Saturday, December 26, 2020

'Mad at everyone' Trump wants his goons to keep fighting. But with no useful tools in sight.

Amber Phillips writing in the Washington Post asks what Could Trump declare martial law to try to steal the election? That and other efforts his allies are floating won’t work, say legal and national security experts. Here’s why.

For example: “Set up a special counsel to investigate voter fraud”

Trump has toyed with putting one of the most conspiracy-theory-minded lawyers in his orbit, Sidney Powell, into an official position to “investigate” whether there was fraud that led to his loss.

What this would do: Not much.

For one, it doesn’t seem like she’ll find anything. In six states he lost, officials have found just a handful of incidents worth investigating — nowhere near the tens of thousand of votes Trump would need to overturn his loss. The courts have nearly universally rejected his claims as well.

Two, she wouldn’t have much time. A special counsel can’t be removed by the next president, but a Biden Justice Department could just silo her and give her zero resources.

Three, the Justice Department would need to implement this, and it’s not clear Trump has that support. Attorney General William P. Barr said on his way out the door this week that he saw no need. His replacement, Jeffrey A. Rosen, hasn’t commented on this.

Of all the ideas floated out there, this one is the flimsiest, experts said. (But they stressed that they are all infeasible.) “Like all the post-election litigation by the president’s team, it’s all half-baked ideas that don’t have a basis in law and don’t have a basis in fact and don’t have any chance of success,” [Adav Noti, an election law expert with the Campaign Legal Center] said …

Here are other Trump Tricks which, mainly, are destined to failure.

  • Declare martial law
  • Use the Insurrection Act to somehow get control
  • Seize voting machines from states
  • Have Congress protest the election

Another thing that could be done is to have Vice President Mike Pence, who tallies and reports the certifications, somehow sabotage that count.

Also in the WaPo, Colby Itkowitz and Josh Dawsey report that Pence under pressure as the final step nears in formalizing Biden’s win.

Vice President Pence urged an audience of conservative youth activists earlier this week to “stay in the fight,” as they chanted “Four more years” and “Stop the steal” to trumpet their embrace of the groundless notion that President Trump was the true victor of the recent election.

“I’ll make you a promise: We’re going to keep fighting until every legal vote is counted, we’re going to keep fighting until every illegal vote is thrown out,” Pence said at the event Tuesday. “So — for all we’ve done, for all we have yet to do — stay in the fight.”

But in less than two weeks, it will fall to Pence to declare that fight over — and lost. A joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 will take the last step in formalizing President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, and Pence, in his role as president of the Senate, will preside over the session after four years of ceaseless efforts to demonstrate his loyalty to Trump.

Some die-hard Trump supporters are declaring that Pence will be a traitor if he does not somehow derail the proceedings. There is no evident way for him to do that even if he wanted to, but such demands ratchet up the pressure on Pence, who is unlikely to escape their wrath — or Trump’s.

“Trump would probably tell Pence, ‘Just go declare us reelected,’ ” said Joel Goldstein, a professor at the Saint Louis University School of Law. “Part of his constitutional duty is to be responsible. Just because you’re vice president doesn’t mean you get to engage in behavior that is threatening the underpinning of democratic institutions of the country.”

Pence is hoping for a low-key Jan. 6 and is not planning any unnecessary drama, aides said, intending to stick to his perfunctory role. He is eyeing a trip overseas soon after.

“unnecessary drama”? Good luck with that.

As Pence reads aloud the vote tallies at the joint session, several GOP lawmakers have said they will challenge the results of several Biden-won states. If a member of both the House and the Senate object, that would trigger a two-hour debate in each chamber and then a vote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is eager to avoid forcing his members, especially those facing difficult reelections in 2022, to take that vote. Accepting the results could mean alienating the still-powerful Trump base, while opposing them could be seen as undermining democracy.

Only Trump could so freeze up our government.

But Trump wants the drama of such a challenge. A senior administration official said Trump is “mad at everyone,” not just Pence, because he wants his whole team to fight more.

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