Trump’s efforts to deny Biden the White House traveled from the courts to state legislatures on Friday with Trump’s personal reception with Republican lawmakers from Michigan — and their counterparts in Pennsylvania may be next on the list.
But there were signs, even among Republicans, that Trump’s efforts need some evidence.
Importantly, they acknowledged there is no actual evidence of wrongdoing, a blow to a President and his allies who’ve been peddling baseless claims about fraud.
“Allegations of fraudulent behavior should be taken seriously, thoroughly investigated, and if proven, prosecuted to the full extent of the law. And the candidates who win the most votes win elections and Michigan’s electoral votes. These are simple truths that should provide confidence in our elections,” the Michigan lawmakers said.
Testing out loopholes
To succeed, Trump would need to bulldoze the Electoral College system. But for all the angst he’s sparked about a coup, the President doesn’t seem to have a plan so much as a shameless sense of entitlement to the White House. What he’s doing is exploiting loopholes and prying at technicalities to see if any of them will give.
He’s clearly trying to generate the heat and noise he craves. But he’s also casting about for an unexpected opening, as he’s done so many times before.
Trump, perhaps in a brief moment of reality, appeared to acknowledge his impending departure from the White House, implying that it will be up to the new administration to maintain the drug pricing rules he was announcing. But he quickly repeated during the same lie that he won the election, despite the results, and he promised, “We’ll find that out.”
But Michigan’s just the first part of Trump’s puzzle. Biden has 306 of the 538 available electoral votes, which means Trump would need to find a way to claw back 37 to bring Biden under the 270 normally needed to win. So he’d need to poach votes in at least three states where a majority of voters said Biden should be President.
The clear focus by the White House is on Michigan (16 electoral votes), Wisconsin (10 electoral votes) and Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes).
Overturning the results of one state’s election would be brazen and horrible enough. Overturning three would be a macabre triple Lindy.
That doesn’t mean Trump won’t try. Two sources tell CNN there are discussions currently underway with the President about inviting Republican state legislators from Pennsylvania to the White House. It’s not clear if those invitations have been extended yet, but Trump has expressed interest in doing so as he tries to insert himself into the vote certification process.
Legal experts have made clear that it would be incredibly difficult for Trump to hack any path from his current deficit to a second term.
For starters, they’ve pointed out that if Trump can get electoral votes thrown out or contested so that they’re not approved in Congress, it changes the 270 threshold and doesn’t necessarily gain Trump ground.
As Michael Morley, a professor of election law at Florida State University and a member of National Task Force on Election Crises, said, “In short, under any remotely plausible scenario, the election will be settled in the Electoral College without triggering a contingent election in the House.”
Read the fine print
As his effort to stay in the White House becomes more frantic, Trump’s continuing to ask for more money.
This money is not primarily geared at Trump’s legal efforts, but rather could fund Trump’s post-presidential political efforts.
That Trump’s adviser and aides are tacitly eyeing what comes next is not news, but the extent of his efforts to gum things up and make things more difficult for Biden continues to become clear.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, for instance, is defending a decision to claw back billions the government had given the Federal Reserve to help American small businesses. It’s a program more easily ended than spun back up. And while the move certainly creates political headaches for Biden, it’ll also have a negative impact on everyday Americans still living in a pandemic.
Biden moves forward with his Cabinet
Even if Trump continues to block a formal transition, Biden is carrying forward with his own preparations to take office. On Friday, his 78th birthday, he met in Wilmington, Delaware, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer.
What they’ll be able to accomplish on Capitol Hill and who Biden will be able to place in his Cabinet depends very much on who wins the twin Senate runoffs in Georgia on January 5, the day before Electoral College votes are counted on Capitol Hill.
Biden said he’s already selected his Treasury secretary, but will make the announcement in the coming week.
As Trump’s agitating leads him to darker, more dangerous places, the former vice president’s mandate has only grown. He had won nearly 80 million votes, as of Friday evening, which is more votes than any US presidential candidate in history by a considerable margin. Trump has received nearly 74 million votes.
“If there is any chance whatsoever that Joe Biden will be the next president, and it looks like he has a very good chance, the Trump administration should provide the Biden team with all transition materials, resources, and meetings necessary to ensure a smooth transition so that both sides are ready on day one,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman, who’s retiring at the end of this year.
“That especially should be true, for example, on vaccine distribution,” he added in his statement.
“I think that it’s time to move on,” 12-term Rep. Kay Granger of Texas said Friday when asked about Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results.
“I think it’s time for him to really realize and be very clear about what’s going on.”
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