Ankita Rao reports:
Despite the fact that the president-elect, Joe Biden, leads in the popular vote by at least 5 million people, and despite the fact that he has significant leads in five key states, Donald Trump has baselessly claimed that the election is rigged against him.
He’s weaponizing those claims to undermine the election results, to cast doubt on the democratic process, and to try to convince the American people that he is the true winner.
These are his tactics:
Litigation: The Trump campaign has lodged a slew of baseless lawsuits in swing states, with claims that range from “dead people voted” to “ballots that arrived late are being counted”. So far, as our reporter Sam Levine wrote this week, judges have ruled against the campaign in almost every instance, citing a lack of evidence.
Undermining the media: Trump and his supporters are even railing against Fox News because it called the election for Biden.
Federal investigation: William Barr, the attorney general, has authorized federal prosecutors to investigate election irregularities, an unprecedented move that prompted the head of the justice department’s election crimes unit to step down.
Calling on enablers: Trump is relying on figures such as Ken Starr; the lieutenant governor in Texas; and J Christian Adams, a former justice department official, to continue their crusade against so-called voter fraud.
Can Trump stage a coup?
Not really. Though the lawsuits continue, and the US supreme court has a conservative majority, it’s very unlikely that Trump can manipulate the levers of democracy and the safeguards in place.
As Sam Levine has written, there is a long-shot legal theory, floated by Republicans before the election, that Republican-friendly legislatures in places like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania could ignore the popular vote in their states and appoint their own electors. Federal law allows legislatures to do this if states have “failed to make a choice” by the day the electoral college meets. But there is no evidence of systemic fraud or wrongdoing in any state, and Biden’s commanding margins in these places make it clear that the states have in fact made a choice. More on that here.
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