More election news and other matters
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Substantial evidence of electoral irregularities has been unearthed, which potentially could have flipped the outcome in each of the six battleground states being contested. As reported last week, however, the Trump team has suffered one defeat after another in court and the time available for a serious review is running short. Disagreement persists on presidential winner, 11/30/20.
At this point, the primary thrust has shifted from seeking judicial relief (too many procedural hurdles to overcome, including the sheer multiplicity of state and federal courts having jurisdiction and the reluctance of judges to get involved in this dispute) to presenting the evidence publicly and appealing to state legislators and ultimately the House of Representatives for relief.
Whichever view of the presidential election is deemed “right,” and clearly the two sides are in stark disagreement about that, the current situation is extraordinary and should be of concern to all thinking Americans. Here’s an update, including interplay with other pending issues.
A. Recent developments - President Trump argued his own case on election fraud in a 46-minute video shot at the White House on Dec. 2. It was aired by One America News, (OAN), posted on you-tube, etc. Here’s a link.
More significantly, from an evidentiary standpoint, an impressive amount of evidence is being proffered to back up the president’s claims – primarily in ad hoc sessions run by Republican state legislators in the various states as the courts have collectively displayed little interest in the Trump team’s legal challenges, governors have not been calling state legislatures back into session, etc.
Such evidence consists primarily of in-person testimony, backed up by affidavits signed under the penalty of perjury, by people who had the right to observe or participate in the electoral process (notably including the processing and counting of mail-in-ballots) and didn’t like what they observed and/or the way in which they were treated. Hearings of this type have taken place to date in PA, AZ, MI, and GA, with considerable televised coverage (especially on One America News):
•Gettysburg, PA, 11/25/20
•Phoenix, AZ, 11/30/20
•Lansing, MI, 12/1/20
•Atlanta, GA, 12/3/20
These hearings went on for hours, and we only watched a sampling. We saw enough of the action, however, to get a sense that the witnesses were sincere and had observed behavior that might quite possibly have distorted the voting results.
For example, one witness narrated a videotape of apparent processing of four suitcases of previously concealed ballots after Fulton County monitors and poll workers had been sent home for the night (Election Day) on the pretext of a faraway water main break. 4 highlights from Georgia Senate election fraud hearing, point 1 (watch video in full screen mode). Fred Lucas, dailysignal.com, 12/3/20.
Biden’s apparent margin of victory in GA was only 13K votes, so the effects of this activity were hardly insubstantial. There were numerous other claims of negligence and/or fraud, also seemingly well-founded. And the previous hand recount of Georgia ballots had conspicuously not included auditing signature verification on mail-in ballots, clearly a bigger issue than ensuring all the pieces of paper had been counted.
Given that kind of record in Georgia plus similar situations in other states, the mantra that the president’s claims about voter fraud are unsubstantiated simply doesn’t hold water. Like it or not, they should not be dismissed without a serious review – as one Nevada judge recently did (despite 8,000 pages of affidavits the Trump legal team had provided). Blow for President Donald Trump as Nevada state court rejects lawsuit with prejudice, Andrew Backhouse, news.com.au, 12/5/20.
“Contestants did not prove under any standard of proof that any illegal votes were cast and counted, or legal votes were not counted at all, for any other improper or illegal reason, nor in an amount equal to or greater than 33,596, or otherwise in an amount sufficient to raise reasonable doubt as to the outcome of the election,” Judge Russell wrote. “Reasonable doubt is one based on reason, not mere possibility.”
Among other things, as Rudy Giuliani noted in a TV interview, this case was not a criminal prosecution. In civil litigation, the standard of proof is generally “more probable than not” versus “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim must assume that the plaintiff’s factual allegations are accurate. We agree.
Appealing to state legislators and the general public in such a controversy is unconventional to say the least. It’s as though the Trump legal team is running their claims up the proverbial flagpole and hoping someone will salute it. What are the chances of success?
We don’t know, but it's been suggested that the Electoral College voting results on Dec. 14 won’t necessarily end discussion about the outcome of the presidential race:
•New claim: Constitution does not require hasty Electoral College vote, check fraud first, Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner, 12/5/20.
“The Supreme Court has ruled that the law does not actually require states to appoint Electors by that date [Dec. 8, selection of state electors; Dec. 14, Electoral College votes] in order for those Electoral Votes to be counted by Congress when determining the winner of the presidential election,” said a new white paper from the Amistad Project of the nonpartisan Thomas More Society, which is challenging the votes in several states. What’s more, the document claims that in the five states it has filed challenges to the election results, enough violations took place to force the legislatures to take over for the electoral system.
•64 state legislators beg US Congress to reject PA's electors over Dem gov's “undermining” of election, Kipp Jones, westernjournal.com, 12/5/20.
In a letter addressed to Democratic Sen. Bob Casey and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, as well as the state’s representatives in the U.S. House, 64 Republican state-level legislators called out Pennsylvania’s election results, which have already been certified by state officials. The letter originally included 64 signatories, but 11 names were then removed, with Republicans blaming the original count on a clerical error, according to WCAU-TV.
•Trump campaign engages nuclear option, seeks to order a “new [GA] election,”Jack Davis, westernjournal.com, 12/5/20.
“We are asking the Court to vacate the certification of the presidential election and to order a new statewide election for president. Alternatively, we are asking the Court to enjoin the certification and allow the Georgia legislature to reclaim its duty under the U.S. Constitution to appoint the presidential electors for the state.”
•222 Republican [members of Congress] won’t say Biden president-elect, Sandy Fitzgerald, newsmax.com, 12/5/20.
An overwhelming majority of congressional Republicans won't acknowledge Joe Biden as the President-Elect, according to a Washington Post survey. The survey was taken the morning after President Donald Trump posted a 46-minute video claiming he'd won the election and alleged "corrupt forces" were trying to steal his victory. Just 25 out of 222 Republicans acknowledged Biden's win.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, it remains apparent that the Trump challenge of the election results may fail – especially after the announcement on Dec. 6 that Rudy Giuliani has tested positive for COVID. It would therefore seem prudent for Republicans to factor a Biden presidency starting on January 20 into their forward planning re various matters.
B. “Lame duck” session - Congress has about two weeks left before the holiday break, and electoral changes (narrowed House majority for Democrats; one net Senate seat lost by Republicans) will be in effect when the 117th Congress convenes on Jan. 3. Aside from any role in the presidential election results, our political leaders need to focus on several other important issues.
#GOVERNMENT FUNDING – It’s desirable to pass spending bills for Fiscal Year 2021 (the beginning-of-the-fiscal-year deadline was previously extended by a continuing spending resolution that President Trump signed in the early morning hours of Oct. 1). Neither party wants a government shutdown, and enacting another CSR would needlessly complicate operational planning for the Defense Department and other agencies that need to know how much money they will be authorized to spend in a fiscal year that is already well underway.
There is a potential snag: President Trump has threatened to veto the defense policy bill (a precursor for the defense appropriations legislation) unless the members of Congress accommodate his views on two issues. Congress calls Trump’s bluff on veto threat for defense policy bill, Jamie McIntyre, Washington Examiner, 12/3/20.
First, the president wants language removed that would require the renaming (within the next three years) of 10 military installations that bear the names of Confederate leaders during the Civil War, e.g., Fort Bragg, North Carolina. While his desire to resist the “cancel culture” that keeps raising issues about US history is understandable, it doesn’t seem sensible for a president who has worked very hard to boost military funding to veto a roundly $740 billion defense appropriations bill and risk potential cuts by an incoming Biden administration.
Second, the president wants to curb Facebook, Twitter et al. by repealing Section 230 of the 1996 Community Decency Act , which provision has (a) afforded these social media giants legal immunity for content that is written by others but displayed on their platforms, and (b) empowered them to regulate said content when and as they choose. Many observers agree that Big Tech needs to be reined in, but repeal of Section 230 probably isn’t the way to go about it. (Options to combat computer tech bias, Sections D & E, 7/22/19.) In any case, burying a Section 230 repeal rider in the defense policy bill doesn’t seem appropriate.
Long story short, we would hope the president will think better of his threats and agree to sign the defense policy bill/ fiscal year 2021 appropriations bill. It’s worth bearing in mind that legislation in this area has traditionally been handled on a bipartisan basis, which state of affairs might be undermined by a presidential veto. Trump weighs how best to make his mark with defense bill veto threat, Rob Crilly, Washington Examiner, 12/3/20.
Reps. Adam Smith, the House Armed Services Committee's Democratic chairman, and Mac Thornberry, the panel's ranking Republican, said the NDAA had passed for 59 straight years because members of Congress and presidents of both parties had set aside policy difference to put the needs of the military first. "The time has come to do that again," they said.
#COVID RELIEF – There was a protracted debate about an additional coronavirus relief package before the elections, with intensive negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a White House team. Negotiations ultimately broke down because the Democrats balked at compromising on the details, e.g., wouldn’t go below a $2.2 trillion deal, reportedly because Pelosi wasn’t willing to agree to anything that could be construed as a “win” for the president. Election issues: deficits and debt, 10/12/20.
Pelosi’s pre-election strategy is looking questionable at this point, as House Democrats lost some 9 seats in the elections and numerous centrist legislators (e.g., the “problem solvers” group) have been calling for a compromise. For his part, the president has effectively withdrawn from the discussion, leaving Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call the shots for Republicans.
At last report, there was said to be a standoff between a roundly $0.5 trillion offer by Republicans and a $0.9 trillion demand by Democrats, with continued uncertainty as to whether a deal is likely before the end of the year. Top Democrats throw support behind new bipartisan virus aid package, Susan Ferrocchio, Washington Examiner, 12/3/20.
A good case could be made for passing the Republican package, which as McConnell has noted consists of spending and other provisions that both sides deem desirable (although not necessarily including all the features they would like). And this package could be funded by cancelling previous authorizations for categories of coronavirus relief that haven’t been fully utilized so there would be no resulting increase in deficits. Democrats could propose additional relief funds next year, and take ownership for the fiscal consequences if their proposals were approved. McConnell’s spending line, Kimberly Strassel, WSJ, 12/3/20.
This virus-relief fight is an early test of whether Republicans have the discipline to unite around a bedrock conservative principle: fiscal discipline. Mr. Biden hopes it’s a test the GOP fails. But the party can win, and in doing so send a powerful message (including to Georgia voters) that it will be a force for the Biden presidency to reckon with. All it has to do is hold the line.
Conclusion: Good show, Sen. McConnell, stick to your guns!
C. Georgia Senate races – There were two Senate races in Georgia this year, one a special election for Sen. Kelly Loeffler who had been appointed to replace the late Sen. Johnny Isakson. Neither of the Republican incumbents won a 50% majority as required by state law, so runoff races (in each between the two top candidates) have been scheduled for January 5.
If both of the Democratic candidates won in January, this would change the current margin in the Senate from GOP 52, Dem 48 to GOP 50, Dem 50. The Senate would be controlled by Democrats assuming a Biden administration, as Vice President Kamala Harris would have the tie-breaking vote. If the Republican candidates won either or both races, Republicans would retain a majority.
Indications are that Democrats would abolish the Senate filibuster rule if they had a majority, thus opening the door to pack the US Supreme Court, pass a big tax increase, rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, propose statehood for DC and Puerto Rico, etc. Given all that is at stake, both sides will be going all out for a win.
The current challenge to the Nov. 3 election results in Georgia necessarily involves attacking the credibility of the electoral system in that state, potentially reducing the motivation for GOP voters to vote in the Senate runoff races. Two pro-Trump attorneys have been sending just such a message. Are Trump allies trying to sabotage GOP in Georgia? Byron York, Washington Examiner, 12/3/20.
[Lin] Wood and [Sidney] Powell, both wearing MAGA hats, urged Georgia Republicans not to vote for Republicans Perdue and Loeffler, indeed, not to vote at all, in the January 5 runoff. Watching, Los Angeles Times political reporter Mark Z. Barabak tweeted, "In decades covering politics, this is the first Don't-Get-Out-The-Vote rally I've ever heard of." And of course, if Republicans don't vote, Democrats win.
We suggested earlier that President Trump’s support could prove invaluable for Sens. Perdue & Loeffler, and could best be manifested by organizing a big Georgia rally for them. “Assuming agreement that the president’s involvement would help, we think he should jump into this fight with both feet.” Apparent election outcomes, 11/9/20.
The president and his team evidently felt the same way, and just such a rally took place last Saturday, Dec. 5 at the Valdosta, Georgia airport.
The rally was similar to countless prior Trump rallies, down to his standard closing that ends with “We will make America great again” Mr. Trump insisted that he had won the recent presidential election in Georgia and elsewhere and said the call for Biden must be reversed. His presentation included the screening of a video on electoral irregularities, including footage from the allegedly improper counting of concealed ballots video that was previously cited.
The president also enthusiastically endorsed Sens. Perdue & Loeffler, slammed their opponents (including another screened video), predicted dire consequences if Democrats won control of the Senate, and urged Georgians to turn out on January 5 and ensure that the GOP candidates would win.
The overall effect, in our judgement, should boost Republican chances of maintaining control of the Senate after the Jan. 5 elections. We don’t think that the president endangered the GOP cause by pressing his own interests, and indeed getting to the bottom of irregularities in the Nov. 3 elections might logically be seen as a prerequisite for improved handling of the January elections.
D. January 20 – There’s been talk as to whether President Trump would or wouldn’t attend to see Joe Biden inaugurated as the nation’s next president. We’re not convinced that Trump’s participation would be essential, especially as this ceremony will be conducted without most of the usual pomp and ceremony. Joe Biden says his inauguration will be mostly virtual, Harriet Alexander, yahoo.com, 12/4/20.
[Biden] said not to expect the crowds along the mall, or the masses of politicians and well=wishers crammed into the Capitol’s rooms. Instead, he said, attendance will be minimal, and with social distancing in place.
Mr. Biden has suggested that Trump’s presence might demonstrate to the world that the chaos was over, but the opposite impression might be created if the supposed reconciliation was obviously phony. Ibid.
Mr., Biden [said] that, while he did not personally care whether his bitter rival was present, he felt Mr. Trump's attendance was "important in a sense that we are able to demonstrate at the end of this chaos — that he's created — that there is a peaceful transfer of power with the competing parties standing there, shaking hands, and moving on."
One is reminded of how power was transferred from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson. The 1801 transition wasn’t gracious, but at least there was no playacting involved. How John Adams got over political defeat, Ted Widmer, WSJ, 12/4/20.
Angry and sullen, Adams retreated from view. On the day that his successor was inaugurated, Adams left Washington at 4 a.m. and began a long journey back to his farm in Quincy, Mass. By the time Jefferson was sworn in, declaring his hopes that Americans would work together, Adams was eight hours away, moving as quickly from the Washington swamp as his team of horses could take him.
A more important issue, in our opinion, is what Trump’s future plans will be if his apparent ouster sticks. One suggestion has been that he could run for president in 2024, but there are several strikes against that idea. Trump has antagonized many people in the past five years, which would render his candidacy problematic, he would be too old to run for president at that point, and many other Republicans might deserve a chance.
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#Hopefully we can survive the next 40 days. God bless and watch over America during these next 40 days. Scary times. – Retired financial manager
#Very interesting! – SAFE director
#Here’s an angle we hadn’t anticipated, namely a suit between states is to be filed with the US Supreme Court. No predictions, but we’ll be following like everyone else. Texas sues states Biden won in Supreme Court, seeking to delay Electoral College vote, Harper Neidig, the hill (msn.com), 12/8/20.