Will Republicans, in service of Donald Trump, attempt to delay the certification of Michigan’s election?

Michigan’s election results are supposed to be certified tomorrow, but there’s some doubt as to whether or not it’ll actually happen. It appears as if, even though every individual county has certified their election results, and no actual evidence of election fraud has been offered, the two Republicans on the State Board of Canvassers may vote against certification. The following background comes by way of today’s New York Times.

The country is coming to a crossroads on Monday. That’s the date Michigan is to certify the results of the 2020 election. Yet President Trump has chosen a state he lost by more than 150,000 votes — more than 14 times the size of his 2016 victory in Michigan — to try to subvert the election.

Having failed in the courts, President Trump is now grasping at a new lifeline: pressuring Republican election officials and legislators to ignore the reality that Joe Biden legitimately won the popular vote in their states. This tactic, now being played out in Michigan, is no doubt sending the anxiety levels of Biden supporters back to where they were before the courts had calmed these efforts by exposing how empty most of the legal claims were.

But this tactic, too, is destined to fail — though it is toxic for the country’s politics.

Michigan has an unusual system for certifying vote totals. In many states, a single actor, the governor or secretary of state, has the final authority to certify the winner of an election. But Michigan employs four-member canvassing boards, first at the county level — which is now complete — and then at the statewide level. These boards, including the statewide canvassing board that meets Monday, include two Democrats and two Republicans. The governor appoints them, with the Senate’s consent. This structure was designed to provide checks against partisan manipulation of the certification process. But the president is hoping to get the two Republicans on the board to refuse to certify, thus blocking certification…

The two Republicans on the State Board of Canvassers are Aaron Van Langevelde and Norman Shinkle, and it sounds as though Shinkle has already decided to vote against certification. According to Republican Representative Paul Mitchell, Shinkle intends to vote against certification not because any evidence of wrongdoing has been brought to his attention, but because some Republicans, like Laura Cox, the head of the Michigan GOP, want to delay Biden’t being officially named President-elect for political reasons, even if the delay will cost lives and harm the country. The following is from CNN’s Jake Tapper.

As for what Trump’s end game might be, some think that he believes there may be an opportunity to have Michigan legislators intercede on his behalf, if the election isn’t certified, and appoint electors who would cast their ballots against against Biden, even though he won the state by over 154,000 votes. [It’s worth pointing out again that this is more than 14 times the number of votes that Trump won the state by in 2016.] And that, many suspect, is why Trump called Republican leaders from the Michigan legislature to DC a few days ago. Here’s one of those legislators, Lee Chatfield, being interviewed today, and noting that, if the State Board of Canvassers have a deadlock, the legislature will appoint electors. [It looks as though Chaterfield and Representative Jim Lilly were wined and dined at the Trump Hotel in DC after their meeting with the President.]

If you read the New York Times article linked to above, you might feel a little better about what’s happening. They don’t think this desperate gambit of Trump’s has a shot. As Pod Save America’s Jon Favreau said today on Twitter, if the two Republican members of the State Board of Canvassers refuse to certify the election, the Democrats can either “seek a court order to certify, which the courts have granted in the past,” or “Whitmer can replace the Republican board members who are refusing to do their jobs.” The Republicans, of course, will claim that an audit of the vote needs to be done, and that a delay is necessary to look into the as-yet-unsubstantiated claims raised by the Trump team, but the law is pretty clear that an audit can’t be performed until the election is certified. So now I guess we just wait and see to what extent Aaron Van Langevelde and Norman Shinkle feel comfortable participating in a blatant coup attempt.

update: Today’s Detroit Free Press has an editorial by two law school professors. The title of the piece is, Refusing to Certify Legitimate Votes is a Felony. One hopes that Aaron Van Langevelde and Norman Shinkle read it before casting their votes this afternoon. Here’s how the editorial begins.

The people have spoken. They delivered Joe Biden a decisive electoral victory, including a 150,000-vote margin in Michigan. Yet Republican Party officials have asked the Michigan Board of State Canvassers to delay certification on Monday. These calls follow last week’s tumultuous Wayne County meeting where, after improper interference by a candidate, Republican appointees tried to recant their decision to certify.

This is unduly chaotic, but we shouldn’t bet against democracy. A canvassing board may not legally refuse to certify an election where no legitimate evidence undermines valid ballots. Michigan courts have repeatedly rejected wild claims of election fraud or improprieties as “incorrect and not credible.” The votes, at this point, speak for themselves. Should a member of the state canvassing board seek to misuse their authority, that obstruction won’t actually deliver a different result. First, understand what state canvassers do: certification just involves adding county tallies and declaring a winner. Michigan law provides a separate space to review the election process — a post-election audit, which does not delay or stop certification. The canvassers have one job. State courts can step in to make sure it gets done. Canvassers failing to do their duty may delay the inevitable for a moment — but not much more than that…

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This day in treason

With the Georgia election having just been certified, there’s really no path forward for Trump at this point. Biden has him beat in too many states, and by too wide of a margin, to make stealing the election feasible. Despite his efforts, Biden’s victories are being certified, and Trump’s laughable legal challenges are being thrown out of court left an right. But yet Trump persists, refusing the concede, and spreading lies about how, had it not been for widespread election fraud, he would have won. As for why Trump has decided to go out of office like this, it seems as though it’s part of a deliberate strategy. A Republican official told CNN yesterday that the administration’s goal is “to set so many fires that it will be hard for the Biden administration to put them all out.” [This sounds like treason, doesn’t it?] But maybe Trump still thinks that he can pull off a coup, if he can just coerce enough electors to violate their oaths and support him over Biden when the electoral college convenes in December. According to the Washington Post, Rudy Giuliani, who is overseeing Trump’s response to the election, has been telling people that’s their plan. Their goal, according to Giuliani, is to “pressure GOP lawmakers & officials across the political map to stall the vote certification in an effort to have Republican lawmakers pick electors and disrupt the electoral college.” Once can’t imagine they think they have a legitimate shot at keeping Biden out of the White House, but maybe, as we’ve discussed before, they just want to sow enough doubt in people’s minds that it undermines the Biden administration the same way the vile lie of “birtherism” undermined that of Barack Obama.

And, yes, it’s dangerous as fuck. As Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz said earlier today, we’re watching a “coup” attempt in real time, as Trump and his people are “trying to overturn a free, fair election.” It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that even Mitt Romney can see what’s happening.

As for the pressuring state and local officials, it seems to be happening close to home, here in Michigan. Today word came out that Trump had invited Michigan Republicans to the White House before the Monday deadline to certify our election results. As Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Tribe said earlier this evening, this isn’t a simple “meet and greet” with the President. This is “a meeting to implement a White House plot to steal Michigan’s 16 electoral votes, a criminal conspiracy.”

Michigan Senate leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican, is on record saying, “That’s not going to happen,” when asked about the possibility that Republicans might try to appoint their own slate of electors rather respect the will of Michiganders, who made it clear that they preferred Biden over Trump. But yet here we are, talking about the possibility that Shirkey might be heading into a meeting with Trump where — according to Politico — “the likely agenda involves the felony of attempting to bribe a public official.” As NBC’s Heidi Przybyla points out here, with a quote from Michigan Secretary of State spokesperson Tracy Wimmer, this isn’t how any of this is supposed to work.

It’s worth noting that the Trump campaign, while still alleging election fraud in Michigan, today dropped their court case in the state. When asked earlier today why they never came forward with evidence of fraud, when they claimed to have a great deal of it, Rudy Giuliani, who’s hair dye was running down his face, said that he didn’t want his witnesses exposed to the press. He also said something about Michigan’s ballots being sent to Germany to be counted by a company sympathetic to Venezuela, which is a new, absolutely bonkers conspiracy theory that I wasn’t even aware of. Here with more background on this new fever dream of a theory is female Rudy Giuliani impersonator Sidney Powell.

None of this is even remotely normal. Trump got his ass kicked in the presidential election, and, instead of conceding, said that he won. Now, without offering any evidence to support the claim, his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani is talking about a “massive attack” on our electoral system, and how the FBI should be rounding people up. And Maggie Haberman at the New York Times is reporting that, while Republican leaders are finding all of this incredibly troublesome, they’re hopeful that Trump will eventually do the right thing, in spite of everything we’ve seen from him over the past several years, which would indicate that he’ll do the exact opposite.

I could go on forever, but I’m fucking exhausted. You’re on your own.

Oh, one last thing. As for why the likes of Giuliani and Bannon might be fighting so hard to illegally intend the term of Donald Trump, here’s something to consider from Marcy Wheeler.

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Donald Trump fires the head of the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency for telling the truth and saying that there was no election fraud

Five days ago, in response to repeated, unverified claims of election fraud, Chris Krebs, the Trump -appointed director of the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency, issued a statement declaring definitely, “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” The official Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency statement which Krebs authored — which was cosigned by the presidents of the National Association of Secretaries of State and the National Association of State Election Directors, among others — went on to refer to our recent election as, “the most secure in American history.” You can read the full statement here.

And here’s the response from Donald “I Won the Election” Trump, who today fired Krebs, saying that the above statement about the integrity of our electoral system was “highly inaccurate.”

It should be noted that Donald Trump, for all of his talk about election fraud, has yet to come forward with any actual examples. It’s now been two weeks since the election, and Trump’s personal attorney is still saying that, while he has evidence of fraud, he’s not yet able to share it. [You would think that, if they had actual evidence, they would have bought it to the table before all of the states certified their election results, right? Well, the fact that they didn’t, I think, tells you everything you need to know about their so-called evidence. There is none, and never was. And that’s why all of their court filings are being thrown out across the country.]

This, of course, is extremely dangerous. The President of the United States is attempting to steal the election, claiming that he would have won if not for rampant fraud across a series of states — states which, by the way, are predominantly controlled by Republicans. As you’ll recall, he did the same thing in 2016, when he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. He declared that millions of people had voted illegally for her, and that, if not for this fact, he would have had more votes that her. He created a commission to look into it, and, surprising no one, the group didn’t discover any evidence of significant, coordinated fraud, and quietly disbanded. And the same thing is happening here. Only, this time, it appears as though more Republicans are willing to go along with the dangerous charade.

Here in Michigan we have Monica Palmer and William Hartmann, Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, who have refused to certify the election results in the heavily Democratic Detroit, in what Governor Whitmer has called, “a blatant attempt to undermine the will of the voters.” And, in Georgia, we have Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger saying that Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, pressured him to toss out legal ballots in certain counties in hopes that it might help trump’s chances. This, my friends, is what real election fraud looks like.

I’m confident that justice will prevail, and that Biden will take office in January, but it amazes me that so many people are still willing not just to humor Donald Trump, but to actively aid him in his attempt to cheat his way into a second term.

update: It turns out that the people of Wayne County weren’t too happy about not having their votes counted. They pushed back hard, and the results of the election were eventually certified. And, with that, Joe Biden has officially won Michigan.

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Michigan to shutdown again, as Dr. Atlas appears to encourage violence

Six days ago, we had 10 million COVID-19 cases in the United States. Today, we have 11 million. That’s one million new cases in less that a week. The infectious respiratory disease, it would seem, is spreading uncontrollably now. Here in Michigan, we just broke our single-day record for new cases this past Friday with 8,516 more people having been diagnosed. As of right now, we’ve lost 7,994 people to COVID-19 here in Michigan, including my friend Monica Echeverri Casarez, a surgical technician in Detroit. And, according to projections quoted today by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, if we don’t take immediate action, we could soon get to the point where we’re losing 1,000 people a week in the state.

In spite of this, we’re still not seeing significant movement at the federal level. In fact, Anthony Fauci, our nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, just said publicly that it’s been “several months” since President Trump has even attended a meeting of his administration’s the coronavirus task force. As Maureen Dowd today wrote in the New York Times, “The president, who has never shown much interest in governing, has finally dropped all pretense,” and that certainly seems to be the case with regard to COVID-19. As people are dying across America, Donald Trump is focused on golfing, and spreading dangerous conspiracy theories about an election that he decisively lost. [Not only is Trump not addressing the pandemic, but, by not conceding the election, he’s making it impossible to the Biden administration to get started.] And, as a result, the states are once again having to step in.

Here in Michigan, our Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, announced this evening that we’d be shutting down once again. From November 18 to December 8, she said, all bars and restaurants would be closed for indoor dining, all in-person high school and college classes would be cancelled, and all non-essential workers would be encouraged to work from home. Here’s the announcement.

Public health professionals lauded the decision, with one notable exception. Donald Trump’s controversial COVID-19 advisor, Scott Atlas, encouraged people to “rise up” against Whitmer… which came across to me as especially loathsome, as the last time people were encouraged to “liberate” Michigan, a number of anti-government militia members started plotting to kidnap and assassinate Whitmer.

If the virus could speak, I don’t imagine in could do a better job of advocating for its own interests. I mean, inciting violence against elected officials for urging people to stay home and wear masks is pretty aggressive… especially given the reality of the situation that we’re all dealing with right now, with hospitals filling up, and dead rates climbing. [Did you see the video of the inmates loading dead bodies into a mobile morgue in El Paso? How about the newspaper obituary section that ran over 10 pages long?] One would think that perhaps, instead, Dr. Atlas could be encouraging people to wear masks and stay home, but what would that do, other than save lives? It certainly wouldn’t make Donald Trump happy. And that’s what this is really all about, isn’t it?

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Roger Stone, Russia, and the 2016 roots of the “Stop the Steal” disinformation campaign

Over the past several years, when trying to understand the objectives and tactics of Vladimir Putin, I’ve found Russian dissident, chess grand master, and human rights activist Gary Kasparov to be an incredibly useful resource. Well, a few days ago, when discussing Trump’s refusal to concede the 2020 presidential election, choosing instead to spread dangerous conspiracy theories about the integrity of our U.S. electoral system, Kasparov suggested that this had been Putin’s game plan back in 2016, when the Russian dictator was certain that Trump, whom he was working on behalf of, would lose the election to Hillary Clinton. At that time, according to Kasparov, Putin’s hope was to spread conspiracy theories about Trump having actually won, thereby weakening trust in our democratic system and detaching Americans from their “shared reality.” And, it would seem, Kasparov thinks that Putin and those serving his interests in America are doing the exact same thing now, in the wake of Trump’s decisive loss to Biden. Here’s the thread from Kasparov’s Twitter feed.

OK, so I was still thinking about this today, and wondering how much stock to put in Kasparov’s theory, when I happen across a CNN article titled, “Stop the Steal’s massive disinformation campaign connected to Roger Stone.” Here’s an excerpt.

It is an internet battle cry: Stop the Steal has swept across inboxes, Facebook pages and Twitter like an out-of-control virus, spreading misinformation and violent rhetoric — and spilling into real life, like the protest planned for DC this weekend.

But while Stop the Steal may sound like a new 2020 political slogan to many, it did not emerge organically over widespread concerns about voting fraud in President Donald Trump’s race against Joe Biden. It has been in the works for years.

Its origin traces to Roger Stone, a veteran Republican operative and self-described “dirty trickster” whose 40-month prison sentence for seven felonies was cut short by Trump’s commutation in July.

Stone’s political action committee launched a “Stop the Steal” website in 2016 to fundraise ahead of that election, asking for $10,000 donations by saying, “If this election is close, THEY WILL STEAL IT.”…

A Stop the Steal Facebook group was managed by a loose coalition of right wing operatives, some of whom have worked with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. The group amassed hundreds of thousands of followers in little more than a day before Facebook shut it down on November 5 — the day after it was launched.

Also on November 5, Bannon started his own “Stop the Steal” Facebook group; he changed the name to “Own Your Vote” the following day. It was not removed by Facebook, but the social media company did later remove several other pages affiliated with Bannon…

Spinoff pages sprung up soon after like brush fires, with Facebook struggling to quickly snuff out the spreaders of bogus information.

All the while, Roger Stone and Bannon have been in full disinformation mode. Stone has appeared on the show of far-right radio commentator Alex Jones to trumpet groundless claims that Biden is trying to steal the election; Bannon is echoing similar conspiracy theories on his podcast, calling the election “a mass fraud.”

“We’re calling it a fraud or we’re calling it a steal — stop the steal,” he said on a November 4 episode.

Despite efforts by Facebook to shut down the misleading content, it was too late. The cluster of groups and pages — which altogether had amassed 2.5 million followers, according to an analysis by activist group Avaaz — had seeded a jungle of misinformation that is being shared — and believed — by millions of Americans…

So, is it possible that Kararov is onto something when he suggests that Russia and their confederates here in the United States, like Roger Stone, are merely executing the plan that had been in place since back in 2016, when they had every reason to believe that Trump would fail to win the presidency? Is it possible that Trump’s refusal to concede has less to do with his fragile ego, and his pathological refusal to publicly accept defeat, and more to do with a Russian disinformation strategy that’s been in place since 2016? There might be something to it. As our fellow Michigander Marcy Wheeler reminds us all this morning, there’s more than sufficient evidence, after all, to conclude that, back in 2016, Stone’s “Stop the Steal” efforts may have been coordinated with Russia. It’s certainly worth considering, right?

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