Posts tagged with "Electoral college"

Mike Pence’s security detail feared for their lives, called family members, during Capitol riot

July 25, 2022

Members of former Vice President Mike Pence’s security detail were so afraid for their lives during the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot that they made calls over radio to say goodbye to their family members, according to testimony given by a former White House national security official to the House committee investigating the attack. The testimony was revealed at a hearing on Thursday, July 21, reports HuffPost.

The official’s identity was withheld for security reasons.

“There was a lot of yelling, a lot of very personal calls over the radio,” the official added. “It was disturbing. I don’t like talking about it, but there were calls to say goodbye to family members. The VP detail thought that this was going to get very ugly.”

After rioters broke into the Capitol, Secret Service rushed Pence to a secure area just off the Senate floor, where he had been presiding over the certification of the Electoral College resultsThe rioters came within 40 feet of Pence before he was evacuated. Some rioters were chanting for Pence to be hanged, and a gallows was erected outside the building.

Five people died and more than 140 officers were injured in the riot. Witnesses  described a war zone at the scene that looked like a “medieval battleground.”

Lawmakers and their staff who hid as the violence erupted on January 6 also feared for their lives. “I think I was in a state of shock, to be honest. I was absolutely terrified,” Erica Loewe, then a staffer for Represenjtative Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina), told HuffPost. “Looking back at the text messages … to my family and friends, I just asked them all to pray because I really didn’t know what was going to happen. I don’t think I truly understood the gravity of what happened until afterwards, when I saw the images.”

Research contact: @HuffPost

NYT: Electoral College votes in key battleground states for Biden without any surprises or defections

December 15, 2020

The Electoral College continued voting on Monday afternoon, December 14, in Joe Biden as the president-elect—and that President Donald Trump has said will nudge him further toward leaving the White House.

By early afternoon, electors in some of the battleground states that Trump had contested—among them, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Arizona—had voted, with no surprises or defections, The New York Times reported.

Concurrently, the Supreme Court in Wisconsin rejected yet another lawsuit from the Trump campaign, ending the last current legal hurdle in that state.

Despite palpable tensions across the country, wrought in large part by the rhetoric of the president, the Times opined, the Electoral College process appeared to be proceeding smoothly.

“It’s not just out of tradition but to show folks, especially now more than ever, our system works,” said Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, a Republican, in opening remarks before the state’s four electors cast their ballots for Biden.

The schedule on which the electors were due to vote nationwide was largely determined by individual states. California, the state with the most electors, will most likely push Biden past the 270-vote threshold needed to win the presidency when it votes at 5 p.m. (ET).

Nevada’s six electors all cast their votes for. Biden, as expected, holding their ballots in front of the camera during the virtual meeting, and voters in Pennsylvania cast their ballots, giving 20 electoral votes. The states are two of five that some of the president’s closest allies in the House are eyeing to challenge on January 6 in a final-stage effort—all but certain to fail, The Times averred—to reverse Biden’s victory.

Despite the definitive defeat in the Electoral College, Trump has remained defiant—spending his weekend attacking the Supreme Court for rejecting a Texas lawsuit against four battleground states; and issuing more baseless accusations about the election from his Twitter account. The president has shown no indication he intends to concede the election.

The vote will largely remove any cover for Republicans in Congress who have refused to acknowledge Biden as the president-elect. In providing Trump the room to dispute his loss, Republicans in Congress presented the Electoral College vote as the new marker for when a presidential victory should be recognized.

“Everything before Monday is really a projection,” Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee told Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, December 13.. “If the president loses, and it appears that he will when the electors vote, he should put the country first, take pride in his accomplishments, congratulate Joe Biden and help him off to a good start.”

Research contact: @nytimes

On Safe Harbor Day, America’s presidential votes are locked in by states and guaranteed by Congress

December 9, 2020

Tuesday, December 8, is Safe Harbor Day—the day when all 50 states are expected to lock in their electoral votes—both by finishing up certification of the results and by resolving any state court legal challenges.

According to a report by The Chicago Tribune, by the end of the day, every state, with the exception of Wisconsin, is expected to have made its election results official.

The purpose of the safe harbor deadline is to serve as a guarantee of the election results by Congress. NBC News notes that, “If, for example, a state legislature decided to send in its own slate, the law says the electors chosen by popular vote and certified by the governor must be counted by Congress from states that met the safe harbor deadline.”

Other than Wisconsin, where a hearing is scheduled later this week, every state appears to have met a deadline in federal law that essentially means Congress has to accept the electoral votes that will be cast next week and sent to the Capitol for counting on January 6.

“What federal law requires is that if a state has completed its post-election certification by December 8, Congress is required to accept those results,” Rebecca Green, an election law professor at the William & Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Virginia, told the Tribune.

The Electoral College is a creation of the Constitution, but Congress sets the date for federal elections and, in the case of the presidency, determines when presidential electors gather in state capitals to vote.

The attention paid to the normally obscure safe harbor provision is a function of Trump’s unrelenting efforts to challenge the legitimacy of the election. He has refused to concede, made unsupported claims of fraud and called on Republican lawmakers in key states to appoint electors who would vote for him even after those states have certified a Biden win.

But Trump’s arguments have gone nowhere in court in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Most of his campaign’s lawsuits in state courts challenging those Biden victories have been dismissed, with the exception of Wisconsin.

Like the others, the lawsuit does not appear to have much chance of succeeding, but because it was filed in accordance with state law procedures for challenging election results, “it’s looking to me like Wisconsin is going to miss the safe harbor deadline because of that,” said Edward Foley, a professor of election law at Ohio State University’s Moritz School of Law.

Judge Stephen Simanek, appointed to hear the case, has acknowledged that the case would push the state outside the electoral vote safe harbor.

Missing the deadline won’t deprive Wisconsin of its 10 electoral votes. Biden electors still will meet in Madison on Monday to cast their votes and there’s no reason to expect that Congress won’t accept them. In any case, Biden would still have more than the 270 votes he needs even without Wisconsin’s.

But lawmakers in Washington could theoretically second-guess the slate of electors from any state that misses the December 8 deadline, Foley said.

Already, the Tribune notes, one member of the House of Representatives, Representative Mo Brooks (R-Alabama), has said he will mount a last-ditch effort for Trump—challenging electoral votes for Biden on January 6. Brooks would need to object in writing and be joined by at least one senator. If that were to happen, both chambers would debate the objections and vote on whether to sustain them.

But unless both houses agreed to the objections, they would fail.

The unwillingness of Trump and his supporters to concede is “dangerous because in an electoral competition, one side wins, one side loses and it’s essential that the losing side accepts the winner’s victory. What is really being challenged right now is our capacity to play by those rules,” Foley said.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Obscure Trump appointee refuses to sign documents that would officially start Biden transition

November 9, 2020

A Trump administration appointee—General Services Administrator Emily Murphy—is refusing to sign a letter enabling President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team to formally begin its work this week, in another sign the incumbent president has not acknowledged Biden’s victory and could disrupt the transfer of power, The Washington Post reports.

Te administrator of the General Services Administration, the low-profile agency in charge of federal buildings, has a little-known role when a new president is elected: to sign paperwork—officially turning over millions of dollars, as well as give access to government officials, office space in agencies and equipment authorized for the taxpayer-funded transition teams of the winner.

It amounts to a formal declaration by the federal government, outside of the media, of the winner of the presidential race.

But by Sunday evening, November 8—almost 36 hours after media outlets projected Biden as the winner—GSA Administrator Emily Murphy had written no such letter. And the Trump administration, in keeping with the president’s failure to concede the election, has no immediate plans to sign one.

Indeed, according to the Post, this standoff could lead to the first transition delay in modern history—except in 2000, when the Supreme Court decided a recount dispute between Al Gore and George W. Bush in December.

“An ascertainment has not yet been made,” Pamela Pennington, a spokesperson for GSA, said in an email to The Washington Post, “and its Administrator will continue to abide by, and fulfill, all requirements under the law.”

The GSA statement left experts on federal transitions to wonder when the White House expects the handoff from one administration to the next to begin — when the president has exhausted his legal avenues to fight the results, or the formal vote of the Electoral College on December 14? There are 74 days, as of Sunday, until the Biden inauguration on January 20.

“No agency head is going to get out in front of the president on transition issues right now,” said one senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. The official predicted that agency heads will be told not to talk to the Biden team.

“The transition process is fundamental to safely making sure the next team is ready to go on Day One,” said Max Stier, president and chief executive of the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, which has set up a presidential transition center and shares advice with the Biden and Trump teams. “It’s critical that you have access to the agencies before you put your people in place.”

Trump has been resistant to participating in a transition—fearing a bad omen—but has allowed top aides to participate as long as the efforts do not become public, administration officials said. He is unlikely to concede he has lost or participate in traditional activities, the officials said.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Pennsylvania Republicans mobilize for an election nightmare scenario

October 2, 2020

Whether he wins or loses the presidential election, Donald Trump will be able to declare victory in Pennsylvania, if Republican state legislators have their way.

In fact, GOP representatives are planning to challenge the outcome of Pennsylvania’s presidential election, if Trump fails to garner sufficient votes, The Huffington Post reports.

On Wednesday, September 28, Republicans in the state’s House of Representatives passed a resolution (House Resolution 1032) out of the chamber’s Government Committee on a 15-10 party-line vote to create a special “election integrity committee” of three Republicans and two Democrats to investigate the 2020 election. It could possibly certify its own slate of electors for Trump based on phony charges of voter fraud.

In a statement released right after the vote, Keystone State Governor Tom Wolf  (D) argued, “The House Republicans are not only walking in lockstep with President Trump to try to sow chaos and put the results of the election in question; they are also taking steps to take the authority to administer elections away from the Department of State. The resolution also attacks the integrity of county election administrators. This is an unprecedented attack on non-partisan election administrators at a time when we should all be doing everything we can to instill confidence in our elections.”

“The push to create this new election committee came “out of nowhere,” Pennsylvania House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody told the HuffPost.

“We heard the president say last night, ‘Bad things happen in Philadelphia,’” State Representative  Malcolm Kenyatta (D) said, referencing Tuesday night’s presidential debate between Trump and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden, at the hearing on the resolution. “The reality is, bad things are happening in this committee. This is a bad bill that never should have been brought up.”

Republicans, led by Trump, have been laying the groundwork for this type of move for weeks through lawsuits to limit ballot-counting, claims of potential mass fraud, and more. The Atlantic reported that Pennsylvania Republicans discussed a plan with Trump’s campaign whereby the Republican-controlled legislature would use accusations of voter fraud in order to discard the popular vote as too tainted to count. They could then, theoretically, certify Trump’s slate of electors and send them to Congress for the official Electoral College count on Jan. 6.

Since Governor Wolf would likely certify electors for Biden if he wins the popular vote that the legislature discards, Congress would then be forced to vote on which slate to adopt.

“I’ve mentioned it to [the Trump campaign], and I hope they’re thinking about it too,” Lawrence Tabas, the Pennsylvania Republican Party’s chairman, told the HuffPost about the plan to certify Trump electors.

If the Electoral College vote is close, this scheme could help Trump “win” a second term.

“We wake up and they have this resolution,” House Democratic Leader Dermody said. “It came out of nowhere. My guess is they wanted to have a companion operation going along with their plan to try and fix the Electoral College.”

Research contact: @HuffPost

Go or no go? Experts say it’s ‘Constitutionally impossible’ for Trump to delay the 2020 election

July 31, 2020

Better late than never elected? President Donald Trump floated the idea of delaying the November general election on Twitter on Thursday, July 30, NBC News reports.

The president seems to be panicking about his prospects for re-election, as the U.S. economy shrinks amid the coronavirus pandemic and voters’ support for his opponent, Joe Biden, surges.

But, NBC notes, the president has no power to delay an election, and Trump’s suggestion has raised alarm bells among legal experts and presidential historians as he continues to push evidence-free claims about the security of voting by mail.

“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” Trump said on Twitter. “It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

While states have the authority to delay their primary elections, only Congress can change the date for the general election for president under the Constitution. Since 1845, Congress has required the appointment of presidential electors (now by election in every state) to take place on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, which this year is November 3.

As to whether an election could be delayed indefinitely—such as for a public health emergency as Trump suggests—legal experts have informed NBC News that such a ploy is “out of the realm of possibility.” Even if Congress did agree to change the date of the general election, Trump’s term still would expire on January 20 in accordance with the 20th Amendment of the Constitution.

“That’s constitutionally impossible,” Trevor Potter, president of the Campaign Legal Center and a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, said of any indefinite delay. “The president’s term expires and there is no way for him to continue in office beyond January 20 without being re-elected.”

And there’s quite a few things that have to happen before that date: States need to choose their electors for the Electoral College, who then need to meet and choose the president. Then, Congress has to count the Electoral College votes.

“All of that has to happen by January 20,” Potter told NBC News. “That is why Congress will not delay the election even a week or two, because the timeline is pretty tight.”

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss pointed out that U.S. elections have persisted through wars.

“The president’s tweet is more an attempt to (improperly, and without any evidence) denigrate the election we’re going to have than a real attempt to postpone,” Justin Levitt, a constitutional law and democracy expert at Loyola Law School, said in a text message to NBC.

Levitt was previously a deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice during the Obama administration, working on voting rights litigation.

In his tweet, Trump also gets the facts wrong about mail voting.

“Universal mail voting” and “absentee voting” are not substantively different methods of voting: Both involve the use of ballots transmitted by mail, filled out and returned by registered voters.

Most states are expanding existing absentee voting programs— which Trump appears to praise in his tweet—so people can vote more safely, and there is no nationwide move towards all-mail elections. A handful of states—including Washington and Utah, which already vote entirely or almost entirely by mail—are continuing that practice in 2020.

The vast majority of states are planning a mix of mail and in-person voting in November. Potter suspects that the president’s complaint lies in how voters get their mail ballots—by default or by request.

“If what he means is that people are sent a ballot at home without having to first request it, which is what I think he’s saying, then almost no states do that,” Potter said. “The idea that the whole country is doing voting by mail rather than requesting an absentee ballot is simply factually completely untrue.”

Former Republican strategist and media consultant Rick Wilson replied to the president’s tweet, saying: “Every GOP official should be put on the record today. Simple yes or no answer. ‘Should we delay the election?’ Watch how many of them say, ‘What is Twitter?’ ‘Donald who?’ ‘I haven’t seen the tweet.’ ‘Ya ne govoryu po angliyski.’ ‘I’m late for lunch.’”

Former presidential candidate Tom Steyer simply tweeted: “Somone please inform the president that’s not how this works.”

Research contact: @NBCNews