Trump set to woo top Michigan Republicans to help subvert the election
Michigan's top two Republican legislators are due at the White House on Friday afternoon. It's the most tangible intensification yet of President Trump's crusade to subvert democracy by soiling, but almost certainly not reversing, the election he lost.
The topic of the meeting is clear. The president wants to learn how far the lawmakers are willing to go to delay and discredit if not upend the clear result in the state: Voters preferred President-elect Joe Biden by more than 154,000 votes and he secured its 16 electoral votes by 3 percentage points.
Thirteen days after sufficient votes were tallied to make Biden's national victory clear, the top Republican leadership in Congress remains unified in indulging the president's effort, although a growing number of respected members of the rank-and-file are signaling it's time for Trump to permit the transition to begin.
The Michigan legislators, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, are being whipsawed by both sides. Protesters bearing "Respect the Vote" and "Protect Democracy" placards greeted them as they boarded their flights and were on hand at airports in Washington. But their offices were also being deluged by emails and phone calls from Trump supporters urging they intervene on the president's behalf.
The state this week became the clear focus of the president's unprecedented effort, which essentially boils down to getting Republican-run governments in swing states he lost to disregard the popular vote and appoint Trump-friendly electors. Efforts are underway to plant the seeds for such unheard-of moves in Pennsylvania, Arizona and Georgia.
The plot looks destined to be futile but could still keep on his side the many millions of Republican voters who believe his totally evidence-free assertion that he's being robbed of a second term by pervasive election fraud.
Trump's own election security agency last week labeled the 2020 election the most secure in history; the head of the agency was fired days later. Biden has received more votes than any other presidential candidate in history, 79.7 million and counting, and nothing so far has discredited his claim to 306 electoral votes.
Biden told reporters Thursday that Americans are "witnessing incredible irresponsibility, incredibly damaging messages are being sent to the rest of the world about how democracy functions."
Republicans slipping further outside from the high wall of Trump appeasement in the past two days were led by Sen. Mitt Romeny of Utah, the GOP nominee eight years ago, who derided the president's efforts to put "overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election."
He added: "It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President."
Recently re-elected Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa described as "outrageous" the conspiracy theories Trump's legal team has been spinning as part of its efforts. Retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a former member of the leadership, said it was time to give Biden's team access to policies and information, particularly on coronavirus vaccine distribution — "to ensure a smooth" transfer of power."
Two former chairmen of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, Greg Walden of Oregon and Fred Upton of Michigan, said they viewed Biden's election as beyond doubt.
An ad hoc bipartisan group of former senior government officials, dubbed the National Council on Election Integrity, announced a $2 million buy Friday for a 30-second ad urging Trump to begin cooperating with the Biden transition.
"Our adversaries aren't waiting. The coronavirus isn't waiting. The economy isn't waiting. America shouldn't have to wait either," it says. "The result is clear. It's time to move forward and get to work."
If the Michigan Legislature names GOP electors, "there would be rioting in the streets in Michigan and throughout the country. It would be an actual attempted coup, to subvert American democracy," Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, wrote Thursday. "And of course flipping Michigan would not be enough to change the electoral college outcome. Trump would have to flip three states. By then there would be full scale civil unrest in the United States."
"We should worry because this is profoundly antidemocratic and is delegitimizing the victory of Joe Biden in a free and fair election," he said. "But it is extremely unlikely to lead to any different result for president."
Many Trump voters say they view the election as fishy because of something the nation was warned about for weeks ahead of Election Day — a so-called red mirage: The president's solid leads that night, fueled by his reliance on getting out the in-person vote Nov. 3, evaporated when election officials turned their attention to counting mailed ballots, which went overwhelmingly for Biden.
Michigan's canvassing board, two Democrats and two Republicans, is set to meet Monday to finalize the election result. If it deadlocks and fails to certify Biden's victory, state judges would likely order the panel to do so. If that does not happen, and the count remains unfinalized, the Legislature would be called on to select electors.
In Pennsylvania, a legal team led by Rudy Giuliani suggested in a federal court filing Wednesday that the Republican-led General Assembly be assigned to pick the state's slate of 20 electors. In Arizona, with 11 electoral votes now in Biden's column and a GOP-run statehouse, party officials are pursuing several avenues to delay the process. In Georgia, where Biden's victory entitling him to 16 electoral votes was set to be certified Friday afternoon by GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the Trump team has not yet homed in on a strategy.
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