- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 19, 2020

President Trump on Thursday invited the Republican leaders of Michigan’s state legislature to the White House as his legal team engages in a long-shot strategy to create enough doubt about the election results to persuade GOP legislators in states won by presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden to choose pro-Trump electors instead.

Mr. Trump is expected to meet with Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield at the White House on Friday.

A visibly angry Mr. Biden said the president’s apparent wooing of the GOP state legislators shows that he is “one of the most irresponsible presidents in American history.”

“There’s questions whether it’s even legal,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s going to be interesting to see who shows up [at the White House meeting]. We won Michigan. It’s going to be certified.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said she hopes the GOP statehouse leaders wear masks and stay safe if they do end up visiting the White House.



“All the meetings in the world, though, can’t take away from the fact that Joe Biden won Michigan by over 150,000 votes,” she said. “So we will be sending a slate of electors that reflects the will of the people of Michigan at the end of this process.”

Mr. Shirkey told The Detroit News on Tuesday that he doesn’t expect the results of the state’s presidential race to change as lawmakers examine the voting process.

“Elections have consequences,” he said.

The invitation came after the president’s legal team held a press conference on Thursday to outline what lawyers called widespread and coordinated election fraud directed by top Democrats.

Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani emphasized that the examples of purported election fraud were perpetrated by Democrats, in Democratic-controlled cities such as Philadelphia and Detroit, in a “common scheme” at the direction of Democratic mega-donor George Soros and even Mr. Biden himself.

People familiar with the Trump strategy said it’s an argument likely to appeal to at least some Republican state legislators in key contested states.

Republicans control the legislatures in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona — all states listed on the Trump team’s “pathways to victory.” Only Nevada’s legislature is controlled by Democrats.

Time is running out to litigate cases of voter fraud in court before states are scheduled to certify the election results. Georgia is due to certify its results on Friday, Michigan and Pennsylvania on Monday, Arizona on Nov. 30, with Wisconsin and Nevada on Dec. 1.

Mr. Biden won all those states, according to major news organizations, although the Associated Press has not called Georgia and a hand recount is underway there.

But if a state election board fails to certify presidential electors by the Dec. 8 “safe harbor” deadline, it would give momentum to Republican-controlled state legislatures to select an electoral slate that supports Mr. Trump — especially if there’s suspicion of widespread fraud.

One Republican operative close to the Trump legal team said the strategy of highlighting widespread, coordinated election fraud “goes hand in hand” with trying to forestall certification and pushing the decisions to state legislatures.

But another person familiar with the legal team’s efforts portrayed the strategy simply as a way for Mr. Trump to show his supporters, a majority of whom believe the president won the election, that he’s still fighting for them.

Mr. Giuliani, asked at a press conference whether his team was aiming to sway the choice of states’ presidential electors, didn’t answer directly.

“Our goal is to go around the outrageous Iron Curtain of censorship and get facts to the American people,” he told reporters. “These are facts. You’re concealing them. You’re covering them up.”

Said Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis, “This is not about overturning an election on our part. This is about all future elections. We are defending President Trump and defending you. We have time and we have constitutional provisions that will step in when we show [election fraud]. It is irredeemably compromised.”

Trump lawyer Sidney Powell said, “The Constitution has provisions … for how you fix this.”

In Michigan, Mr. Trump called Wayne County GOP canvassers Monica Palmer and William Hartmann to express gratitude for their support in an initial vote against certifying the election, citing discrepancies involving the number of absentee ballots cast in Detroit.

On Wednesday, after they had switched their votes to certify the results in the wake of reported threats, the two Republicans signed affidavits saying they believe the county’s heavily Democratic vote should not be certified because a state audit was unlikely.

Ms. Ellis tweeted after the two Republicans initially voted against certifying the election, “If the state board follows suit, the Republican state legislator[s] will select the electors. Huge win for @realDonaldTrump.”

But Trump campaign adviser Boris Epshteyn told The Washington Times, “The legal strategy is to continue to push to count all the legal votes. The appointing of electors, the constitutional process, it will run its course and we want to make sure that is done correctly. The focus right now is on the legal strategy and determining how many legal votes were cast for President Trump and how many for former VP Joe Biden.”

So far, Republican legislators in various states haven’t expressed any willingness to overturn the results of the popular vote. Republican state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman of Pennsylvania told reporters two weeks ago that he didn’t believe the law allowed for such action.

Arizona’s Republican House Speaker Rusty Bowers told the Associated Press this week, “I do not see, short of finding some type of fraud — which I haven’t heard of anything — I don’t see us in any serious way addressing a change in electors.”

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, dismissed Mr. Giuliani’s tactics Thursday.

“No, Rudy is not smarter than folks give him credit for,” Mr. Shapiro tweeted. “He doesn’t have a legal strategy and he has no facts to fit his client’s false narrative about election fraud. Now carry on with your day. We got this.”

The Constitution does grant state legislatures the power to choose presidential electors for the Electoral College. But the Electoral Count Act of 1887 has a “safe harbor” provision stating that changing the slate of electors after Election Day would be a violation of federal law, and elections experts say it’s never been done.

Ned Foley, director of the election law program at Ohio State University, said on Twitter that the Trump team’s lawsuits “lack merit, but are toxic” in two ways: they risk certification delays in states, and rile up the president’s base “into believing untruths.”

Karl Rove, a Republican strategist and former adviser to President George W. Bush, said Mr. Giuliani’s team of lawyers has embarked on a risky gambit in questioning “the fundamental fairness” of the election.

“They’d better come up with proof,” he said on Fox News. “These are serious allegations. It needs to be either proved or withdrawn.”

Mr. Rove, who also is leading the fundraising effort for Senate Republican candidates in two Georgia runoff elections in January, said the Trump campaign’s legal strategy could be damaging there.

“It doesn’t help, particularly if it’s not true,” he said.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll this week found that 52% of Republicans believe Mr. Trump “rightfully won” the election, while 29% said Mr. Biden “rightfully won.” Also, 68% of Republicans said they were worried the election was “rigged.”

David Sherfinski contributed to this report.

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