, or why; and the count was almost complete anyway. The judge called it a “hearsay affidavit.”

In Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign sought a halt in the count, on the basis that Republicans weren’t being allowed to observe the vote-counting process . . . when in fact they were:

U.S. District Court Judge Paul S. Diamond on Thursday denied the Trump campaign’s request to halt the count in Philadelphia, after a deal was struck to have 60 observers from each party observe the process.

Diamond sighed several times during the hearing and appeared exasperated when the Trump campaign, which claimed all Republican observers were being barred from the count, conceded that they had “a nonzero number of people in the room” where votes were being processed.

Maybe the Trump campaign has excellent lawyers, but right now, they look flailing and amateurish. One intriguing report in the New York Times stated that Jared “Kushner was making calls, looking for what he described as a ‘James Baker-like’ figure who could lead the legal effort to dispute the tabulations in different states, according to a person briefed on the discussions.” A “wartime consigliere” seems like the sort of key role you would want to have nailed down before Election Day, not after.

Do you know how James Baker got to be James Baker? He built up his credibility and stature and reputation as a reliable heavy hitter, respected by both sides, over decades. He worked hard, networked, prioritized maintaining working relationships, didn’t hold grudges, and saw the media as a beast to be fed and cajoled instead of an enemy. That philosophy is almost entirely absent from the Trump administration. If you don’t have time to read the new biography of Baker, read this book review. The only guy who’s even close to this kind of stature in the Trump orbit is Barr. Newt Gingrich and Chris Christie seem happy being pundits. John Bolton left the team.

Rudy Giuliani is making it up as he goes along, declaring at a press conference in Philadelphia on Wednesday, “we’ll do a national lawsuit and we’ll really expose the corruption of the Democrat Party.” What is a “national lawsuit”? Who is he going to sue? What’s the charge? What’s the evidence?

Remember, Barr just asked the entire country to report fraud to the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section and to U.S. Attorneys. There are mechanisms to address any and all allegations. “Holding press conferences” and “hyperventilate during Fox News hits” are not among them.

Donald Trump Jr. fumes that “the total lack of action from virtually all of the ‘2024 GOP hopefuls’ is pretty amazing.Brad Parscale made a similar complaint. What do they want the Nikki Haleys or Tom Cottons of the world to do? Tweet a lot? Go out and give an angry speech? None of that will change anything involving the vote-counting. If you want to change something — readmit ballots that were rejected, remove ballots you think are fraudulent — you need a judge’s order. If you want a judge to issue an order that changes how the votes are being counted, you have to persuade them with evidence.

If there’s such abundant evidence of manufacturing tens of thousands of votes, or destroying tens of thousands of legitimate votes, stop complaining on social media and put it before a judge.

And if you don’t have the evidence . . . stop going on television and making accusations that you can’t prove.

Where We Are . . .

  • North Carolina: Nothing’s changed since yesterday, with Trump ahead by 76,701 votes and Senator Thom Tillis leading by 96,707. The race has not been called because of the roughly 116,000 absentee ballots that remain. The remaining votes — which are statewide, and not concentrated in one partisan-learning area — would have to split astronomically in favor of the Democrats to overtake the Republican lead. If you’re concerned that Elaine Marshall, the North Carolina secretary of state, is a Democrat, know that her office does not have a role in counting the ballots. That is overseen by the N.C. State Board of Elections, which consists of three Democrat and two Republicans. Yesterday, Tillis issued a statement: “As he has said before, Senator Tillis has confidence in the absentee ballot process. He believes every legal vote should be counted, and that when they are, both he and President Trump will carry North Carolina.”

Follow-Ups

Yesterday I mentioned that the rumor that the use of Sharpie pens or felt-tip markers had invalidated ballots was baseless, with reports from several county officials. The state attorney general of Arizona, Mark Brnovich, investigated as well and declared last night, “Based on correspondence and conversations with Maricopa County officials, we are now confident that the use of Sharpie markers did not result in disenfranchisement for Arizona voters. We appreciate the county’s prompt insight and assurances to address public concerns.” Brnovich is a Republican. If there’s a vast effort that tried to get Republicans to use markers that would invalidate their ballots, he’s not going to avert his eyes or shrug it off.

Also yesterday, I laid out the steps the Republican secretary of state in Georgia was taking to ensure a fair and valid vote count, and added on Twitter, “Ask yourself if the GOP secretary of state would just shrug if there was evidence of fraud or mischief in the vote count.”

A few folks responded on Twitter that “Actually, establishment Republicans would do it in a second to stick it to Trump” and “You’re assuming that because he’s a Republican he would support Trump? For elected officials these days that’s very often not true.” (Notice I didn’t say “support Trump,” I said, “shrug if there was evidence of fraud or mischief in the vote count.” — i.e., not do his job as state attorney general of enforcing election laws.)

If you’re a Trump fan and you don’t trust a Republican Secretary of State’s assessment of whether election laws were followed . . . whom do you trust? Just who’s left?

At some point, in a system of free and fair elections, somebody who is outside your tribe of loyalists has to sign off the process as well. Functioning as a free society requires a lot of people who think differently to work together. If you regard every single person who is not a known and outspoken member of your faction as a likely duplicitous and untrustworthy agent of the enemy, you might as well start looking for the Cigarette-Smoking Man managing the ever-expanding conspiracy working against you.

. . . Remember what I said yesterday about how the GOP’s gains in the House of Representative might bring them eye-poppingly close to a majority? Right now on Politico’s map, the Republicans have 193 seats, and lead in 21 more that have yet to be called. That adds up to 214 seats — just four seats short of a majority.

Sometimes I’m Right, and I Just Don’t Know It Yet

Jim’s wacky predictions for the year 2019, posted back on December 28, 2018: “Vladimir Putin will deny rumors of serious health issues.” By the end of last year, that looked like a wacky prediction that represented an overreaction to persistent but never-verified rumors of Putin secretly having significant health problems.

The New York Post, yesterday: “Vladimir Putin is planning to step down next year as speculation swirls in Russia that the longtime president may have Parkinson’s disease, a report said Thursday.

ADDENDA: Thanks to everyone who tuned in for the Heritage Foundation event yesterday! I understand it may air on C-SPAN at some point; if that comes to pass, I will let you know.

Also yesterday, I had a chance to chat with our old friend Jonah Goldberg on The Remnant podcast!  Fewer Ted Cruz impressions, more Donald Trump impressions this time.