Clinton Campaign Will Take Part in Election Recounts, But Casts Doubt on Manipulation Theories

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The Clinton campaign isn’t giving desperate supporters much to hope for.Photo: Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign announced on Saturday that it will participate in vote recounts in three key battleground states won by Donald Trump on Election Day, CNN reports. The announcement aligns the Clinton camp with the efforts of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who has raised millions of dollars to fund recounts in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. On Friday, Wisconsin state officials confirmed that the Stein campaign successfully petitioned for a recount before that day’s 5 p.m. deadline, and the recount will now begin. Though, it is not at all clear if the state will be able to conclude the recount process before December 13, when when members of the Electoral College cast their votes for president. Official recount requests are due in Pennsylvania and Michigan early next week, and the Stein campaign is expected to meet those deadlines as well. The Stein campaign, which says it is pursuing the recounts to ensure the integrity of the election, has raised more than $5.7 million as of midday Saturday.

The calls for more scrutiny on the results in the three states started after a group of computer scientists and election lawyers said they had discovered evidence that election results in those states may have been manipulated, as originally reported by New York’s Gabriel Sherman.

However, Saturday’s announcement from the Clinton campaign came with a considerable amount of cold water for anyone who believes that the election results were indeed rigged or hacked or that the Clinton campaign has not already been doing its due diligence regarding such concerns. Clinton campaign counsel Marc Elias, in a Medium post explaining the campaign’s response, references the Stein campaign’s efforts, but adds that the Clinton team did not find enough evidence to merit taking such action themselves, though they will participate now that Stein’s campaign is proceeding:

Because we had not uncovered any actionable evidence of hacking or outside attempts to alter the voting technology, we had not planned to exercise this option ourselves, but now that a recount has been initiated in Wisconsin, we intend to participate in order to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides. If Jill Stein follows through as she has promised and pursues recounts in Pennsylvania and Michigan, we will take the same approach in those states as well. We do so fully aware that the number of votes separating Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the closest of these states  —  Michigan  —  well exceeds the largest margin ever overcome in a recount. But regardless of the potential to change the outcome in any of the states, we feel it is important, on principle, to ensure our campaign is legally represented in any court proceedings and represented on the ground in order to monitor the recount process itself.

The campaign is grateful to all those who have expended time and effort to investigate various claims of abnormalities and irregularities. While that effort has not, in our view, resulted in evidence of manipulation of results, now that a recount is underway, we believe we have an obligation to the more than 64 million Americans who cast ballots for Hillary Clinton to participate in ongoing proceedings to ensure that an accurate vote count will be reported.

Regarding the investigation of those claims of abnormalities and irregularities, Elias explains that the campaign has already had lawyers, data scientists, and analysts look for evidence of hacking, and that the campaign has been cataloging and investigating every theory of manipulation that they could. Elias says the campaign also spoke with outside experts to hear out their concerns and review their findings, as well as to get those experts’ opinions on the Clinton campaign’s internal data and findings. The campaign has additionally conducted a review of all relevant election laws and practices regarding the recount and audit processes, and, according to Elias, “most importantly, we have monitored and staffed the post-election canvasses  —  where voting machine tapes are compared to poll-books, provisional ballots are resolved, and all of the math is double checked from election night.”

Elias highlights that the continued counting and verification of votes has led to Clinton having built a 2-million-vote lead in the popular vote; but again, the campaign has not found compelling evidence of voter fraud or result manipulation. Though, Elias does makes a point to complain about how Michigan and many other states do not automatically conduct basic audits of their results “to ensure accuracy and public confidence in the election.”

Also on Saturday, Donald Trump released a statement insisting that “the people have spoken and the election is over,” and attacking the recount effort as a “scam by the Green Party” in which Jill Stein is trying to “fill her coffers with money, most of which she will never even spend on this ridiculous recount.”

Reached for comment on Saturday by Bloomberg, Trump senior advisor Kellyanne Conway also went after the Clinton campaign, crying hypocrisy:

What a pack of sore losers. After asking Mr. Trump and his team a million times on the trail, ‘Will HE accept the election results?’ it turns out Team Hillary and their new BFF Jill Stein can’t accept reality. Rather than adhere to the tradition of graciously conceding and wishing the winner well, they’ve opted to waste millions of dollars and dismiss the democratic process. The people have spoken. Time to listen up. #YesYourPresident.

Asked by the Washington Post whether or not the Clinton campaign’s participation should be construed as the campaign contesting the results of the election, spokesperson Brian Fallon rejected that logic: “We note [in Elias’s post that] we are guarding our prerogatives now that someone else has launched a recount. Not sure what you could point to to suggest there is anything here that calls the results into question.”

The Clinton campaign is not alone in casting doubt on theories of election manipulation, either. The White House, in a statement released on Friday, concluded that Election Day votes were not compromised by state-supported Russian hackers, with the Obama administration announcing that “we stand behind our election results, which accurately reflect the will of the American people.”

“The Kremlin probably expected that publicity surrounding the disclosures that followed the Russian government-directed compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations, would raise questions about the integrity of the election process that could have undermined the legitimacy of the president-elect,” the statement read, but the Obama administration does not believe that effort was successful. The New York Times also notes, however, that intelligence officials are still investigating the impact of a broader Russian “information warfare” campaign, in which fake news about Mrs. Clinton and about U.S.-Russia relations, was intended to influence voters. Many of those false reports originated from RT News and Sputnik, two state-funded Russian sites.

Those fake-news reports were widely circulated on social media — independent studies, including one set for release soon, have shown — sometimes in an organized fashion by groups that appear to have had common ownership. Individuals, conservative talk-show hosts, and activists recirculated them, often not knowing (or apparently not caring) about the accuracy of the reports.

But regarding the White House’s endorsement of the election’s legitimacy, as New York’s Gabriel Sherman originally noted, the Obama administration had already been discouraging the Clinton campaign from contesting the results of the election. President Obama also apparently advised Hillary Clinton to concede to Donald Trump on Election Night, according to a forthcoming book about Clinton’s defeat, per the Hill. According to the same report, “one of the Clintonworld sources said the campaign apparatus and the Democratic National Committee [didn’t] want to be officially affiliated with the push to re-tabulate votes because of the bad political optics of seeking to overturn the election results,” but that some Clinton allies had been hoping that Stein’s recount push would succeed. Now that the Stein campaign is indeed pushing ahead, it appears the Clinton camp sees no reason not to join the effort. Still, anyone hoping that the recounts and audits will change the result of the election is likely to be very disappointed.

This post has been updated to include statements from Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway, and Brian Fallon.