Election '20

GOP operatives send clear signals about the next attack on democracy

Hours after President Biden declared that "democracy has prevailed" during his inaugural address, longtime Republican strategist Karl Rove urged Republicans to pressure GOP election officials and legislators to create "a model election code" to reconsider the laws surrounding 2020's two voting options that lead to the presidential election's record turnout.

"Republicans should also encourage GOP secretaries of state and state lawmakers to develop a model election code," Rove wrote in a January 20 commentary for the Wall Street Journal entitled, "The Republican Future Starts Now."

"The job of proposing electoral reforms shouldn't be based on the unsupported claims of widespread fraud peddled by Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell," Rove continued. "Instead, the goal should be to suggest measures that restore public confidence in our democracy. How do states with extensive mail-in and early voting like Florida and Texas get it right?"

Rove's commentary comes as Republican-majority legislatures in battleground states such as Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona have proposed bills or convened hearings to review the laws that allowed people to vote with mailed-out ballots or early in-person in 2020.

"Whenever Karl Rove writes a piece in the Wall Street Journal, the history of it suggests that Democrats should pay careful attention," said David Daley, author of Unrigged: How Americans are Battling Back to Save Democracy. "Because the Wall Street Journal is where Republicans can signal to their donor class their key projects."

In March 2010, Rove penned a Wall Street Journal commentary openly discussing the GOP's REDMAP project, which targeted 107 state legislative seats that "would give them control of drawing district lines for nearly 190 congressional seats." REDMAP succeeded, creating GOP majority legislatures and congressional delegations in the otherwise purple states of Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Alabama.

The website of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which drafts model bills for social conservatives and economic libertarians, did not yet promote election reforms on its website. However, it linked to the Conservative Action project, which posted a defense of the GOP lawmakers who opposed certifying the Electoral College slates from Arizona and Pennsylvania. The expanded use of voting via mailed-out ballots and early voting must be examined, it said.

"The 2020 election was conducted in an unprecedented manner: largely by mail, and in a way that overwhelmed the capacities of many states. It is not at all unreasonable to review the manner in which votes were counted," said the Conservative Action Project memo, which was signed by more than 100 activists and organizations. "Indeed, if the goal is to restore faith in future elections, then a comprehensive review and analysis to determine what went wrong, what went right, and what is in need of reform should be a critical next step."

Daley, whose prior book, Ratf*cked, profiled REDMAP and its impacts on the past decade's political battles and extreme politics, said Rove's commentary was a warning sign.

"Whenever Rove writes in the Wall Street Journal, it not to be a public intellectual but to put ideas in front of the Republican donor class," he said. "It fits perfectly with much of the Republican strategy on voter suppression."

"So much of it sounds reasonable," Daley continued, referring to the suggestion that a model election code be developed and embraced. "How can you be opposed to a blue-ribbon bipartisan commission that is going to step back and ensure that our elections are free, fair and secure? Except, that's not actually their intention, because we just had an election that was free, fair and secure. And [Sens.] Hawley and Cruz and 130-plus Republicans in the House voted to decertify [the popular vote results and Electoral College slates from] Pennsylvania and Arizona—even after a Republican governor [in Arizona] signed off on certification."

Already, Republican legislators in 2020 battleground states held hearings where they are badgering statewide election officials—some elected Democrats, some career civil servants—about decisions they took last fall that made it easier to vote with absentee ballots.

For example, on Thursday in Pennsylvania, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat, was pressed by Republican representatives advising county election officials to count the returned mailed-out ballots of people who forgot to put their ballots in a secrecy sleeve. The state's supreme court subsequently ruled that the "naked" ballots should be disqualified.

"You disagree with the decision that was rendered by the Supreme Court?" Rep. Ryan McKenzie, a Republican, asked Boockvar.

"It doesn't matter whether I disagree with a decision rendered by the Supreme Court, because the Supreme Court's rule governs," she replied. "But what I would say is, and maybe this is part of your question, do I think that is the right approach for voters for making sure that every eligible voter's vote counts? No, I'd love to see the legislature change that law and say, 'Look, if a voter makes a mistake that does not have anything to do with their eligibility or their qualifications, such as a naked ballot, that vote should still count."

The Thursday legislative hearing was one of 14 that are slated in Pennsylvania to review voting laws and administrative rules that were in effect during the 2020 election. A separate GOP-sponsored proposal would create districts for electing state supreme court judges. If put into effect, it could become a judicial gerrymander to recast Pennsylvania's appellate courts—including the state's supreme court.

These steps and others, such as Republicans in Wisconsin (and Pennsylvania) talking about changing the way their states choose presidential electors, or Georgia possibly turning the secretary of state from an elective to an appointed office filled by the legislature, seek to change the laws so Republicans can win elections, Daley said.

"Republicans talk a lot about following the rule of law, but what they are trying to do is change the law to make it make it easier to do in 2024 what they were unable to do in 2020," he said.

Daley said Rove's push to review ballot access laws after an election where no evidence of fraud was provided by Trump's allies—despite 65 lawsuits—posed a longer-term threat to representative government than the pro-Trump mob that attacked the Capitol.

"In 2020, there were two mobs that attacked the Capitol," he said. "One mob did it with baseball bats, Trump flags and Camp Auschwitz shirts. And they tried to overturn an election through fear and terror and insurrection. And then there was the mob that wore tailored suits and congressional pins that walked in after that [first] mob, while there was still blood in the hallways and bullet holes in the walls, and they voted not to certify free and fair results from Pennsylvania and Arizona. They gave that mob everything that they showed up for."

"We need to be more fearful of that second mob," Daley continued. "Because they remain inside the House. They have been elected to the rules so that if this happens again, with better lawyers making the cases, they will have statutes that they can rely on to press fraudulent claims of election fraud."

Democrats are the new Senate majority — so why is Mitch McConnell still running the show?

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Terry H. Schwadron, DCReport @ RawStory

Days into the new government, it's clear that Joe Biden is running an energetic, activist White House while new Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is still stuck in the same stalled Senate that he served in the ever-victimized minority.

Whatever else you want to say about Schumer, he's no Lyndon Baines Johnson, who dominated as a Senate majority leader, or even Harry Reid.

From the outside, it looks like majority leading by pleading, not arm-twisting. You don't hear that other senators fear Schumer as much as hope that he can stand up to the ever-manipulative tactics of a crafty Mitch McConnell, who has lost the majority leader title, but not its magic to set the agenda.

Schumer got to this day in a plodding manner, using congressional rules and his ever-present microphone rather than any sense of authoritative aggressiveness.

It could be because Schumer's gotten the majority leader office by the barest of margins – the potential tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris when it will be needed. Or perhaps it is because the real majority leader emerging is centrist Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who seems repeatedly to forget that he is a Democrat, and who doesn't mind hanging Schumer and Democratic goals in thin air. It might even be because Biden himself, a longtime senator, has personal relationships in the chamber to pursue himself.

Whatever.

Somehow, everyone in the House knows that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with her narrowed Democratic majority, is still the swaying voice for everything from impeachment votes to requiring that members leave their guns at the door to the chamber. It is the deference of others to her power that we are examining.

We recognize in Schumer a certain caution in trying to get the most from a split, now-stuck Senate, someone who got to this day in a plodding manner, using congressional rules and his ever-present microphone rather than any sense of authoritative aggressiveness. Maybe it is his speaking voice, which borders on annoying rather than one inspiring attention, or his pleading tone. Maybe he was just better at offering obstructions as a minority leader than serving at the front of the Senate.

Of course, maybe he'll settle in and be more effective, but right now, the focus for political wins in the Senate still seems to be on McConnell.

Deftness?

On ABC News recently, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, commenting on the continuing Schumer-McConnell wrangles over the timing of the impeachment trial, the makeup of Senate committees and the rules governing a 50-50 Senate split said, "The one thing Chuck isn't is deft. Definitely not deft."

"Chuck Schumer has finally realized his dream of becoming majority leader. And given the circumstances, it's a bit of a nightmare," noted Politico. Without an agreement on new rules, for example, Republicans maintain most of the committee chairmanships, reviewing confirmations and legislation.

What does seem apparent are that there is a lot to get done at once in a Biden presidency both to reverse what are seen as bad mistakes from the Donald Trump years and to be aggressive about taking advantage of the next two years until another election will put the Senate majority on the ballot again.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer demands hearings over whistleblower complaint — says the Republican-led Senate has 'remained silent and submissive'

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer demands hearings over whistleblower complaint — says the Republican-led Senate has 'remained silent and submissive' Royalty-free stock photo ID: 596958572 Washington, DC - February 27, 2017: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to a press conference at the National Press Club

The healthy argument between Schumer and McConnell about whether to eliminate filibuster rules – rules that effectively require 60 votes for any substantial legislation rather than a simple majority are going McConnell's way – in part because Schumer does not have the votes of Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). The impeachment trial for Trump has been delayed – just as McConnell had asked, though a week earlier. The committees needed for confirmation hearings and to review the immediate demands for Biden-proposed legislation on COVID-19 aid, on extending jobless benefits and immigration changes are being held hostage to the inside game in the Senate.

Again, filibuster rule debates are inside baseball, they don't get jobs or food or vaccines done.

From the outside, it looks as if what drives Republicans' votes in the Senate is fear – from McConnell over life as a senator and from Trump, whose continuing influence is in aiming his insults and primary threats for reelection. By contrast, what seems to drive Democratic votes is a general plea to reason rather than the use of power.

As the opposition party, Republicans, of course, already are lining up to give Trump a pass on impeachment conviction and a permanent bar to run for office again, and, while open to approving Biden's cabinet, generally are vocal about a too-large investment in anti-COVID efforts based on the new-found need to care for the national debt.

Title Without Authority

The new heavyweight in the Senate is the center, with Manchin from Democrats meeting up with Susan Collins (R-Maine), and a smallish group from Republicans. Somehow, they want to buck both parties with their insistence on moderation and politeness – even as the Capitol is assaulted, even as the coronavirus deaths soar again, even as hunger is growing.

Schumer himself is up for reelection in 2022 and could face a long-shot primary challenge from the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

"The talks of bipartisanship are quickly getting ensnared by must-move Senate business, not the least of which is getting an agreement on how the Senate will be run over the next two years. It seems simple, but it's a big deal and it's proving far harder to secure than anyone had anticipated," noted CNN.

Schumer is seeing pressure from his left to dump the filibuster to make it easier to pass improvements in health, infrastructure, environment and national security issues. Biden, again, thinks that bipartisanship can be made to work, but needs a strong Schumer.

So, Schumer's time is short to prove effectiveness. He did not win his title until Georgia improbably elected two Democrats on Jan. 5, and it has been a race to get the new rules in place at a time of simultaneous public tidal waves. Succeeding as majority leader has meant going toe-to-toe with McConnell over arcane rules.

McConnell simply is acting as if he gets a veto over all that passes to the Senate. He is still acting as majority leader without the title.

Schumer needs to step up to his new job.

'He's a crook and he needs to pay': New report shines light on Biden voters demanding Trump face charges

While President Joe Biden and many of his allies seem eager to move on from the Trump era, a New York Times report from Trip Gabriel this week found that the urge to hold Donald Trump and his enablers to account is strong among supporters of the new administration.

"He's a crook and he needs to pay for the crimes he's done," a Republican Biden voter named Teresa Steele told the Times.

Gabriel notes that Democratic "institutionalists led by Mr. Biden want to hammer out deals with congressional Republicans, while the Democratic base is eager for Mr. Trump, his allies and his family members to be held fully accountable."

Washington Post/ABC News and Pew Research polls released earlier this month bear out Gabriel's reporting. The Post/ABC poll found that 56% of respondents wanted Trump removed from office, while Pew found that 54% wanted him removed — a number that soared to 83% among Democrats and those who lean Democrat. And the Post/ABC poll also found that 54% of respondents wanted Trump to face criminal prosecution for the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol Building.

Trump also faces potential legal exposure on many other fronts, including possible tax and business crimes, a 2016 hush money scheme, and the potential obstruction of justice documented by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Nancy MacEoin, a Philadelphia-based criminal defense lawyer, believes that voters will be disappointed if there are no repercussions for Trump's wrongdoing.

MacEoin told the Times, "Many of us voted to get Trump out, not necessarily to be pro-Biden. Backing off any sort of prosecution of Trump is going to alienate those people."

According to Gabriel, "Interviews with two dozen Biden voters across the country found near unanimity that it was important for the Senate, the Justice Department and state prosecutors to aggressively pursue Mr. Trump, his family members and top aides — holding them accountable well beyond the impeachment charge against the president for inciting the Capitol riot on Jan. 6. The consensus cut across differences of ideology, income, race and sex."

Gabriel notes that the Jan. 6 attack isn't the only part of Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election that could result in criminal charges.

"In Georgia, a district attorney is weighing a criminal investigation of Mr. Trump for trying to coerce elections officials to 'find' him more votes after he lost the state," he said.

Biden has said that he doesn't think it is "good for democracy" to prosecute a former president, but Robert Landry, a retired truck driver from Two Rivers, Wisconsin, disagrees. Landry told the Times, "The next guy who wants to be dictator or whoever, he's going to be a lot smarter than Trump. If you don't hold these people accountable and say, 'No, this is too far,' somebody's going to come along and push it further. I believe some of those people are already in Congress."

Democracy in crisis: Here's how experts want to save our elections

The Trump presidency is over and the Biden presidency has begun. The 2020 election's legacy will now turn to examining how the institutions and laws that govern voting can be fortified, after a bruising season where Trump attacked the process as illegitimate and enlarged the GOP myth of massive voter fraud.

Normally, after every presidential election, every sector involved in elections issues post-election reports and prescriptions. While Trump's refusal to admit defeat has delayed that process, the emerging analyses and recommendations so far have two focuses. The first concerns the maze of laws and rules governing elections. The second focus is arguably harder to solve, as it concerns the personal and societal factors that allowed the narratives of stolen elections and underlying conspiracies to take hold among tens of millions of Americans—such as 15 percent of Republicans who still support the storming of the Capitol on January 6.

"This anger on the part of some people has been building for a long time, and there can be a separate discussion of why it is that people are feeling frustrated and that leads to a willingness to engage in violence," said Michael Chertoff, former U.S. secretary of homeland security and a leader of the bipartisan National Task Force on Election Crises, which was convened last year as Trump escalated his attacks on the legitimacy of the 2020 election. "But the fuse that lit this particular explosion was a big lie."

"It was the lie propagated by Donald Trump and his supporters that this election was rigged and stolen and fraudulent," Chertoff said, speaking on January 15 as the National Task Force on Election Crises issued its recommendations. "Even though, repeatedly, when evidence was requested, no evidence was provided, and every court rejected these claims. But the big lie nevertheless continued to propagate and reflects a challenge in our society in terms of truth and willingness to trust our [electoral] institutions."

In the short run, Chertoff believes that those individuals who led the lie-based attacks on 2020's elections—Trump, those storming the Capitol, elected officials seeking to override swing-state popular votes, pro-Trump lawyers filing falsity-filled lawsuits—must be held accountable. That near-term step will help revive factual baselines and trust in electoral institutions, he said. But the body's recommendations, like other "what next?" discussions by legal scholars, policymakers, election officials and advocacy groups, concern other foundations of American democracy.

The task force made 28 recommendations in several areas, including: election administration, with regard to how states helped voters both to get a ballot during the pandemic and to ensure their votes were accurately counted; legal reforms, ranging from clarifying federal laws governing the Electoral College and presidential transitions to urging that states modify their post-Election Day procedures to allow more assurances that votes were being counted accurately; and social media platforms, which would do better to delete false posts, not merely add warning labels.

As extensive as this to-do list seems, it is not the full democracy reform agenda. In July 2020, a 25-member expert panel based at Harvard University and the Washington-based Brookings Institution issued a report calling for mandatory voting. As María Teresa Kumar, founding president of Voto Latino, who participated in that panel and the bipartisan task force, said, universal voting was one way to dilute the power of the most extreme political factions.

"Universal voting, in countries that practice it, actually tones down the extremism on both sides because it involves everybody," she said. "If there are methods to promote that type of practice in the country, we will see not only fair elections but more participation… with the hopes of toning down that extremism that we are witnessing today."

An even longer-standing reform effort led by voting rights advocates is calling for swift passage of H.R. 1. That 791-page House bill addresses election intricacies, campaign finance and ethics. It is comprised of reforms proposed mostly by Democrats from more than 50 bills that failed to pass during the past decade when Republicans controlled at least one chamber in Congress. A growing coalition of 170 center-left groups are pushing for H.R. 1, even though most of it was drafted before the pandemic dramatically altered how 2020's general election was conducted, including greatly expanding the use of mailed-out ballots and early in-person voting. One day before Biden's inauguration, a version of H.R. 1 was introduced in the Senate.

On the same day, Marc Elias, who led the Democratic Party's voting rights litigation, published his initial ideas based on the 2020 election. They include "shoring up the weak points in our system that Trump and his allies exploited," such as streamlining post-election certification of winners, improving access to ballots, minimizing bureaucracy surrounding mailed-out ballots, and better audits and transparency to assure voters are not being disenfranchised.

"As we transition to an America without Trump as its president, the days are still dark—an epidemic is raging and the assault on democracy continues," he said. "Although the man will leave the White House, it has become clear that Trumpism will remain, now deeply embedded in the Republican Party. The damage that it has done and, until rooted out, will continue to do to our nation and its institutions and values is structural and will not be easily repaired."

Where to Begin?

The early post-election reports, related briefings and other discussions suggest bold action is needed to counter the damage done to the institutions and procedures undergirding American democracy. Even though Trump and his allies lost 64 out of 65 post-election lawsuits (and gained no votes in the suit they won), the constitutional roles surrounding who regulates elections must be clarified. The steps instituted to help voters during the pandemic have not been codified into law—and may even be rolled back in red-run states. The architecture of online media that spread Trump's stolen election lies remain in place.

Every new presidency has a window to pass a fraction of its agenda. When it comes to dealing with the damage done to America's elections, the emerging question is what steps are likely to most immediately fortify democratic institutions. Put another way, if the bedrock of American democracy was shaken and tested, what steps—possibly beyond what was on the table in 2020's elections—are needed to strengthen representative government?

On January 14, a dozen of the nation's leading constitutional scholars met on Zoom for an Ohio State University forum, "Picking Up the Pieces of the 2020 Election." Two divergent focal points drove the discussion. The first was what to do about the millions of Trump voters who believe that one of the best-run national elections in memory (record turnout, more voting options, more verification of vote counts, etc.) was illegitimate. And second, what should most immediately be done to fortify the laws and structures behind elections to restore public trust?

The country faced a crisis that was bigger than the fine print of election law and procedure, said University of California, Irvine School of Law professor Rick Hasen. Laws and election reforms can only go so far—as both are based on facts and rules of evidence—if people rejected the law, or felt that their identity as citizens had somehow been threatened and required patriotic rebellion.

"There is only so much that election law can do if people are not willing to comply with the rules of the game," he said. "We can structure rules that try to create fair elections and that, if people are willing to believe the truth, should give assurances that elections were conducted in fair ways. But if you've got a significant part of the population [unwilling to believe the truth], led by someone who is spouting lies about the integrity of the election, it turns out it is very difficult to fight against that."

Others said that the county was not quite at the abyss, but agreed that the moment called for remedies other than what many democracy advocates are coalescing around, which was the swift passage of H.R. 1.

"Some of the things in H.R. 1 are good and we should think about them, as well as things that came up in this election related to mail balloting and the like," said Nathaniel Persily of Stanford Law School. "The impact that they're actually going to have on some of the problems that we are seeing in the short term is relatively minimal. You can support gerrymander reform, [party] primary [election] reform and the like, as I do, but I don't think that it's going to respond to our current crisis."

"There are things that can be done now, though, that are worth spending political capital on, like [Washington] D.C. statehood, Puerto Rican statehood, and the like," Persily said, "that I think would have a dramatic effect on the composition of Congress, as well as the Electoral College." He went on to say that Congress must regulate online speech, as it has in other settings depending on time, place and manner, instead of allowing "Google, Twitter and Facebook to be those judges."

Others at the Ohio State University forum were more measured. They pointed to clarifying the constitutional questions involving the Electoral College and state certification of winners. They said that administrative decisions and emergency rules that helped voters during the pandemic should be codified—put into law. They suggested that political parties, especially Republicans, might rein in extremist flanks by revising their rules for primary elections. They agreed American public education lacked a sufficient focus on civics.

Looming overhead during the forum was an unnerving question posed by several scholars. Democrats could use their control of Congress and the White House to impose their vision, as the Republicans have done for years—such as red states imposing barriers to Democratic voting blocs after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013. But doing so might further provoke a violence-prone right wing, some scholars said, suggesting that progressives might have to step back to allow moderate Republicans to reclaim control of their party and return to respecting elections.

"Prior to November 3, I thought where we would be now is, conceptually, having the Democratic Party having control of the Senate, control of the House, control of the presidency, [and the leadership] asking itself to what extent it was appropriate, and how could it impose its conception of fair play and fair elections on the system, because it would have the ability to do that," said Edward Foley, who directs Ohio State University's election law program. "This was the moment. Use the power. And just have a new Voting Rights Act and new reform agenda that would come out of the Democratic Party and its values."

"I now think that would be a terrible mistake," Foley continued, "because it will embolden the Trumpian right wing of the Republican Party to say, 'The system is rigged. It's their system. It's not our system. It's not a shared system. And we're not going to play by your rules. We're not going to play this game.'" Foley said that Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell needed "to build a bilateral conception of what America needs by way of an electoral system that both sides can buy into and accept. It can't be one side's vision. It can't be the other."

The possibility of ceding ground to Republicans to get their post-Trump party to heed facts, and to follow the law and evidence in elections, disturbed Franita Tolson, a University of Southern California Gould School of Law professor. She said such a response lent false credibility to years of Republican lies that elections were fraudulent unless Republican candidates emerged victorious.

"This agreement that we have to appease those who believe in election security [to overly police the process], while also expanding access to the ballot, to me, it just seems like an odd starting place because it gives credence to this idea that on the election integrity side that we have an equal problem there—similar to the problem that we have with access to the ballot," Tolson said. "I may be in the minority here, but I actually don't think that's a good starting point. I think that to the extent that we are worried about people questioning the legitimacy of this election, we have to stop pretending that there are problems with the legitimacy of this election. This is a narrative that's been building, really, for over the past two decades."

Clear Frames and Goals

These big questions and frames offer ways to assess post-election recommendations. In the meantime, other key voices have yet to weigh in.

In presidential battleground states, election officials have yet to submit reports to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and to private foundations about how they used millions in grants to better conduct elections during a pandemic, said Tammy Patrick, a member of the National Task Force on Election Crises and senior adviser to the elections program at the Democracy Fund.

"The election itself was a raging success, in the midst of a raging pandemic and some of the worst rhetoric around the integrity of elections that the Republic has ever seen," said Patrick, who counseled against fast federal action, such as passing H.R. 1, despite its many laudable elements—including reliable federal funding.

"There's so much going on," she said. "If the states take the false narrative of the 2020 election as a reason or a way to implement regressive law [as GOP-majority legislatures in swing states may do], I think we will have to have some sort of baseline federal legislation get passed in order to make sure that all Americans have some semblance of equal access to the ballot."

Meanwhile, others, such as Stanford's Persily, said now was not the right time to talk about election intricacies, especially with Trump's upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate.

"Now's not a time to be talking about ballot drop boxes and absentee ballot signatures, when… the basics of American democracy and government are under assault," he said. "I believe the Biden folks when they say that they are worried that a trial sometime soon after he takes office will make it very difficult for the Senate [to focus elsewhere]."

In other words, the odds that constitutional or electoral reforms will emerge quickly depends on how the impeachment unfolds—including whether or not Republicans vocally reject Trump's false claims about election fraud—and the outcome, which could include barring Trump from running again for federal office. In the meantime, influential players will keep weighing in.

"It is difficult to overstate the danger that this kind of violent rhetoric poses for our democracy—not only to election officials themselves and the future willingness of Americans to help run our elections [as poll workers], but to the stability of our system," said Trevor Potter, a Republican, ex-Federal Election Commission chair and founder of the Campaign Legal Center.

"Are we ruled by voters and laws, or by force and violent threats?"

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, the American Prospect, and many others.

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

'Just nothing': Trump-appointed US Attorney in Georgia rebuffs president's bizarre voter fraud claims — again

In an audio recording released by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Bobby Christine, the Trump-appointed acting U.S. attorney in Northern Georgia, explains just how frivolous Trump's dangerous election fraud claims are. Despite multiple recounts in various states, dozens of failed post-election lawsuits across the country and Republican lawmakers and election officials insisting that widespread voter fraud does not exist, Trump has continued to suggest otherwise.

Now, Christine is making it clear that there is "nothing" to suggest widespread voter fraud really exists. "I would love to stand out on the street corner and scream this, and I can't," said Christine.

"But I can tell you I closed the two most — I don't know, I guess you'd call them high profile or the two most pressing election issues this office has," he said. "I said I believe, as many of the people around the table believed, there's just nothing to them."

Christine also admitted that he actually expected far more election-related cases in his office. However, he was shocked to learn that was not the case.

"Quite frankly, just watching television you would assume that you got election cases stacked from the floor to the ceiling," said Christine. "I am so happy to find out that's not the case, but I didn't know coming in."

House Minority Leader McCarthy exploded at Trump for claiming 'antifa' was to blame for Capitol riot: report

While Americans all over the United States watched in horror as angry Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, President Donald Trump reportedly continues to place blame elsewhere. And when the president claimed antifa was to blame for the deadly rioted he, himself, incited, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) pushed back on Trump's claim, Axios report. Now, details are emerging about the Republican lawmaker's heated call with the president.

According to Axios, McCarthy spoke with Trump on Monday, Jan. 12, where he reportedly stood his ground and reminded the president that the 2020 election is "over."

During the 30-minute call, Trump allegedly deflected and peddled conspiracy theories about the election and what transpired at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. As Trump continued his claims of widespread voter fraud, McCarthy is said to have grown "exasperated" with the president.

According to one White House official, "the call was tense and aggressive at times, with Trump ranting about election fraud and an exasperated McCarthy cutting in to say, 'Stop it. It's over. The election is over.'"

When he claimed antifa caused the civil unrest at the U.S. Capitol, one White House official claimed McCarthy reached his breaking point. "It's not antifa — it's MAGA," McCarthy told Trump, according to two Axios sources. "I know. I was there."

McCarthy also reportedly urged the president to "call Joe Biden, meet with the president-elect and follow tradition and leave a welcome letter in the Resolute Desk for his successor."

However, Trump has made his stance clear. He does not agree with the outcome of the election. Despite calls for impeachment and resignation, Trump also has no plan to concede the election or resign from office. The president also has no plan to attend President-elect Joe Biden's Inauguration on Jan. 20.

The 2020 presidential election may be over. But Trump’s lies and doubts linger

It was past midnight on Thursday, January 7, when the House began its debate on whether to accept Pennsylvania's 20 Electoral College votes.

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Earlier on Wednesday, allegations of illegal and fraudulent voting in Pennsylvania and other swing states where President Trump lost led his supporters to storm the Capitol. The mob came after a Trump rally, where the president recited numerous falsehoods that long have been debunked.

It was a stunning spectacle. More than a dozen Republican congressmen rose and condemned the violence. Then, as if the cause of the rampage lay elsewhere, they opposed certifying Pennsylvania's votes by reciting many of the same allegations that Trump uttered that day—atop innuendo that Democrats had widely cheated.

"To sum it up, Pennsylvania officials illegally did three things," said Rep. Ted Budd, R-NC. "One, they radically expanded vote by mail for virtually any reason. Two, they removed restrictions when a ballot could be sent in. And three, they removed signature verification on those very ballots."

Budd did not mention that Pennsylvania's Republican majority legislature had approved the election reforms that laid the ground rules for 2020's election. Nor did he note that the Republican National Committee had pushed Pennsylvania's Republicans to vote with absentee ballots—and hundreds of thousands did.

Instead, Budd and other Republicans said that the election was illegitimate because Democratic officials—such as Pennsylvania's secretary of state—issued rules to make it easier for voters and election officials to manage in a pandemic. They said the Constitution had been violated because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had agreed with those steps. Only state legislatures could set election rules, they said, making a novel argument that ignored decades of election law and court rulings.

"I rise in support of this objection and to give voice to the 249,386 men and women of Ohio's 6th Congressional District," said Rep. Bill Johnson, R-OH, "who have had their voices silenced by the rogue political actors in Pennsylvania, who unilaterally and unconstitutionally altered voting methods to benefit the Democratic candidate for president."

"Secretaries of state and state supreme courts cannot simply ignore the rules governing elections set forth in the [U.S.] Constitution," he fumed. "They cannot choose to usurp their state legislatures to achieve a partisan end, Constitution be damned."

These representatives were joined by others who said that Trump's mob was "shameful," "unacceptable" and "un-American." Yet they went on to recite many of the same claims that Trump made before his mob acted. These claims filled the 60-plus lawsuits brought by Trump and his allies since the election—claims federal and state judges have overwhelmingly rejected as baseless and lacking in evidence.

Had these Republicans learned anything from the rampage? When the debate ended well past midnight, 138 Republicans voted to reject Pennsylvania's 20 Electoral College votes. Their dissents did not stop the chamber from accepting the state's Electoral College votes. Nor did it prevent a joint session of Congress later that morning from certifying Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the 2020 election's winners.

Yet the 138 votes, and the slippery arguments or misrepresentations that preceded them, are a dark sign of the times. When one-quarter of House members either lack sufficient knowledge of how elections are run or cling to specious arguments to overturn results, the undercurrents driving Trump's mob are still present. Looking ahead, voting rights advocates are starting to see these sentiments resurface as a new wave of anti-voting legislation in red-run state legislatures.

"We're deeply concerned the post-election lawsuits are now morphing into state-driven voter suppression schemes," said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, speaking during a press briefing during Georgia's runoffs on January 5. "These lawsuits failed universally… Now we see lawmakers seeking to exploit this moment [and] institute new restrictions on measures such as [repealing] no-excuse absentee voting."

Clarke is partly referring to a proposal by Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to reel in absentee voting. The 2020 election had overwhelmed local election officials, he has said, adding that future voting options needed to be streamlined. Record numbers of Georgians voted by mailed-out ballots in 2020, which was part of the wave that elected two Democratic U.S. senators and delivered a surprising Biden-Harris victory.

Raffensperger had been attacked by Trump as a RINO—Republican In Name Only—and pressured by Trump on January 2 to alter the certified vote count so Trump would emerge as the victor. On Thursday, the Trump campaign withdrew its suits in Georgia on the eve of scheduled court hearings. Raffensperger issued a detailed press release that noted Trump folded just before his legal team had to present evidence of illegal voting and rigged elections.

"On the eve of getting the day in court they supposedly were begging for, President Trump and [Georgia Republican Party] Chairman David Shafer's legal team folded Thursday and voluntarily dismissed their election contests against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger rather than submit their evidence to a court and to cross-examination," the secretary's release began.

"However, even in capitulation, they continue to spread disinformation," it said. "The President's legal team falsely characterizes the dismissal of their lawsuits as 'due to an out of court settlement agreement.' However, correspondence sent to Trump's legal team prior to the dismissals makes perfectly clear that there is no settlement agreement. The Trump legal [team] voluntarily dismissed their lawsuits rather than presenting their evidence in court in a trial scheduled for tomorrow in front of Cobb County Superior Court Judge Adele Grubbs."

The statement said that the "withdrawals came after Secretary Raffensperger sent a letter to Congress on Wednesday containing point-by-point refutation of the false claims made by the President and his allies. Late last night, Congress accepted Georgia's slate of electors without objection, as no Senator joined in [Republican] Congressman Jody Hice's objection to Georgia's electors."

Few Republicans probably read Raffensperger's memo as they sought shelter from Trump's mob. However, in the other chamber, Georgia's Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who lost to Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock a day before, said she could no longer oppose her state's certification of the presidential vote. The storming of the Capitol had changed her mind. The same could not be said of nearly one-third of the House.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, the American Prospect, and many others.

Conservative explains why Georgia’s Senate runoffs are a major victory for Joe Biden

On Tuesday night, January 5, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, defeated incumbent GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler in one of two U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia — where the other Democratic Senate hopeful, Jon Ossoff, had a narrow lead over incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue in the vote count early Wednesday morning, January 6. If Ossoff prevails, Democrats will have a majority in the U.S. Senate. And Never Trump conservative William Kristol, in an article for The Bulwark, lays out some reasons why President-elect Joe Biden was among the winners in Georgia's Senate runoffs.

"As a newly inaugurated president, as the man who not only defeated Donald Trump but brought the Democratic Party back to power — albeit very narrowly — Biden will enter office with real momentum," Kristol explains. "Even Democrats, a notoriously unruly lot, will feel some obligation to go along with the new president. And some Republicans will, too."

Kristol adds, "Some congressional Republicans would like to be in the game and be able to play some role, even if a minor one, in legislation in return for their support. This will be the case especially if Biden begins mostly with legislative proposals — especially on the pandemic and also, some economic relief — that are reasonably easy for some Republicans to support."


If Ossoff prevails in the vote count, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will become Senate minority leader. McConnell has been a ruthless partisan, infamously refusing to even consider President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, in 2016. Yet McConnell has acknowledged Biden as president-elect and tried to discourage other Republicans from contesting the Electoral College results when the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives meet for a joint session of Congress on January 6.

Although Kristol is quite conservative, he has been a blistering critic of President Donald Trump and was a major cheerleader for Biden's 2020 presidential campaign. And the Never Trumper hails the Senate election results in Georgia as another defeat for Trumpism.

Kristol writes, "The odds tonight got quite a bit better that President Biden will have, and will be seen to have, a reasonably successful first few months in office…. A word about Joe Biden: he made a bet on America. He never wavered from the promise to unite the country and actually get things done. People to his left scoffed, Trump supporters disdained him. But Biden never gave in. Tonight's result in Georgia will at least give him a fighting chance to do what he promised — and to focus not just on the very real threats we face, but also, on the opportunities before us."

Here's why John Cornyn won't be joining the effort to overturn Biden's win

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, announced Tuesday that he isn't planning to object to the certification of the Electoral College vote in Congress, splitting with a growing number of GOP colleagues that most notably includes the state's junior senator, Ted Cruz.

In a lengthy letter to Texans, Cornyn noted that he has supported President Donald Trump's right to challenge election results in the courts but that Trump's lawsuits have gone nowhere, and recounts in multiple states have also failed to change the outcome. Trump has continued to push baseless claims of widespread fraud in the election, including at a campaign rally Monday night in Georgia.

"As a former judge, I view this process with the same impartial, evidence-based decision-making as I did my job on the bench," wrote Cornyn, a former justice on the Texas Supreme Court. “So, unless substantial, new evidence is presented during the challenges to each state's ballots, I will not object to the certification of that stave's election results based on unproven allegations."

"Allegations alone will not suffice," Cornyn said earlier in the letter. "Evidence is required."

Cornyn's position is not much of a surprise based on comments he has made in recent weeks expressing increasing skepticism about Trump's chances of overturning his loss to the president-elect, Joe Biden. But the letter marks Cornyn's most extensive explanation of his position yet, and it comes as Texas' other senator digs in on his plan, along with 10 other GOP senators, to object to the Wednesday certification of Biden's win unless they can secure an "emergency audit" of the November results.

A source familiar with Cruz's plans, but who was unauthorized to speak on the record, said that Cruz intends to specifically object to the certification of electors from Arizona. The news was first reported Tuesday by the Washington Post. Cruz told conservative radio host Mark Levin on Monday night that he did not want to "set aside the election ... but rather to press for the appointment of an electoral commission."

In his letter, Cornyn made clear he was not a fan of Cruz's audit proposal, which Cruz has said can be done in the 10 days before the inauguration. Cornyn suggested he too supports a review of election issues but something less hasty and more deliberate, such as an "independent commission" in the vein of the Commission on Federal Election Reform. That was a private bipartisan panel that looked into problems with the 2000 and 2004 elections.

"As to timing and practicality of an emergency audit, I am much more dubious," Cornyn said. "The design of the proposed commission to conduct such an 'audit' will inevitably fail."

Cornyn and Cruz are in very different positions politically. Cornyn is coming off a reelection victory in November that secured him another six-year term in the Senate, while Cruz has an eye toward 2024, when any presidential contender will likely need to stay in the good graces of Trump and his supporters.

Trump dinged Cornyn on Tuesday afternoon, tagging him in a tweet that told the "weak and ineffective RINO section of the Republican Party" to heed his supporters' wishes for an election reversal. (RINO stands for "Republican In Name Only.") Trump also tagged two other senior Senate Republicans: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Majority Whip John Thune, who previously incurred Trump's wrath for dismissing some House Republicans' intentions to dispute the Electoral College outcome.

Nearly half of the 23 Texas Republicans in the House have promised to object to the certification. At least four announced their intentions Tuesday: Reps. Jodey Arrington of Lubbock, John Carter of Round Rock, Troy Nehls and Ron Wright of Arlington.

Carter, Nehls and Wright all represent districts that national Democrats targeted in November, though each won their races by comfortable margins. Nehls was sworn in to Congress on Sunday after winning the hard-fought fall election to replace former U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, who did not seek another term.

"You sent me to Congress to fight for President Trump and election integrity and that's exactly what I'm doing," Nehls wrote on Facebook.

The other Texas Republicans in the House who have said they will object to the certification are Reps. Louie Gohmert of Tyler, Lance Gooden of Terrell, August Pfluger of San Angelo, Randy Weber of Friendswood, Pete Sessions of Waco, Brian Babin of Woodville and Ronny Jackson, the former Trump White House doctor who represents the Panhandle.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/01/05/john-cornyn-texas-republican-election-certification/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

Watch: Mitt Romney confronted by crazed Trump supporters on plane to Washington

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) was confronted by crazed Trump supporters at the Salt Lake City International Airport as he waited to board his flight to Washington, D.C.

On Tuesday, Jan. 5, a woman approached the Republican senator to confront him about his refusal to back President Donald Trump on a number of key issues including his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. Now, a clip of the confrontation is going viral on social media, according to The Independent.

When the maskless woman approached Romney, he could be heard telling her to put on a mask before coming so close to him. Instead of respecting his space amid the pandemic, the woman said, "don't tell me what to do" as she claimed to be standing six feet away. The woman immediately moved to challenge Romney on his stance regarding Trump's election coup.

"Why aren't you supporting President Trump? You're not supporting him," she began.

Romney made his stance clear. While he admitted that he largely supports Trump, he also insisted there are some things he disagrees with. "I do support President Trump," Romney replied. "I'm sorry, I do agree with many of the things he's for and I support him."

She went on to ask Romney if he planned to support Trump and Republican lawmakers' push to overturn the election on Jan. 6. Romney pushed back admitting that he has no plan to support Trump's coup. "Are you going to support him in the fraudulent votes?" the woman asked. "In the election, no, I'm not," Romney said.

As Romney stood up to walk away from the woman, another man could also be seen filming the exchange. It has also been reported that Romney was trolled by Utah Trump supporters while on the plane to Washington, D.C. When the Utah senator boarded the plane, Trump supporters could be heard chanting, "Traitor!"

Despite Trump supporters' push for lawmakers to challenge the Electoral College votes, there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Rev. Raphael Warnock defeats Sen. Kelly Loeffler in Georgia runoff

The Rev. Raphael Warnock is now Senator-elect Raphael Warnock. He is projected to defeat Sen. Kelly Loeffler in one of Georgia's two runoff elections.

Warnock, the pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, will become Georgia's first Black senator. He kicked off the runoff campaign with one of the more memorable and effective ads in recent election cycles, and then followed it up with another one using the same themes, just as effective.

Loeffler was appointed to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson when he retired, so she cannot be said to have lost reelection. Rather, she failed ever to be elected—and she failed on the basis of a racist campaign in which she relentlessly pandered to Donald Trump and the worst of his base. In a last-ditch pander, Loeffler promised Monday night to join the Republicans objecting to the counting of electors from battleground states won by President-elect Joe Biden. (And after it became clear she was going to lose, late on Tuesday night she announced she was heading to Washington to follow through on that pledge.)

A Democrat won the presidential race in Georgia. A Black Democrat is going to the Senate from the state. Holy wow, and a big thank you to Stacey Abrams, Nse Ufot, and so many other tireless organizers.