Trump’s Election Interference Continues

The phone tour continues.

“President Donald J. Trump in the Oval Office” by The White House

Via WaPo: Trump asks Pennsylvania House speaker for help overturning election results, personally intervening in a third state.

President Trump called the speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives twice during the past week to make an extraordinary request for help reversing his loss in the state, reflecting a broadening pressure campaign by the president and his allies to try to subvert the 2020 election result.

The calls, confirmed by House Speaker Bryan Cutler’s office, make Pennsylvania the third state where Trump has directly attempted to overturn a result since he lost the election to former vice president Joe Biden. He previously reached out to Republicans in Michigan, and on Saturday he pressured Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) in a call to try to replace that state’s electors.

[…]

“The president said, ‘I’m hearing about all these issues in Philadelphia, and these issues with your law,’ ” said Cutler spokesman Michael Straub, describing the House speaker’s two conversations with Trump. “ ’What can we do to fix it?’ ”

On the one hand, this is all moot. Team Trump’s legal challenges have been futile. To date, they have lost close to 50 cases in the last month or so across the country, winning only one minor procedural case. It cannot be emphasized enough that the reason they are losing these cases is that they have presented zero evidence to back their claims. This is obvious if one reads their briefs and it is obvious in the clear and strident ways that the courts have responded to those briefs.

Further, under federal law today is “safe harbor” day as it pertains to the Electoral College. Via Reuters:

“Safe harbor” day is a deadline, set by a U.S. law from 1887, for states to certify the results of the presidential election. Meeting the deadline is not mandatory but it provides assurance that a state’s results will not be second-guessed by Congress.

Although, a process to object to slates of electors during the counting in January still remains an option. (This is discussed in the linked piece for those who are interested).

On the other hand, it remains a historic low point in the democratic process to have the president calling up state-level officials and asking them to disenfranchise the voters of their states.

To be pedantic for a moment: Trump, like any other candidate, has every right to pursue legitimate claims of fraud and irregularities in court. But fears, fantasies, and phantasms are not grounds for overturning electoral results. And people making assertions on TV are not evidence (nor are affidavits). People can say all kinds of things, but ultimately there is either evidence and a case to be made, or there is not.

Trump and his enablers are engaging in fantasy for their own various ends, and in doing so are convincing a lot of people to have less faith in our democratic processes. This is not healthy for our long-term ability to govern.

The fabrications and fabulations are painful in their audacity.

Trump stoked those flames Saturday at a rally for two Republican Senate candidates in Georgia, where he ranted for an hour and 40 minutes almost exclusively about fraud.

“We will find that hundreds of thousands of ballots were illegally cast in your state and all over the country, by the way, more than enough to give us a total historic victory,” Trump said. “This is our country . . . they are trying to take it from us through rigging, fraud, deception and deceit.”

No, we won’t find that. There is no evidence of that. There is no reason to believe any of this. And yet, the man is willing to use the power and prestige of his office, and his position as head of his political party, to encourage his followers to believe lies.

This is not just about the moral outrage alone, or abstract harm to democracy, there are also potential other consequences:

Trump’s continued embrace of such rhetoric has prompted fresh alarm among Democrats and some Republicans, who fear that the president is inciting violence. And while his efforts to overturn the result are widely viewed as fruitless, many officials said they are distressed at the lasting harm they believe he is doing to public faith in U.S. elections.

The false narrative “gets people to a place where they are now livid because they believe that their democracy has been ripped away from them and that the election has actually been stolen,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D). “And it causes them to commit these desperate acts.”

In truth, the dissemination of lies linked to grievance can very much lead to radicalization and political violence. Trump is very much playing with fire to stoke his own fragile ego.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, US Politics, Voting
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. grumpy realist says:

    Don’t forget he’s found the magic method to separate the rubes from their money: claim how “unfair” everything is, wave a handful of “enemies” at your marks, then tell them you need money for the lawsuits. Everybody knows how expensive lawyers are, so open the wallet….

    The advantage is that the money will end up in the pockets of the Russian mafia (or whoever Trump owes that nearly-one-billion to) and won’t be used elsewhere for future political activity.

    You suckers. And no, I don’t feel sorry for you. You’re the idiots who have chosen to believe the con man.

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  2. Kathy says:

    There are many reasons why Trump, as well as many in his family and cabinet and staff, ought to be investigated and prosecuted. But this is the most important one.

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  3. gVOR08 says:

    What @Kathy: says. IANAL but can he not be indicted for this on the afternoon of Jan 21?

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  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Freedom of speech. Making phone calls and spouting whatever idiocy that enters his brain falls under that rubric.

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  5. drj says:

    @Kathy:

    There are many reasons why Trump, as well as many in his family and cabinet and staff, ought to be investigated and prosecuted. But this is the most important one.

    I’m pretty sure that making up harmful shit is not illegal.

    This should be a reminder of the importance of norms in any well-functioning society. If the norms go, the law is an – at best – imperfect fallback: if the law needs to get involved, shit has already hit the fan. Good luck putting it back.

    In other words, if the norms against playing with fire disappear, it’s not hard to imagine what will inevitably happen.

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  6. Kathy says:

    @drj:

    I understand that. I don’t suggest he be prosecuted for his actions of the past month, but I’m sure there’s a whole lot more he can be charged with, like the campaign finance violations we know he committed with Cohen, the obstruction in the Russia investigation, etc.

    The point is he should pay a price for all that.

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  7. drj says:

    @Kathy:

    but I’m sure there’s a whole lot more he can be charged with, like the campaign finance violations

    While I’d love to see the orange fucker in a matching orange jumpsuit, I’d still be disappointed to see someone who actively subverted democracy (in addition to selling out his country to a bunch of Russian thugs) be only locked up for doing shady things with money.

    The punishment would not fit the crime.

    As is often the case, the law cannot restore what was broken.

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  8. Joe says:

    And people making assertions on TV are not evidence (nor are affidavits).

    To be pedantic for another moment, affidavits are evidence, but in this case they are not credible evidence.

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  9. DrDaveT says:

    @drj:

    While I’d love to see the orange fucker in a matching orange jumpsuit, I’d still be disappointed to see someone who actively subverted democracy (in addition to selling out his country to a bunch of Russian thugs) be only locked up for doing shady things with money.

    As with Al Capone, sometimes you have to settle for “locked up”.

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  10. SC_Birdflyte says:

    In my dream of a new civil rights bill that would establish rules for conduct of federal elections, one provision I would like to see would be a section that criminalizes willful, persistent efforts to overturn the state-certified vote counts in elections for President and Congress.

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  11. @Joe: Fair point. I really meant something along the lines of “affidavits aren’t facts.”

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  12. Paine says:

    Texas is suing Wisconsin, Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, arguing Texas votes are being diluted by sloppy vote counting in those four states:

    The state of Texas, aiming to help President Donald Trump upend the results of the U.S. election, said on Tuesday it has filed suit against the states of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin at the Supreme Court, calling changes they made to election procedures amid the coronavirus pandemic unlawful.

    https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-election-lawsuit-texas/texas-asks-u-s-supreme-court-to-help-trump-upend-election-idUSKBN28I27M

    I don’t for a second think that Ken Paxton is acting independently here. Most likely this lawsuit was coordinated with the trump campaign and national GOP to buy some time and get the case to SCOTUS.

    Elsewhere, Arizona GOP officials are calling for Arizonans to die for Trump’s cause. By all means, knock yourself out.

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  13. Joe says:

    @Paine:
    Lawsuits between states are one of the few instances where the Supreme Court has “original jurisdiction.” It’s where the suit starts and the Supreme Court can sit as a trier of fact. At one level this is a clever move to get the case in front of the Court. But my quick take is that it is a loser because the Constitution allows each state to set its own rules and Texas gets Texas’s electoral votes, no more and no less. I think this is a fascinating speed bump.

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  14. drj says:

    @DrDaveT:

    As with Al Capone, sometimes you have to settle for “locked up”.

    Oh, I totally agree. One has to do what one can.

    But locking up Trump won’t fix the mess he created.

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  15. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Paine:

    Elsewhere, Arizona GOP officials are calling for Arizonans to die for Trump’s cause. By all means, knock yourself out.

    Given the number GOP members who have contracted and succumbed to covid, they are on it.

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  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    Trump is scared to death. A panicky psychopath is a very dangerous creature. There’s literally nothing he won’t stoop to. Be thankful that he’s lazy and stupid.

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  17. Kathy says:

    @Paine:
    @Joe:

    I wonder if he even has any legal standing. The counting of votes in one state have zero bearing in the counting of other states.

    Of course, if Texas, and the states being sued, were part of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact…

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  18. DrDaveT says:

    @drj:

    But locking up Trump won’t fix the mess he created.

    That’s because Trump didn’t create it. He’s the symptom, not the disease. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t lance the boil, but don’t expect that to cure your sepsis.

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  19. ptfe says:

    @Joe: What a fecking waste of time. The GOP won’t vote to give a public dollar to a starving man on the street because he’s morally reprehensible in his poverty, but it will flush millions of public dollars down the toilet in the vain hopes that an incompetent conman will be able to give them tax breaks in between self-dealing rounds of golf for another four years.

    Can we collectively counter-sue these assholes out of every penny of their worth for bringing frivolous lawsuits?

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  20. Kylopod says:

    @drj:

    locking up Trump won’t fix the mess he created.

    But it will at least send a signal that the numerous crimes he committed won’t be tolerated. Which is why it’s sad that it’s unlikely he’ll ever be locked up.

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  21. KM says:

    @Joe:
    The SC would be out of its mind to take the case.

    Rule against Trump and watch the MAGAts foam, possibly turn violent as their last good option turns away. That’s the good outcome. The bad one is setting the precedent that one state can screw with another’s election process…. and it *will* be precedent no matter how much they whine it won’t be. NY and CA would than be able to sue every red state for voter suppression “changes to election procedures ” and invalidate them. ND and MO can sue PA and FL if they don’t stay red – clearly fraudulent ballots involved!! There’s no way in hell you’d be able to put the genie back in the bottle if the SC decides 49 others states can tell the 50th one what their vote is, especially on flimsy “evidence”.

    The SC is being set up to take the ultimate fall. Everybody’s pushing off responsibility for his loss and you can only kick the can for so long. Eventually you run out of road….

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  22. CSK says:

    Alito just squashed the hopes and dreams of the Pennsylvania GOP.

    The Trumpkins are gonna be in a rage.

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  23. Kylopod says:

    @CSK: The irony is that the Trumpkins are now going to attack him as a RINO, even though he and Thomas are almost certainly still the most extreme and nakedly partisan justices on the Court, more than any of the Trump appointees.

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  24. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:
    So far, they seem to be blaming this on Roberts, who is their favorite SCOTUS whipping boy.

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  25. Jax says:

    @CSK: So’s Trump. I mean, as far as he’s concerned those justices are bought and paid for, fair and square! How dare they (gasp) uphold the LAW when they OWE him?! I wonder how many times he’s asked if he can “un-nominate” them….. 😐

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  26. CSK says:

    @Jax:
    Well, Alito was nominated by George W. Bush, and has been on the court since 2005, so…

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  27. Jax says:

    @CSK: He’ll be a RINO soon, I’m sure. Hmmm….it would be great if some Proud Boys could protest his house, so he gets a taste for what it’s like to cross the Orange Man….might lead to fewer speeches like Alito gave, what was it, last week? Feels like last year, but time flies when you’re watching an entire party try to throw an election.

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  28. CSK says:

    @Jax:
    Well, it will be a much bigger deal for Trump that he got stabbed in the back by Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett. Particularly Barrett. He put her on the court precisely to keep this situation from happening. And she turned on him, the ungrateful hussy.

    Wait till the court refuses to hear the Texas lawsuit. The screams of outrage and anguish will be deafening.

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  29. Jax says:

    @CSK: I about fell out of my chair at “ungrateful hussy”, thanks for that. 😉

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  30. CSK says:

    @Jax:
    You’re welcome. I’ll try to work “trollop” and “chippy” into my future comments, if you like.

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  31. David S. says:

    I’m curious what others think about creating a category of crime called “crimes against democracy” in the same vein as “against humanity”. I’m honestly not sure what form it would take: it makes some sense at an international level, but also implies an uncomfortable degree of meddling (and ineffectualness) in sovereign affairs, and also doesn’t make sense to broadly apply against explicitly non-democratic states.

    It makes more sense at the nation-level, though it’d be impossible to legislate the detail after ratification, but if a new constitution was being written tomorrow, I’d be tempted to suggest creating such a category for exactly the kind of things the Repubs have been doing: deliberately undermining public trust without evidence, breaking representativeness in electoral bodies (e.g., gerrymandering, grandfather clauses, et. al.), baselessly attacking electoral processes, etc.

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  32. CSK says:

    @David S.:
    It sounds like Trump’s favorite accusation of “enemies of the state.”

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