My colleague Maggie Haberman described a recent White House meeting where Trump pressed to know “whether Republican legislatures could pick pro-Trump electors in a handful of key states and deliver him the electoral votes he needs to change the math and give him a second term.”
This is Trump’s so-called Hail Mary plan. In plain language, it’s a potential political coup. Biden beat Trump by 148,000 votes in Michigan, 58,000 votes in Pennsylvania, 36,000 votes in Nevada, 20,000 votes in Wisconsin, 14,000 votes in Georgia and 11,000 votes in Arizona. For Trump to win, as Andrew Prokop wrote in Vox, he needs to “change the outcome in at least three of those states — a very tall order.”
Article II of the Constitution says that the states must appoint electors to the Electoral College “in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” The state legislatures of Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania are Republican-controlled. How does this look to a man like Trump who, as my friend Greg Schwed, a lawyer, put it to me, has never “failed to take the path that would preserve his vanity and power, no matter what law or tradition it would violate?”
It looks like possible salvation.
Republican legislators may feel beholden to Trump. Some of them might conclude they’re finished if they do not do his bidding. These legislators might — might — decide to ignore the popular vote, perhaps by declaring the mail-in ballots invalid, even in the absence of a hint of voter fraud, and thus install a slate of Trump electors, claiming he won with the “legal” popular vote. The Electoral College votes Dec. 14 to choose officially the next president.
This potential maneuver is preposterous and vile. Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania all have Democratic governors, who would try to veto or block such a move. The attorney general of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro, has already declared that for the State Legislature “there is no legal mechanism to act alone and appoint electors. None.”
Or, in theory, legislatures could try to change the law overnight, if enough Republicans have taken leave of their consciences and concluded American democracy is expendable. I will not attempt to describe the mess that could ensue in Congress, except to say that it would be murky, and there’s a 6-to-3 conservative majority in the Supreme Court.
This is a column I never thought I would write. But better to write it than to be blindsided. The world needs an American democracy restored, rid of its brooding ruler, and led by the man who won, Joe Biden. End of story.
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