WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump and his allies are taking increasingly insane steps to stifle the 2020 election results as part of a long shot to manipulate Joe Biden’s victory.
Among other final tactics: personally calling local election officials trying to withdraw their certification votes in Michigan, suggesting in a legal challenge that Pennsylvania should set aside the popular vote there and delay county officials in Arizona from verifying the vote.
Election legal experts see this as the last, dying gap in the Trump campaign, and Biden’s move into the Oval Office in January is a foregone conclusion. But there is a lot of concern that the Trump effort is causing real damage to public confidence in the integrity of the U.S. election.
“Some Republicans clearly don’t realize the possibility of losing legally in this election,” said Joshua Douglas, a law professor at the University of Kentucky who researches and teaches election law.
“We rely on the rules of democracy and the losers kindly accept defeat,” he said. “It feels like it’s breaking down.”
Trump’s own election security agency has declared the 2020 presidential election the safest in history. A few days after that statement was issued, Trump fired the agency leader.
Increasingly desperate and erratic movements have no reasonable chance of changing the 2020 election results, where Biden received more votes than any other presidential candidate in history and secured the 270 electoral college votes needed to win.
But the president’s baseless arguments, his efforts to personally oust local officials from verifying the votes, and his allies’ refusal to admit that he lost are likely to have a lasting negative impact on the country. The forces of his supporters do not believe that he was defeated.
“Half of the country is trying to create conditions where they believe there are only two chances, they won or the election was stolen,” said Justin Levitt, a constitutional jurist and professor at the Loyola Law School. “And that’s not democracy.”
Two GOP canvassers in Wayne County, Michigan, said in a statement late Wednesday that they do not believe the election was fair and impartial. “There is a clear lack of transparency throughout the process,” they said. But election officials said there was no evidence of irregularities or fraud in Michigan.
Trump’s allies in Michigan and a few other states in Election Night took the presidential lead early, then slipped as the votes came in, citing evidence of something malicious.
The massive influx of mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus epidemic largely favored Biden, who encouraged his supporters to vote by mail and those votes were finally counted. So there seemed to be an edge when Trump really didn’t.
In fact, according to unofficial results, Biden crushed Trump 2-1 in Wayne County, the Democratic stronghold that holds Detroit on its way to victory over Michigan by 154,000 votes.
Earlier this week, two Republicans’ canvassers in the county blocked the verification of votes there. They later repented and the results were confirmed. One person familiar with the matter, however, said Trump reached out to canvassers, Monica Palmer and William Hartmann on Tuesday evening, thanking them for their support after the revised vote. Then, on Wednesday, Palmer and Hartman signed affidavits believing the county vote “should not be verified.”
According to the Secretary of State for Michigan they cannot cancel their votes. The four-member state canvassing board is scheduled to meet Monday, also divided by two Democrats and two Republicans.
Trump appears intent on pushing the issue forward. He invited Michigan Republican lawmakers, Senate Majority Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield to the White House, two officials who are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. According to an official, the two agreed to go, but they did not comment publicly and it was not clear what the purpose of the meeting was.
He called on the Michigan Legislature to elect voters if Trump succeeds in convincing the state canvass board not to certify Biden’s victory in the state with 154,000 votes. But the two legislators suggested that Biden should not try to manipulate the victory.
“The Michigan law does not provide for the legislature to directly elect voters or award voters other than the person who received the most votes,” a Shirkie spokesman said last week.
Speaking at a news conference Thursday in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden said Americans were “witnessing unbelievable irresponsibility and sending incredibly harmful messages to the rest of the world about how democracy works.”
“I think it’s completely irresponsible,” he said.
Senator Mitt Romney, one of Trump’s most vocal GOP critics, has accused Trump of resorting to “public pressure on state and local officials to suppress the will of the people and manipulate elections.” Romney said, “It’s hard to imagine a worse, undemocratic act by a sitting American president.”
A few hours earlier, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others held a press conference accusing him of plotting a democratic election involving multiple states and suspicious voting machines. But election officials across the country have repeatedly said there was widespread fraud.
There have been a lot of fraud allegations from poll watchers who have filed affidavits, including lawsuits, in battlefield states aimed at delaying vote verification. Those affidavits fall into fraudulent and unsupported references.
For example, they refer to suitcases at the polling station, but do not indicate that ballots can be counted in secret. There have been allegations of ballot duplication – which usually happens when the ballot is physically damaged. There are probably arguments that biased poll viewers are too far away to notice well and therefore something can fish. But they have no proof. Poll viewers have no auditing role in elections; They are volunteer observers.
Giuliani was quoted in some affidavits as saying that he had shown a widespread democratic conspiracy, but that he could not reveal much evidence. He cites Jesse Jacob, a city employee in Detroit who saw Biden and other workers coaching voters to cast ballots for Democrats.
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The judge, who declined to rule on the verification of the Detroit-Area results, said Jacob’s arguments did not include “date, position, frequency, frequency or employee names” and that she came forward only after unofficial results that Biden had won Michigan.
Jenna Ellis, Trump’s legal adviser to Giuliani, said more evidence was coming and that Trump’s allies would be more successful in moving the courts forward. But so far, most of their legal actions have been dismissed.
Trump administration election official Chris Krebs fired back last week over comments he made about 2020 security: “That press conference is the most dangerous 1 hour and 45 minute television in American history. And maybe crazy. ”
Senator Ben Sass, R-Neb., Tweeted: “Rudy and his friends should not force voters to neglect their certification obligations under the statute. We are a country of laws, not tweets. ”
In Pennsylvania, where Trump is campaigning for the election results in federal court, the Giuliani-led legal team indicated in a filing Wednesday that the judge should order the Republican-led state legislature to elect representatives to the Electoral College and vote for Trump to throw out 20 in the state. A judge dismissed the explicit hearing in the case.
In Arizona, the Republican Party is pressuring county officials to delay verifying the results. The GOP lost a bid Thursday to postpone certification in Maricopa County, the most populous state in the state. In northwestern Arizona, Mohawk County officials have postponed their certification until next week.
Judge John Hanna ruled without explanation except to prevent the party from refilling the case. The judge promised to give a full explanation in the future.
Maricopa County officials are expected to confirm the election results Friday.
Biden won Arizona by more than 10,000 votes, with Maricopa County topping him. In the weekend after the election the county performed a hand count of some ballots, showing that its machine counts were 100% accurate. The same was found on Wednesday during post-general election accuracy tests.
In Georgia, while officials were auditing the results of the presidential race, Trump repeatedly attacked the process, calling it “a joke.”
He repeatedly argued that Georgia election officials could not verify signatures on ballot envelopes that were not present. Of course, Georgia should check them out.
The Associated Press on Thursday night called Biden the winner of Georgia and its 16 election votes.
A Georgia election official said Thursday that the number of ballots cast in the presidential race was complete, confirming Biden’s narrow majority over Trump. The Secretary of State is scheduled to release the audit results later Thursday.
During the hand count, several counties found previously unaccounted ballots, reducing Secretary of State Biden’s lead to just 13,000 votes, with about 5 million votes cast. Georgia law allows the applicant to request within two working days of certification if the margin is less than 0.5 percentage points. That recount is done using machines.
Eggert reported from Lansing. Associated Press authors Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston, Kate Brumbach and Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta, Alexandra Jaff in Wilmington and Jacques Billide in Phoenix contributed to the report.