U.S. experts and the media named Joe Biden the winner of the U.S. presidential election almost two weeks ago, but Donald Trump still finds himself admitting defeat. Does the incumbent president have a plan to change the voting result?
Trump’s attempts to challenge the election results have failed in courts across the country. The headquarters of the republican candidate has not yet won a single significant legal victory because it has failed to provide evidence of mass fraud, although it has filed several dozen lawsuits.
His personal lawyer, former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, said Thursday that headquarters is dropping the lawsuits in the state of Michigan, where Biden won with over 160,000 votes.
Biden’s victory was officially confirmed in Georgia on Friday, preceded by a manual recount of nearly 5 million ballots. The overweight of the Democrat candidate was about 12 thousand votes.
Trump has fewer and fewer chances to stay in the White House, and the president seems to have chosen a new strategy by which he hopes to turn the election results in his favor. This is no longer a battle in the courts, which from the beginning had little chance of success, but a more long-term political gambit.
Strategy Trump: step-by-step instruction
This is what he hopes to do:
Block the process of official evaluation of elections in as many states as possible: by means of lawsuits and by convincing Republican officials to vote against. In states where the legislature controls the Republicans and where Biden won with little advantage, convince local congressmen that the vote should be rejected because it was accompanied by massive violations. Then invite these legislatures to send a panel of voters who will vote for Trump, not Biden, during the formal presidential election on December 14. Do that in sufficient numbers of states, such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, to increase Trump's electorate from the current 232 to the 270 needed to win. This strategy may work even if both candidates gain an equal number of votes, since then the fate of the White House will be decided by the House of Representatives. Although the Democrats have a majority in it, Republicans can count on an advantage because of the specific rules of such voting.
What is Trump doing to implement this scenario?
It puts pressure on people who have the potential to influence how voters from a particular state are appointed.
In the U.S. presidential election, residents actually vote at the level of their state, not the entire federation. They vote for voters, who must then support one of the presidential candidates. Usually, these electors give preference to those for whom the majority of voters have voted. Say, in Michigan they should be for Biden, because he was the one who won more votes than Trump.
On Monday, the Michigan Election Commission should hold a meeting, with two Republicans and two Democrats as members. They must formally certify the election results and confirm that Biden will receive 16 votes from that state.
Trump’s first signs of pressure on state officials to ignore the election results came when his phone call to the Michigan Republican Election Commission became known. They initially refused to officially certify the election results in Detroit, the state’s largest city.
Of the thousands of similarly small republican officials across the country, these two were chosen to talk to the president – a fact that is hard to call ordinary. In the end, these officials changed their mind and decided to certify the election results, but then, when they talked to Trump, they expressed regret that they had changed their mind.
These first signs formed a strategy when the leaders of the Republican Party faction in the Michigan legislature accepted the president’s invitation to visit the White House on Friday. After that meeting, they said they had not received information that would force them to change the state election results.
There were other reports that the president was trying to find other ways to influence the legislative bodies of the most important states for him to review and possibly change the results of the elections held there.
Usually, the procedure of summing up the results of state elections by representatives of the Democratic and Republican parties is a simple formality. But now it has become the most important link in the president’s attempts to maintain power for the next four years.
Can Trump be successful?
It is not impossible, but there are very few chances. First, the president would have to change the election results in several states at once, where Biden’s advantage ranges from tens of thousands of votes to more than 100 thousand. This is not the year 2000, when everything was decided in Florida alone.
Moreover, many of Trump’s states (Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Nevada) have elected democratic governors, and they will not stand idly by.
For example, in Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer may resign from the current election committee and appoint a new committee that will assure Biden of victory.
Democratic governors can also name their own constituents supporting Biden, who will also go to the college and compete with Trump’s constituents there. In that case, it will be up to Congress to decide which of them is considered legitimate representatives of the state.
All this does not mean that Biden’s supporters are not afraid of anything. Of course, this development is likely to be about the same as the Earth’s collision with a huge asteroid, or the lightning strike of a man who just won the lottery. But changing the winner of the presidential election at this stage can become such a huge political cataclysm that the very thought of even the theoretical possibility of such a development does not let the Democrats sleep well.
Is this strategy even legal?
Almost the entire period of his tenure in the White House of Donald Trump violated the norms and traditions of presidential behavior that had existed before. It seems that his last days in office will not be an exception.
The fact that Trump is putting pressure on election officials is not necessarily a violation of the law, although it is fair to call it unprecedented and ambiguous.
In the early years of the U.S., state legislatures had broad powers to appoint their electorate, and the constitution still does not require that voting results be followed. Since then, states have generally elected the president according to the will of their voters, but the original system remains unchanged.
If the president can be persuaded to take certain actions by lawmakers in states like Michigan, the Democrats will of course respond with legal action. But laws – at the state level as well as the entire federation – do not provide a clear answer to many questions, especially since these questions have rarely been considered in courts.
Can states retroactively change the laws governing elections? It is possible. But the final decision will be made by the courts.
Has anyone tried to do something like that?
The last time voters were appointed to the presidential elections was in 2000, when Al Gore and George Bush fought for the White House. But then the fight was for one state, Florida, where the gap between candidates was only a few hundred votes.
Eventually, the American Supreme Court intervened and stopped the further recount, and Bush became president.
In presidential elections, when there were disputes about the winner with the participation of several states, the last time it happened was in 1876, when the Republican Rutherford Birchard Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden ran.
At that time, voting results were disputed in Louisiana, South Carolina and Florida, with the result that no candidate was able to get a majority in the electoral college. Everything was decided by the House of Representatives, which gave preference to Heiss (who, like Bush in 2000 and Trump in 2016, received less votes than the defeated opponent).
What if Trump refused to leave the White House?
If Trump’s not too promising attempts to change the election results will fail, on January 20, 2021 at 12:01, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. This will happen regardless of whether Trump admits his defeat by that time.
The U.S. Secret Service and the military will then be able to treat the former president the same way they treat any person who is unlawfully present at a federal government facility.
“What he does is outrageous,” Biden said at a press conference Thursday. – It gives an incredibly devastating signal to the world about how democracy works,” Biden said at a press conference Thursday.
Even if Trump loses, the scorched earth strategy by which he tries to challenge the election results sets a precedent for years to come. And, according to opinion polls, it undermines the faith of many Americans in the country’s democratic institutions.