Trump takes increasingly erratic steps to overturn Biden election win
President Donald Trump and his allies are taking increasingly frantic steps to subvert the results of the 2020 US election, including summoning state legislators to the White House as part of a bid to overturn Joe Biden’s victory.
Other tactics include personally calling local election officials who are trying to rescind their certification votes in Michigan, suggesting in a legal challenge that Pennsylvania should set aside the popular vote there, and pressuring county officials in Arizona to delay certifying vote tallies.
Election law experts see it as the last, dying gasps of the Trump campaign and say Mr Biden is certain to walk into the Oval Office come January.
But there is concern that Mr Trump’s effort is doing real damage to public faith in the integrity of American elections.
Joshua Douglas, a law professor at the University of Kentucky who researches and teaches election law, said: “It’s very concerning that some Republicans apparently can’t fathom the possibility that they legitimately lost this election.
“We depend on democratic norms, including that the losers graciously accept defeat. That seems to be breaking down.”
Mr Trump’s own election security agency has declared the 2020 presidential election to have been the most secure in history. Days after that statement was issued, Mr Trump sacked the agency’s leader.
The increasingly erratic moves have no reasonable chance of changing the outcome of the 2020 election, where Mr Biden has now received more votes than any other presidential candidate in history and has clinched the 270 electoral college votes needed to win.
But the president’s constant barrage of baseless claims, his work to personally sway local officials who certify votes and his allies’ refusal to admit he lost is likely to have a lasting negative impact on the country.
Legions of his supporters do not believe he lost.
Justin Levitt, a constitutional law scholar and professor at Loyola Law School: “It’s about trying to set up the conditions where half of the country believes that there are only two possibilities: either they win, or the election was stolen. And that’s not a democracy.”
The two Republican canvassers in Michigan’s Wayne County said on Wednesday they lacked confidence that the election was fair and impartial.
“There has been a distinct lack of transparency throughout the process,” they said. But election officials countered by saying there has been no evidence of impropriety or fraud in Michigan.
Mr Trump’s allies have homed in on the way that the president’s early lead in Michigan and some other states on election night slipped away as later votes came, casting it as evidence of something nefarious.
But a massive influx of mail-in ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic leaned largely towards Mr Biden, who encouraged his supporters to vote by mail, and those votes were the last to be counted.
So it appeared Mr Trump had an edge, when he did not.
I just think it’s totally irresponsible.
In fact, Mr Biden crushed Mr Trump in Wayne County, a Democratic stronghold that includes Detroit, by a more than 2-1 margin on his way to winning Michigan by 154,000 votes, according to unofficial results.
Earlier this week, the county’s two Republicans canvassers blocked the certification of votes there.
They later relented and the results were certified. But a person familiar with the matter said Mr Trump reached out to the canvassers, Monica Palmer and William Hartmann, on Tuesday evening after the revised vote to express gratitude for their support.
Then, on Wednesday, Ms Palmer and Mr Hartmann signed affidavits saying they believed the county vote “should not be certified”.
They cannot rescind their votes, according to the Michigan secretary of state. The four-member state canvassing board is expected to meet Monday and is split with two Democrats and two Republicans.
Mr Trump appears intent on pushing the issue. He has invited Michigan’s Republican legislative leaders, senate majority leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, to the White House.
The Michigan legislature would be called on to select electors if Mr Trump succeeds in convincing the state’s board of canvassers not to certify Mr Biden’s 154,000-vote victory in the state. But both legislative leaders have indicated they will not try to overturn Mr Biden’s win.
“Michigan law does not include a provision for the Legislature to directly select electors or to award electors to anyone other than the person who received the most votes,” Mr Shirkey’s spokeswoman said last week.
During a press conference in Wilmington, Delaware, on Thursday, Mr Biden said Americans are “witnessing incredible irresponsibility, incredibly damaging messages are being sent to the rest of the world about how democracy functions”.
He added: “I just think it’s totally irresponsible.”
Senator Mitt Romney, one of Mr Trump’s most vocal critics in the Republican party, accused Mr Trump of resorting to “overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election”.
Mr Romney added: “It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American president.”
A few hours earlier, Mr Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and others had held a press conference to allege a widespread Democratic election conspiracy involving multiple states and suspect voting machines.
But election officials across the country have said repeatedly there was no widespread fraud.
Many of the allegations of fraud stem from poll watchers who filed affidavits included with lawsuits in battleground states aimed at delaying vote certification. Those affidavits lean into innuendo and unsupported suggestions of fraud.
But they do not have proof. Poll watchers have no auditing role in elections; they are volunteer observers.
Mr Giuliani cited a few sworn affidavits that he said showed a vast Democratic conspiracy, but added that he could not reveal much of the evidence.
Chris Krebs, the Trump administration election official sacked last week over the comments about the security of 2020, tweeted: “That press conference was the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history. And possibly the craziest.”