By the terms of every recent precedent, Joe Biden won and Donald Trump lost the last presidential election on November 7, 2020, when news media number-crunchers called it for the Democrat. This outcome became legally definitive no later than December 9, by which time all 50 states had certified the presidential winner. That was the day after the Safe Harbor Deadline established by the Electoral Count Act of 1887 that cut off any changes in electoral votes. If there was any doubt remaining at all who won, it should have ended on December 14, when the Electoral College votes were formally cast, giving Biden 306 votes to Trump’s 232.
Yet, as we know, Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn this loss continued well beyond this point of no return, becoming what can only be described as an attempted electoral coup that included an effort to get then Vice-President Mike Pence to illegally throw out state-certified electoral votes and a fiery speech to an enraged mob ready to march on the Capitol to keep Congress from recognizing Biden’s election. And now, as Axios reports, documents released by the U.S. House Oversight Committee show that Trump and various underlings, including former chief of staff Mark Meadows, “repeatedly pressed senior Justice Department officials to investigate baseless conspiracy theories and challenge the results of the 2020 election.” All this potentially nefarious activity happened long after the election results were resolved. And it was relentless: “The documents illustrated attempts by then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to ask DOJ officials on at least five occasions to pursue claims of election fraud.”
The very day the Electoral College made Biden’s win extremely official, Oval Office Coordinator Molly Michael sent Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen (who was about to become acting attorney general) “materials and “talking points” about debunked election fraud claims in Michigan.” It was irrelevant by then, or at least should have been. But it got a lot worse on December 29, as the Hill explains:
The documents also revealed that Trump used official White House channels and a private attorney to urge the DOJ to file a lawsuit in the Supreme Court that asked the court to declare that the Electoral College vote in six states Trump lost cannot be counted and request a special election to vote for president.
As election law wizard Rick Hasen observes, it’s hard to decide what’s more outrageous — the imaginative remedy for fraud allegations already thrown out of every court in sight, or the sheer chutzpah of it all:
[L]et’s not let the ludicrous nature of the complaint overshadow how dangerous this was: here is the President of the United States directing a lawyer to pressure the Department of Justice into filing a brief in the Supreme Court that would have enjoined the appointment of presidential electors by 5 states that Biden won (and that had already appointed electors pursuant to legal state process). This is nothing less than an attempt to use the courts to steal the election. It is brazen, and dangerous, and an affront to the rule of law.
And it cannot be blamed on underlings, though many of them cooperated. As Axios notes, Trump personally “pressured Rosen and then-Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark to challenge election results during meetings on Dec. 31, 2020, and Jan. 3, 2021, according to emails.” DOJ officials privately mocked some of the White House claims, calling them “pure insanity” in one case and not worthy of a response in another. But the timetable shows that, as of early January, Trump still somehow thought he could stop Biden’s inauguration. No wonder he was willing to incite the Capitol Riot mob on January 6.
Yes, with Trump we are dealing with someone so delusional that he apparently believes he will be restored to the presidency this summer. But he was enabled by key elements of his staff, just as he is now being enabled in his dreams of vengeance and restoration by his political party. It makes you shudder to think what he might have done in a second term.