Historian Heather Cox Richardson – The Latest on Trump’s Attempt to Delegitimize the Election

November 19, 2020
Heather Cox Richardson
Nov 20

Today Trump continued his assault on our democracy, trying to overturn what at this point is a very clear victory for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris.

Today, Trump’s lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell alleged—without evidence—widespread fraud in the election and that Biden won because of “the massive influence of communist money through Venezuela, Cuba, and likely China and the interference with our elections here in the United States.” On his Fox News Channel show, personality Tucker Carlson noted that Powell refused to produce any evidence for any of her outlandish claims. The Washington Post described the press conference in which Trump’s lawyers made these allegations as “truly bonkers.”

Rick Hasen, an election law expert, wrote, “This is very dangerous for our democracy, as it is an attempt to thwart the will of the voters through political pressure from the President…. Even though it is extremely unlikely to work, it is profoundly antidemocratic and a violation of the rule of law. It’s inexcusable.” And yet, the official Twitter account of the Republican Party endorsed Powell’s statements.

The goal of Trump’s team is not to make a coherent argument; they have lost 31 lawsuits so far, and have racked up only 2 quite minor wins that do not affect the outcome. They are simply creating a narrative to muddy the waters, apparently either to get legislatures to replace Democratic electors with Republican ones, or to delay the certification of ballots to throw the election into the House of Representatives, where they think Trump has a chance of winning. They are making no pretense that Trump is the choice of a majority of voters– Biden is ahead by almost 6 million votes. Rather, they are trying to game the Electoral College.

This is a long shot that gets longer every day. Today, Trump invited to the White House Michigan lawmakers and the Republican canvass board members from Wayne County who first certified the ballots that elected Biden, and then, after Trump reached out to them, declared they wanted to “rescind” their approval of the ballot counts. But it was too late to change the certification of the ballots.

Tonight, the Republican secretary of state from Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, announced the result of the hand audit of ballots there, too. He confirmed that Biden has won Georgia. It turned out there were indeed some minor errors in the original count, but they were concentrated not in Democratic counties, but in Floyd County, which is Republican.

Today, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform called out Emily Murphy, the administrator at the General Services Administration responsible for refusing to acknowledge Biden’s victory. Her refusal has kept Biden’s people from access to intelligence and federal staffers who could help them prepare to hit the ground running when Biden takes office in January. The committee members wrote a letter pointing out that Biden has won by nearly six million votes and has been identified as the winner of the 2020 election by all major news media outlets. At this point, members of the committee say, “there is no conceivable argument that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are not ‘the apparent successful candidates for the office of President and Vice President,’” the standard the law sets for recognizing an incoming administration.

The committee wrote: “[T]here is no legitimate path forward for President Trump—regardless of how many baseless lawsuits he files or his irrelevant refusal to concede. He has now lost dozens of cases in multiple states as many of his own attorneys abandon his effort.” It went on, “Your actions in blocking transition activities required under the law are having grave effects, including undermining the orderly transfer of power, impairing the incoming Administration’s ability to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, hampering its ability to address our nation’s dire economic crisis, and endangering our national security.” The committee demanded Murphy brief them no later than Monday on why she is refusing to grant the Biden-Harris team access to the critical services and facilities required by law.

Trump’s attempt to steal this election is a fundamental attack on our democracy.

It is prompted in part, perhaps, by the fact that, as soon as he leaves office, Trump can no longer claim protection from indictments. Tonight the New York Times noted that two different investigations by the state of New York into Trump and his businesses have expanded to include tax write-offs for about $26 million in consulting fees, some of which appears to have gone to Ivanka Trump. She lashed out on Twitter, calling the investigation “harassment pure and simple… motivated by politics, publicity and rage.”

Even some Republican lawmakers are calling out Trump’s assault for what it is. Today Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said “It’s outrageous. It’s an assault on democracy…. It’s bad for the Republican Party.” Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) issued a statement pointing out that the president’s lawyers have refused to allege any fraud while under oath in a court, “because there are legal consequences for lying to judges.” “We are a nation of laws, not tweets,” he said.

Tonight on Twitter, Mitt Romney (R-UT) wrote, “Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the President has now resorted to overt pressure on states and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election. It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American president.”

Trump’s attack is not the first assault our democracy has withstood. In the 1860s, southern slaveowners sought to destroy the United States of America in order to create their own nation, based on the principle that white men were better than women and people of color, and naturally should rule over them.

On this date in 1863, at the dedication of a national cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for the men who had died there in a terrible battle the previous July, President Abraham Lincoln reminded Americans what was at stake. Packed in the midst of a sea of men in frock coats, he spoke for just two minutes.

Lincoln reminded the audience that America was “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” The raging civil war was a test to see whether America, or indeed whether any nation based on that revolutionary principle, could survive.

Lincoln honored “the brave men, living and dead,” who had fought at Gettysburg, but noted that their struggle there had already consecrated the ground “far above our poor power to add or detract.”

Instead, he told the audience, the dedication ceremony was for the living. “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us,” he said, “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”




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