Supporters cheer as US President Donald Trump arrives to address a "Keep America Great" rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on February 20, 2020. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
It’s Groundhog Day this week, so perhaps we should not be surprised that Susan Collins is once again equivocating. Nor should we be surprised that Donald Trump is again making false claims about the election.
But, as with his hints of pardons and threats of unrest on Saturday night, Trump’s latest claim is notable for its lack of subtlety. In his latest statement from Mar-a-Lago, Trump ripped bipartisan attempts to amend the Electoral Count Act and offered his own novel gloss: “Actually, what they are saying, is that Mike Pence did have the right to change the outcome, and they now want to take that right away. Unfortunately, he didn't exercise that power, he could have overturned the Election!"
And there it is. Again.
His goal wasn’t to litigate the election, or audit the results, or return it to the states. On January 6, while his supporters attacked the capitol, he wanted Mike Pence to “overturn” the election.
This is especially awkward for his brigade of dutiful turd-polishers who have been busily concocting an alternate narrative.
So, to summarize:
This should, of course, be a clarifying moment. The Cook Report’s Amy Walters tweeted over the weekend that Trump’s comments “all but [ensured] a bipartisan agreement to fix the Electoral Account Acts of 1887.”
But if we have learned anything over the last six years, it ought surely to be skepticism about GOP resistance to Trumpism.
Which brings me to an email I received over the weekend, from former GOP congressional candidate Michael Wood. You might recall that Wood waged an heroically quixotic anti-Trump primary campaign in Texas last year. He finished 9th, but in the process got a close, upfront view of the transformation of Republican politics.
He describes how Republicans might rationalize their acquiescence.
On this week’s Thursday Night Bulwark, Mona Charen said that if state officials tried to overturn the results of a presidential election, then activists would rally and push public opinion against these efforts.
I wish I could share her optimism about how this would play out. Here’s how I see it going based on our country’s 2020 experience:
The state legislatures or elections boards will not straight-up declare, “We don’t agree with how the people of our state voted, so we are going to override the election results”.
No, there will be a full-blown effort to muddy the waters and cast doubt on the integrity of the process.
The “bullshit shotgun” strategy employed by Trump after the 2020 election was disingenuous, disgraceful, and un-American – but it was also effective.
When fair-minded, normal people go to talk to their otherwise fair-minded, normal neighbors about the overruling of the election results they will be met with a flurry of conspiracy theories and falsehoods: “Well they had to throw out all those votes because the polling sites were deliberately left open for too long in Democratic neighborhoods, didn’t you hear about all the dead people who voted, Republican ballots were secretly marked so they could later be thrown out” etc. etc.
At this point the only ones who could pull us back from the brink would be conservative voices aligned with the Republican Party. Alas, those voices have been pushed out (Flake), marginalized (Romney), or discredited (Cheney/Kinzinger). And what about those who remain, who have successfully walked between the raindrops and remained intellectually "respectable" without losing any MAGA cred?
I imagine the internal monologue of these anti-anti-Trump Rich Lowrys of the world will go something like this:
“1-Wow, this is a true crisis and I really have an obligation to speak the truth even if it is unpopular.
2-But if I say anything unpopular then I won’t have any influence over the Republican Party going forward.
3-If there is ever a future crisis then I need to be in the room.
4-Therefore, I will keep my mouth shut about the present crisis.”
On Capitol Hill, Dan Crenshaw, Nancy Mace, Mike Gallagher, and Chip Roy will make a few brave noises until they feel a little heat from their local GOP groups back home, and they will tell themselves:
“1-Wow, my oath to the Constitution really obliges me to speak out against this undemocratic power grab.
2-But if I say anything unpopular then I won’t be reelected to Congress.
3-For the good of the country, I can’t let one of those truly crazy MAGA people get elected to my seat.
4-Therefore, I will act and vote like a truly crazy MAGA person.”
All evil needs to triumph is good men desperate to remain "relevant", "in the room", and "a part of the conversation".
I apologize for the length of this letter. Keep up the great work.
Michael A. Wood
Fort Worth, Texas
Exhibit A….Susan Collins
The “no pain, no gain” maxim was on display this weekend when Sen. Susan Collins (R-Concerned) was asked on ABC’s This Week whether she would support Donald Trump if he ran in 2024. She demurred, leaving the door open to the possibility of having faith in a Trump resurrection, while providing some perfunctory lip service to the notion that there were other people she might prefer, but whom she—of course—did not name. She was rewarded a few hours later with the former president attacking her for not having given his coup attempt a full-throated endorsement.
Now keep in mind a few things about Susan Collins:
Less than a year ago Collins voted to convict Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial, putting her support behind an article of impeachment that would have barred him from ever again holding federal office.
She’s not up for election again until 2026.
She has possibly the most independent brand of anyone in the Republican caucus.
She won her last election in a surprisingly comfortable fashion.
And despite all of that, the good senator still isn’t willing to endure whatever political blowback might come from simply saying that she won’t support Trump in a hypothetical 2024 run.
If someone as politically safe as Collins won’t stick her neck out, what hope is there that a meaningful group of others will find the mettle not just to privately hope for an alternative but to wage a vigorous, scorched-earth campaign on behalf the alternative?
BTW, Marc Elias is wrong about a lot of stuff
Speaking of efforts to reform the ECA…
One of the loudest voices warning that a compromise on the legislation would be a “partisan trap,” is Democratic super-lawyer Marc Elias. As Matt Yglesis pointed out, he’s wrong about that. But as we were reminded again this weekend, it turns out Elias is wrong about a lot of things.
Elias is wrong about Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger.
Elias is wrong about dark money.
Elias is wrong about press freedom.
Elias has ethical problems in federal court.
And Elias often has questionable legal judgment.
Rick Hasen is one of the country’s leading experts in election law and he’s out with a detailed critique of Elias in a new posting on his “Election Law Blog.”
It’s Really. Something.
Over the weekend, the NY Times reported that Democratic non-disclosing groups have now outpaced Republican non-disclosing groups. Marc has complained that the coverage is unfair because many of the groups on the left are working on issues such as increasing voter access (as though that is a good excuse for non-disclosure of the group’s donors—it’s not). One election lawyer wrote to me, “And did you notice that Elias was paid $20 million by dark money groups to fund his rogue, scattershot legal work in 2020?” The NY Times’ Nick Confessore made a similar observation on Twitter, and he got attacked by the Elias army. Marc’s primary response to the NYT reporting on Democratic-side “dark money” is to call to make it easier to sue journalists for defamation. (He’s since deleted the tweet but this followup remains.)
And this brings me to my final point, about Marc’s style. It is fine to be zealous in one’s advocacy, but one need not be an aggressive bully on social media or elsewhere. I wish that Marc would emulate better the demeanor and manner of his Perkins Coie predecessor, Bob Bauer. No one would accuse Bob of lack of zealousness in representing his clients. But Bob seldom raised his voice, and welcomed (and continues to welcome) fair and civil debate with those with whom he disagreed.
Judge Rejects John Eastman’s Effort to Hide Files from the Jan. 6th Committee
John Eastman, who spearheaded the fake legal justifications for tossing the certification of the 2020 Electoral College votes in hopes of overturning Joe Biden’s election and returning Donald Trump to the White House, continues to make news. The House Jan. 6th Committee wants to know what he knows. Chapman University, where Eastman was a law professor until his forced retirement on Jan. 13., 2021, has said that it will comply with a subpoena from the committee as to some 19,000 Eastman-related emails and memoranda still in the university’s possession. In response, Eastman has sued both the committee and the university, citing yet another slew of shaky legal theories.
David O. Carter, U.S. district judge for the Central District of California, is having none of it.