As US President Donald Trump’s legal avenues to attack the results of the US election continue to fall apart, reports claim his team are seeking to directly target the US Electoral College.
Comments from senior Trump advisers now indicate the President’s team is trying to influence Electoral College members to switch their votes – a move that could turn the result of the election his way.
The plan, which was discussed, but mostly dismissed, before the election, is now being called unprecedented and “potentially illegal” in new analysis from The Washington Post.
In key battleground states across the US, pressure has been mounting on state and local officials to accept claims of voter fraud and counting irregularities before key dates to certify results are reached.
REVOLT IN THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE
In November, The Atlantic published an investigation called The Election That Could Break America, including interviews with GOP lawyers and sources.
It claimed the President’s team would be, at this stage of the election, on track to shift their focus from the popular vote, which favours Joe Biden, and gave him the Electoral College, to focusing on appointing Trump-loyal electors.
In each state, electors are usually chosen by the popular vote, with insiders from each party casting a vote on behalf of their state. But the Constitution doesn’t stipulate it has to be that way.
Since the 19th century all US states have given the decision of the Electoral Votes to their voters – but the Supreme Court ruled during Bush v Gore that the Constitution allows for states to “take back the power to appoint electors”.
After the election comes December 8, also known as the “safe harbour” deadline for choosing all 538 members of the Electoral College.
While the electors don’t meet until December 14, they have to be appointed by the safe harbour day for their credentials to be accepted. There’s also a stipulation that says if there’s “any controversy or contest” then Congress can intervene, and decide which electors can cast the ballots for the President.
Sources in the Republican party said the “Trump campaign (was) discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority”.
RELATED: Trump’s murky future after White House
RELATED: Why Biden’s plan will enrage Trump
“With a justification based on claims of rampant fraud, Mr Trump would ask state legislators to set aside the popular vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly. The longer Mr Trump succeeds in keeping the vote count in doubt, the more pressure legislators will feel to act before the safe-harbour deadline expires. This was reported before the election took place.
The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman also reported the electoral college play was discussed this week at a meeting of Trump advisers.
“He knows it’s over,” one adviser said, according to the New York Times report.
“But instead of conceding, they said, he is floating one improbable scenario after another for staying in office while he contemplates his uncertain post-presidency future,” Haberman wrote.
‘A SECOND TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’
Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismissed a question about whether the US government would engage with Mr Biden’s transition team.
“There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” Mr Pompeo said. “Right? We’re ready. The world is watching what is taking place.
“When all the votes are counted, there will be electors selected. There’s a process. The constitution lays it out pretty clearly.
“The world should have every confidence that the transition necessary to make sure that the State Department is functional today, successful today, and successful with a President who’s in office on January 20, a minute after noon, will also be successful.”
Mr Pompeo’s comments fall in line with Mr Trump’s assertions that he “will win” the election, despite the result being called for Mr Biden six days ago.
RELATED: Trump’s brazen plan to cling to power
Revolt in the Electoral College is far fetched, but not an impossible task for the Trump campaign to pull off.
According to reports, the Trump campaign would need about 40 electors to defy the popular vote for Mr Biden in key states including Pennsylvania and Arizona, and cast their vote for Mr Trump.
In 2016, seven electors changed their votes – but throughout history the practice is not common. Advocacy Group Fair Vote says over 58 Presidential elections, some 23,507 electoral votes have been cast – and only 90 of those were “deviant” votes.
Members of the GOP have refused to dismiss the option, telling media it’s on the table.
“You’d have to have a reason, wouldn’t you?” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, when asked about the strategy. “What would be the reason to get an elector to vote against the outcome?”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News it was “constitutionally … an accurate argument”.
“But right now, (Trump’s legal team is) zeroed in completely on litigation.”
OFFICIALS PRESSURED BY GOP NOT TO CERTIFY RESULTS
Meanwhile, in Michigan, Republican lawyers have been pressuring the Canvassing Board of Wayne County, The Washington Post reports. GOP lawyers have been pushing the board members to accept claims of alleged impropriety with the votes before they certify the result.
The Canvassing Board are responsible for reviewing and certifying the election results.
Once election results pass through the canvassing board they become official. In Wayne County, where the canvassing board is equally split between Republicans and Democrats, lawyers representing the GOP have pushed for the board to delay their decision.
The board will have to make a decision over whether or not to certify the result by November 17. The longer a delay the further the electors move from reaching their “safe harbour” – and the closer the Trump officials are to appointing their own electors.
The state of Michigan was called for US president-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday by AP and major US cable networks.
REPUBLICANS TOLD TO APPOINT TRUMP LOYALISTS
In Pennsylvania, Republican politicians are being targeted by online campaigns, which specifically demand only Trump loyalist electors be appointed.
Michigan’s Attorney-General Dana Nessel told media on Wednesday she was concerned Republicans would seek to use unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud to stop the election results from being certified.
“It appears as though that is the strategy they are pursuing,” Ms Nessel told a call to the nonpartisan Voter Protection Project.
“We will do everything we can possibly do in the state of Michigan to ensure that that does not occur and that the slate of electors accurately reflects whoever received the most votes.”
In Michigan, this would deprive Mr Biden of 16 electoral votes – however, comments from other senior Trump advisers suggest they believe they can halt the certification of up to 20 states.
Separately, the Trump campaign filed its 238 pages of affidavits, from 107 poll watches who alleged impropriety. An area of particular concern was Detroit.
Reports now claim most affidavits complained about conditions under which the ballots were counted – including how many Republicans were in the counting room, and how close they could stand to a counting table rather than actual allegations of impropriety.
Substantial allegations amounted to concerns around a “handful” of votes, according to The Washington Post.
In other states, Republican officials are being targeted by online campaigns demanding they appoint Trump loyalist electors to the Electoral College.
An analysis by The New York Times called the Trump campaign’s strategy “a series of one-in-a-hundred legal bank shots all being successful in multiple states simultaneously”. The report claimed if the campaign was successful, it would result in the reversal of a decided election, and lead to “broad public outrage”.
On Friday, the Department of Homeland Security broke with Mr Trump’s rhetoric about the election, and assured the US there had been no claims of widespread voter fraud.
“The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history,” the DHS said in a statement.
The department’s Elections Infrastructure Government Co-ordinating Council the Election Infrastructure Sector co-ordinating Executive Committees said they found “no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised”.