Here’s what you can do if you’re panicking over Trump trying to steal the election: Constitutional scholars

Here’s what you can do if you’re panicking over Trump trying to steal the election: Constitutional scholars
Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour/Gage Skidmore

If you read The Atlantic report and heard President Donald Trump announced he’ll demand they “get rid of the ballots,” you might be nervous.


MSNBC host Rachel Maddow’s call to defend American democracy likely didn’t help as she sounded the alarm that “it’s happening” and urged Americans to save democracy.

Former Assistant Attorney General for Counterterrorism Joshua Geltzer penned a thread with ideas for what folks can do right now if you’re starting to panic and look for your passports.

“First, Electoral College reps, Members of Congress, governors, & Defense Department leadership can pledge to abide by election results regardless of any single candidate’s claims otherwise,” he explained.

In some states, electors are legally required to comply with the state’s vote, but that isn’t true for all of them. Americans should demand that their state electors pledge to abide by the vote even if the president requests otherwise.

In some states, electors are legally required to comply with the state’s vote, but that isn’t true for all of them. Americans should demand that their state electors pledge to abide by the vote even if the president requests otherwise.

Second, he explained, “Trump can’t resist an election loss alone–he’d need enablers.”

Geltzer explained that there are laws in place to stop someone from using the executive branch if they’re not the legitimate president. If anyone tries to enable Trump, they’re going to jail.

“So, imagine an outgoing Cabinet member, such as a secretary of defense or homeland security, who’s been fired by a legitimate president immediately upon being sworn in on Jan. 20,” wrote Geltzer along with fellow legal scholars. “That outgoing Cabinet member would violate this criminal prohibition if he or she were still to purport to exercise executive branch authority; for example, if the ex-secretary of defense ordered a military operation or ex-homeland security secretary issued an immigration edict, powers that no longer belong to officials ousted from the executive branch.”

The Constitutional scholars explained it would be a risky move for any Cabinet official.

“Even if they believed the certified election results were wrong,” they wrote. “If the outgoing attorney general agreed with the fired Cabinet official, that attorney general would have legitimate authority over federal criminal prosecution only until Jan. 20. After that date, any attempts by the outgoing Cabinet member to exercise official authority would risk criminal prosecution and sentencing by the United States attorney for the District of Columbia appointed by President Biden with the new Senate’s advice and consent — or by an interim United States attorney appointed by Biden before the new Senate could give its consent. Who’d take such a risk?”

“Third: the idea that Trump-friendly state legislatures can sub in their will for that of the voters can be reduced,” Geltzer said. “States can clarify deadlines for vote-counting to ensure Election Day can’t be deemed ‘failed.”

“Fourth: Trump’s reasons for already questioning an election loss are, legally speaking, terrible,” he continued. “So, Trump’s really building a mental challenge more than a legal one– and we can resist disinformation with truth.”

He explained in a Slate piece that explained that the law “by and large” can handle what Trump might throw at it.

“The real threat, then, lies not in formal guardrails but in our confidence,” he said. “The threat is that Americans accepting those legal answers as legitimate is shaky, and that is where Trump can do the most serious damage…Yet, to a larger degree than you may think, when it comes to the most likely ways in which Trump might resist a valid defeat at the polls, it’s not the legal but the cognitive aspects that are poised to sow the greatest chaos. Recognizing the most glaring threats requires a look back at Trump’s most brazen moments of resistance to election results, all of which are largely forgotten now.”

Geltzer explained that Trump refusing to commit to norms about accepting an election result and agreeing to a peaceful transfer of power is “appalling,” but that Americans “aren’t powerless in the face of it.”

“There are things to do NOW to thwart Trump. Let’s get to work,” he said.

See the full thread here.

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