You get the sense that many Republican politicians are praying for the days between now and January 20 to go by quickly so that Donald Trump will be forced to leave the White House. Indeed, while some GOP elected officials are eager to stand up for their defeated chieftain because they assume he will hold great power over the MAGA masses in the future (whether or not he runs for president again), others have taken more of a passive-aggressive approach. Refusing to acknowledge Joe Biden as president-elect, mumbling about Trump’s “right to due process” in challenging the election in the courts, and in general avoiding the subject are pretty common evasions of the basic issue that Trump is trying to steal a second term.
Unfortunately for those Republicans who just want to get past all this and focus on keeping the Biden administration from accomplishing anything, Trump is actively tracking many of them down and demanding public support for his mad claims, as the Washington Post reports:
The president has been calling Republicans, imploring them to keep fighting and more loudly proclaim the election was stolen while pressing them on what they plan to do. He spoke to Arizona GOP Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), head of the conservative Republican Study Committee, on Wednesday, and is meeting Thursday at the White House with several state attorneys general. Meanwhile, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer and point man in the legal fight, has been making similar calls from the hospital, where he is being treated for COVID-19.
The president also has enlisted Vice-President Pence to reach out to governors and other party leaders in key states to see what else can be done to help the president. A person familiar with the calls said Pence has not exerted pressure on lawmakers to take specific actions and sees them as “checking in.”
Earlier, Trump was trying to talk Republican legislators in several states, namely Michigan and Pennsylvania, into just disregarding the popular vote and appointing electors pledged to him, but he found no takers. Once the doomed Texas petition asking the Supreme Court to overturn the results fails — which it will — Team Trump will be nearly out of options. But the one remaining option will put Republican members of Congress in the spotlight with nowhere to hide.
To make a very long and tedious story short, the last step in any presidential election is the certification of electoral votes by the newly elected Congress in early January. This is normally a rubber-stamp of the results everyone knows on or shortly after Election Night. But the above-mentioned Electoral Count Act provides a way to “pause” the certification if one House and one Senate member protest the award of electors in one or more states. In that event, the two chambers separate and hold a two-hour debate before voting on the electoral votes for disputed states. Only if both Houses disapprove the initial results are they changed.
So far Brooks hasn’t publicly identified a senator who is willing to help him trigger this last resort, but there are plenty of likely suspects, from would-be presidential candidates such as Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley, to hardcore conservatives such as Mike Lee and Rand Paul, or even the two Georgia senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who desperately need every MAGA voter for their January 5 runoffs (the day before the vote in Congress would occur). The ostensible strategy for the caper isn’t entirely clear: Normally you’d challenge electors in states with multiple, disputed slates that have been sent to Congress (that’s what led to the adoption of the Electoral Count Act, which followed the disputed 1876 presidential election). With all 50 states having already certified electors and the “safe harbor deadline” for replacing them in Congress having already passed, that doesn’t seem to be an option.
You have to assume the idea is simply to vote down the electors in enough states to deny Biden his majority, throwing the election into the House, where Republicans will hold a majority (26, with the possibility of Iowa making 27 once an election dispute there is settled) of state delegations under the constitutional provisions giving each state one vote in a presidential contest.
That won’t happen, if only because the Democratic-controlled House isn’t going to support Brooks’s effort to overturn the election. But it would force each and every Republican member of Congress to go on record supporting or opposing Trump’s coup, in the ultimate loyalty test just before the 45th president leaves office, shrieking and whining the whole way. They all know Trump’s refusal to accept defeat is childish and dangerous, but will they have the courage to deny him one final gesture of fealty? I wouldn’t be so sure about it. But if they do succumb in large numbers to this last temptation, their party will for years bear the stain of so outrageous and authoritarian a measure, as bright and red as the biblical Mark of the Beast.