Start with the latest flash: 56 Electors, all save one Democrats, have asked the government to brief Electors nationwide Monday — the day they vote for President and Vice President — on the alleged Russian hacking into Democratic databases. Behind this push is a group founded by two Democratic Electors called Hamilton Electors (HE), whose stated mission is summed up at their website:
We honor Alexander Hamilton’s vision that the Electoral College should, when necessary, act as a Constitutional failsafe against those lacking the qualifications from becoming President. In 2016 we’re dedicated to putting political parties aside and putting America first. Electors have already come forward calling upon other Electors from both red and blue states to unite behind a Responsible Republican candidate for the good of the nation.
Their claimed target is to switch 37 electors, producing a tie at 269-269. Then the choice would go on Jan. 6 to the House of Representatives, where a compromise Republican candidate would supposedly be chosen. But if HE gets 38 electors to flip, Hillary would win outright, 270-268. So which number do you think is HE’s real target?
HE asserts that its members “… want the Electoral College returned to… its original concept: a deliberative body that uses the popular vote as a guide.” This is truly rich: Democrats, who five weeks ago were saying that the Electoral College is an outmoded relic and that the winner of the popular vote should be President, now want the Electoral College to save the day for them. GOP electors have been harassed continually, including some receiving death threats.
Further, a Wall Street Journal editorial argues persuasively that elector discretion for the Framers was narrowly imagined. It was confined to new information post-election as to a candidate’s “qualifications” and not as plenary power to override the popular vote that carried 30 states.
A Dec. 7 Bloomberg News poll found that 54 percent of Americans support electing presidents by popular vote, with 80 percent of Democrats supporting this but only 32 percent of Republicans.
Turn now to the Russian hacking kerfuffle. HE’s purported justification for getting potential “faithless” electors to switch:
Let’s see: Despite other intel agencies being of contrary mind, the CIA now asserts that hackings sponsored or carried out by Russia massively leaked politically toxic Democratic party emails. Suppose electors conclude that this doomed Hillary’s candidacy, though no hack of the vote count itself is to date known to be feasible. Further suppose that 38 GOP-pledged electors, citing the desire to deter foreign powers from intervening in our elections, were to switch to Hillary, so as to rectify the allegedly tainted result of November 8.
This is, of course, the objective now openly pursued by Hillary’s campaign chairman, John Podesta — whose email was hacked due to an aide’s typo — an effort that could not proceed without Hillary’s express authorization. Which raises certain questions, starting with the effect, if any, on Vladimir Putin:
Would Putin be surprised that American voters resent foreign intrusion into their elections? Would Putin be chastened by condemnation? Would Putin be deterred from interference in future American elections?
TAS readers know that the correct answers are no, no and no. Barring imposition of some form of harmful sanction(s), Putin could care less.
Should electors — in 28 states dissenting electors have filed petitions seeking liberation from their oath to follow their state’s popular vote — nonetheless be swayed to reverse the voters’ verdict?
For several reasons, electors absolutely should stay put. First: what has come to light since the election is not new information but, at most, an apparent shift in how that information is interpreted by one intelligence agency. The CIA — alone, and having been caught politicizing national security intel during Obama’s tenure — now says that Russia’s intention was not merely to undermine voter confidence in the integrity of American elections but also to tilt the election toward President-elect Trump — an assertion disputed by the director of national intelligence (DNI). Voters thus had access, as of November 8, to all relevant public information on this issue needed to make a judgment — unless one counts a Dec. 14 news item claiming that top intel officials say Putin personally directed efforts against Hillary, angered by the Tsarina of Russian Reset’s “tough” (really?) stance towards Russia. The Oct. 7 joint statement presented to Congress by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and DNI James Clapper and President Obama’s Oct. 18 statement (2:27) dismiss fears that the election can be successfully tampered with. Obama has ordered a “full review” by his administration, due before Jan. 20. The deadline precludes an in-depth review that several committees will conduct in the new Congress and hence is suspect. A Fox News poll reports:
More than 7 voters in 10 are familiar with reports Russia tried to interfere with the election (73 percent). By a 41-1 percent margin, that group thinks the hacking helped Trump rather than Clinton, while 54 percent say it didn’t matter.
Eighty-five percent of Republicans, 64 percent of independents, and 36 percent of Democrats think the Russians didn’t affect the outcome.
Sixty-two percent of Clinton voters believe Russian hacking helped Trump.
Former top diplomat John Bolton expressed skepticism (5:56) that Russia did the hack; it may have been a “false flag” operation by another power pretending to be Russia. He noted that easily traceable cyber-fingerprints were left by whomever did it and that it is hard to believe that the Russians would be “so inexpert.” This tees up another possibility not covered by the ever-astute Bolton: Russia may have intentionally left fingerprints to make American voters think that Russia wants Trump, when Moscow might well have preferred Hillary, who assiduously pursued Russian reset during her entire tenure as Secretary of State. A British ex-MP claims he was the intermediary for an insider leak and that Russia is not the culprit. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told Sean Hannity that Russia was not their source for the DNC and Podesta hacks.
Second: Much intel information re Russian hacking likely is classified and cannot be shown to Electors unless the President declassifies the data; they are state officials lacking security clearances.
Third: Beyond Hillary’s countless scandals and associated Pinocchio prevarications, she lost due to her campaign’s incompetence and arrogance in disregarding warning signs that Midwest states she expected to win were turning toward Trump. As reported by the Daily Caller:
The Hillary Clinton campaign repeatedly dismissed the concerns of its own operatives on the ground in Michigan, belittling their work and ignoring warnings that she might lose the state.
The staffers based at headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, explicitly ordered operatives in Michigan not to build a voter turnout tracking system, saying they didn’t care about those numbers because their own data showed her winning by 5 points. Perhaps more importantly, they dismissed in-person voter outreach efforts and distributing literature as a waste of time, and discouraged the collection of information from what contact volunteers did make with voters.
“Operatives watched packets of real-time voter information piled up in bins at the coordinated campaign headquarters. The sheets were updated only when they got ripped, or soaked with coffee. Existing packets with notes from the volunteers, including highlighting how much Trump inclination there was among some of the white male union members the Clinton campaign was sure would be with her, were tossed in the garbage,” Politico reports.
Fourth: There is no procedure for staging a new election. Ours is not a parliamentary system. Any effort to do so would be flagrantly unconstitutional, as against the Constitution’s elector provisions.
Fifth: The White House is all-in on injecting politics into the post-election, accusing Trump of knowingly standing aside while the Russians allegedly blackened Hillary’s name. But the CIA was unsure in October, so where does this come from? How could Trump have known, if our intel agencies did not know?
Sixth: Oh, and by the way, what about Democrats who openly sought Soviet help to defeat Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984?
What will the electors do? The Electoral College process (for more detail, see EC FAQs) entails the interaction of a complex mixture of state and federal officials. The two remaining milestones are (a) the Dec. 19 actual EC vote, a rolling vote state by state throughout the day, and (b) the Jan. 6, 2017, convening of the new Congress.
Congress acts here by concurrent resolution, per section 15 of the presidential election laws. (Here is a short, well-presented summary of different bills and resolutions used by Congress.) Put simply: (a) When disputes arise, the two houses of Congress concurrently consider competing claims of legitimacy; (b) if they agree, the EC votes cast in December are counted as the final tally; (c) if the two houses concur in rejecting certain electors, their votes are erased; (d) if the two houses cannot agree, then the final determination of the state as to the legitimacy of such Electors prevails. There is no provision for action by the President or judicial branch. After the intense heat, the Supreme Court took over its role in the 2000 election. It is a vanishingly small prospect that the Supremes would intervene.
With Republicans in charge of both houses and this vote being the ultimate test of party loyalty, it would seem a slam-dunk that Trump will prevail. But if two GOP Senators falter and a 50-50 tie results in the Senate recognition vote, the sitting Vice President, Joe Biden, will cast the deciding vote. This could mean deadlock, if the strongly GOP House votes contrary as to certain electors. The deadlock is resolved under the laws of the state(s) whose elector slates are contested.
All this comes on the heels of the shutdown of Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s recount road show — she having extended Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame into more like 15 days. Stein was, in reality, bearding for Hillary, the only candidate who could have benefited from an electoral vote reversal; Hillary’s supporters likely provided most of the $7.3 million Stein raised in three weeks, roughly twice the $3.5 million she raised from her own list during the campaign. She wound up with enough egg on her sourpuss face to make omelets for a year of breakfasts:
And, as Megyn Kelly’s Dec. 14 interview (4:49) with New York Rep. Peter King, showed, the CIA has stiffed Congress. King assailed the refusal of the CIA to send a single witness to a planned hearing on the CIA’s findings. King, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, noted that the CIA also stiffed Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the select committee. King called the CIA’s leak “… almost as if people in the intelligence community are carrying out a disinformation campaign against the president-elect of the United States.” He said that there has been no finding presented, simply an anonymous leak. The CIA, he noted, is legally obligated to provide such information to Congress. Failure to do so would place the CIA in violation the law.
However Hillary’s final push ends, there is permanent damage to the constitutional fabric. In an election where voters trusted neither candidate, a further loss of voter trust is the last thing America needs. We are now seeing an open invasion of the province of state Electors, mounted by the losing side inviting Electors to violate their oath to follow their voters — which many could do so only by violating their state’s Elector laws. In what amounts to an attempt to literally steal the 2016 election, this can only divide us anew.