The Atlantic: Trump Is Preparing For An Election Night Coup
President Trump and Republicans are readying the stage for an election night coup, as Trump consistently warns of mail-in ballot fraud and insists the race must be called the night of November 3, according to The Atlantic.
Close students of election law and procedure are warning that conditions are ripe for a constitutional crisis that would leave the nation without an authoritative result. We have no fail-safe against that calamity.
In the worst case scenario, rather than rejecting the outcome, Trump will use his power “to prevent a decisive outcome against him,” The Atlantic writes.
Trump’s state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for postelection maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states.
The 79 days between election night and inauguration — the Interregnum — is where Trump’s plan would play out.
Normally, the milestones contained therein (when electors meet to cast their ballots, when the new Congress is seated, when the House and Senate meet to count the electoral vote) do not affect the election outcome.
This year may be different, The Atlantic writes: “Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward.”
Trump has said he will only accept the election results if he wins and has suggested the only way he can lose is if the election is rigged.
A proper despot would not risk the inconvenience of losing an election. He would fix his victory in advance, avoiding the need to overturn an incorrect outcome. Trump cannot do that.
However, Trump and Republicans can start off by suppressing the Biden vote on Election Day, both with the 50,000 “poll monitors” they plan to send to states across the U.S. and by hampering mail-in voting.
Trump’s crusade against voting by mail is a strategically sound expression of his plan for the Interregnum. The president is not actually trying to prevent mail-in balloting altogether, which he has no means to do.
He is discrediting the practice and starving it of resources, signaling his supporters to vote in person, and preparing the ground for post–Election Night plans to contest the results.
It has been documented that over the past 20 years, the overtime count has increased and has tended to shift more blue. Trump picked up on this in 2018 in Florida’s election, as the overtime count whittled away Republicans’ advantages.
This year, the overtime count will be even greater: “Mail-in votes require more time to count even in a normal year, and this year there will be tens of millions more of them than in any election before," The Atlantic writes.
A legal adviser to Trump’s national campaign told The Atlantic: “There’s an expectation in the country that there will be winners and losers called” on election night.
He continued: “If the Election Night results get changed because of the ballots counted after Election Day, you have the basic ingredients for a shitstorm.”
He then blamed Democrats: “They are asking for it. They’re trying to maximize their electoral turnout, and they think there are no downsides to that.”
The adviser added: “There will be a count on Election Night, that count will shift over time, and the results when the final count is given will be challenged as being inaccurate, fraudulent—pick your word.”
With every day that passes after November 3, the president and his allies can hammer home the message that the legitimate tabulation is over and the Democrats are refusing to honor the results.
But there’s more: “According to sources in the Republican Party at the state and national levels, the Trump campaign is discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority.”
With a justification based on claims of rampant fraud, Trump would ask state legislators to set aside the popular vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly.
To a modern democratic sensibility, discarding the popular vote for partisan gain looks uncomfortably like a coup, whatever license may be found for it in law.
The Trump campaign legal adviser said all of this would be framed in terms of protecting the will of the people: “The state legislatures will say, ‘All right, we’ve been given this constitutional power. We don’t think the results of our own state are accurate, so here’s our slate of electors that we think properly reflect the results of our state.’”