I’m going to start with an assumption, namely that Trump wants to hold onto power. Now he may not want to continue on with the election given that all the signs and polls are against him. But if he does, there are two ways for him to do so. #1: He can revamp his campaign and make drastic changes to his own behaviors thus winning the election fair and square. Not likely, given his speech last night (July 3rd), but let’s leave it on the table for now. #2: Trump uses presidential emergency powers to take over America, a horrifyingly plausible possibility.
Let’s look at each of these routes to continuance of Trumpian power.
First, Paul Waldman, Columnist for the Washington Post, describes How Trump can win reelection.
… the New York Times describes “frenetic, and often fruitless, attempts by top Republicans to soothe the president and steer him away from self-sabotage, while also manipulating him to serve their own purposes.” It’s so bad that aides are afraid to tell Trump the truth about how poorly he’s doing.
But here is another way that Trump could win “reelection.”
Fortunately, I have the answer they’re looking for. There is something the president can do to turn things around in the four months he has left before the election.
It’s not a staff shakeup, or a newly honed message, or a wittier nickname for Biden. All he has to do is change absolutely everything about how he confronts the two great crises facing the country. In other words, if he wants to get reelected, he needs to do his job.
Waldman then describes the various actions Trump could take to get us public safety by responding sensibly to the coronavirus and economic security by putting money into the economy.
If the president made this turn tomorrow, the pandemic and the economic crisis wouldn’t be behind us by Nov. 3. But at least we’d be headed in the right direction, and it would be possible that voters would decide that he’s doing a good job and he deserves to stay in office.
But of course, he won’t do any of that. The relatively simple things I’ve laid out here read like an absurd fantasy. Doing the job of president at the moment when America needs him the most runs against everything Donald Trump is.
Second, bmaz, a contributor to emptywheel.com, raises a chilling specter, MAYBE TRUMP REALLY IS NEVER GOING TO LEAVE.
… I am gonna leave you with one more little nugget of joy. Trump really is planning on not leaving even if he loses badly to Biden. I have kind of poo poohed this kind of talk, but this morning on Morning Joe, there was a discussion with former Colorado Senator Tim Wirth and Tom Rogers, a journalist and original founder of both CNBC and MSNBC. These are two very smart and credible people, and they are pretty convincing.
If you can find a video clip of their appearance, post the link and I’ll add it in to the post, it is harrowing.
[Scriber]: Here is the video clip. It is worth watching as Wirth runs down possible remedies.
But they have an article out together now in Newsweek entitled “How Trump Could Lose the Election—And Still Remain President”. Also harrowing, and they are convinced that this is really Trump’s plan.
Wirth and Rogers lay out two paths they expect Trump to take. The first is the obvious one pretty much everybody is aware of, severe voter suppression and goon poll watchers challenging voters pretty much anywhere and everywhere, along with claiming fraud as to the vote by mail. But it is the second path that is truly frightening.
This spring, HBO aired The Plot Against America, based on the Philip Roth novel of how an authoritarian president could grab control of the United States government using emergency powers that no one could foresee. Recent press reports have revealed the compilation by the Brennan Center at New York University of an extensive list of presidential emergency powers that might be inappropriately invoked in a national security crisis. Attorney General William Barr, known for his extremist view of the expanse of presidential power, is widely believed to be developing a Justice Department opinion arguing that the president can exercise emergency powers in certain national security situations, while stating that the courts, being extremely reluctant to intervene in the sphere of a national security emergency, would allow the president to proceed unchecked.
With this, Trump has begun to lay the groundwork for the step-by-step process by which he holds on to the presidency after he has clearly lost the election:
Biden wins the popular vote, and carries the key swing states of Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania by decent but not overwhelming margins.
Trump immediately declares that the voting was rigged, that there was mail-in ballot fraud and that the Chinese were behind a plan to provide fraudulent mail-in ballots and other “election hacking” throughout the four key swing states that gave Biden his victory.
Having railed against the Chinese throughout the campaign, calling Biden “soft on China,” Trump delivers his narrative claiming the Chinese have interfered in the U.S. election.
Trump indicates this is a major national security issue, and he invokes emergency powers, directing the Justice Department to investigate the alleged activity in the swing states. The legal justification for the presidential powers he invokes has already been developed and issued by Barr.
The investigation is intended to tick down the clock toward December 14, the deadline when each state’s Electoral College electors must be appointed. This is the very issue that the Supreme Court harped on in Bush v. Gore in ruling that the election process had to be brought to a close, thus forbidding the further counting of Florida ballots.
All four swing states have Republican control of both their upper and lower houses of their state legislatures. Those state legislatures refuse to allow any Electoral College slate to be certified until the “national security” investigation is complete.
The Democrats will have begun a legal action to certify the results in those four states, and the appointment of the Biden slate of electors, arguing that Trump has manufactured a national security emergency in order to create the ensuing chaos.
The issue goes up to the Supreme Court, which unlike the 2000 election does not decide the election in favor of the Republicans. However, it indicates again that the December 14 Electoral College deadline must be met; that the president’s national security powers legally authorize him to investigate potential foreign country intrusion into the national election; and if no Electoral College slate can be certified by any state by December 14, the Electoral College must meet anyway and cast its votes.
The Electoral College meets, and without the electors from those four states being represented, neither Biden nor Trump has sufficient votes to get an Electoral College majority.
The election is thrown into the House of Representatives, pursuant to the Constitution. Under the relevant constitutional process, the vote in the House is by state delegation, where each delegation casts one vote, which is determined by the majority of the representatives in that state.
Currently, there are 26 states that have a majority Republican House delegation. 23 states have a majority Democratic delegation. There is one state, Pennsylvania, that has an evenly split delegation. Even if the Democrats were to pick up seats in Pennsylvania and hold all their 2018 House gains, the Republicans would have a 26 to 24 delegation majority.
This vote would enable Trump to retain the presidency.
Is this nuts? Sure. Is it possible? Yes, given who and what Trump and Barr are, it may well be.