But, as the Washington Post reported on Saturday, none of this stopped Trump allies from operating a “command center” at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC with a single goal: “to reverse the 2020 election results.”
The Post gave us breathtaking details of the “command center” which was initially set up at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel by Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. (Kerik, you may recall, pleaded guilty to eight crimes in 2010, including tax fraud and lying to government officials, before he was pardoned by Trump in February 2020.)
This “war room” was later moved to the Willard to be closer to the White House. And at the outset, the alleged goal seems to be to review the 2020 election results and advise Trump on options to contest unwanted outcomes. But the details of this report show that this electoral “command center” acted less like an open strategy team than a group of people pushing for a coup attempt – and the burning question is what should be done about it from future presidents to do the same.
Along with Giuliani and Kerik, Steve Bannon was one of the other reported players in the “command center” who was at the time bailed out on bail of $ 5 million after being indicted in August 2020, donors of Hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations cheat his own “Build the Wall” campaign.
Bannon – who was pardoned by Trump in his final hours in office – recently refused to contempt a subpoena by the Congressional committee to investigate the attack on the Capitol on the 6th. The House of Representatives lawsuit means Attorney General Merrick Garland will determine whether Bannon will be prosecuted. They feel like not only Trump but also the people around him think they are above the law.
To be clear, there is nothing illegal for lawyers and others to review election results to determine if there is any fraud or other suspicious activity and then to file lawsuits to challenge the results. In fact, Trump’s attorneys and allies ran the 2020 elections robustly, filing over 60 lawsuits and losing all but one small one in Pennsylvania that dealt with the healing of postal votes.
Overall, the pro-Trump attorneys had their day in court alleging a number of suspected election misconduct – including fraud – and they lost. Even Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, declared on December 1 that “we have not seen any fraud on the scale that could have led to a different outcome in the election.”
But in late December, the Post reports, Trump’s team was still working tirelessly from Willard to achieve that “other result”. This cabal was pursuing a strategy to pressure Vice President Mike Pence
to halt Congressional certification of Biden’s January 6 victory for no reason and send the results back to states for further investigation.
It’s not clear what this investigation would have been about as there was no credible evidence of election fraud – other than a delaying tactic to somehow allow the House of Representatives to elect Trump president, as Bannon and others had called for. (If no presidential candidate got 270 votes, the House of Representatives elects the president, with each country delegation receiving one vote. Since the GOP controlled 26 delegations, they could theoretically vote for Trump even though he lost the 2020 elections.)
Boris Epshteyn, a former Trump White House special assistant, told the Post he believed Pence “has constitutional authority to send the issue back to states for 10 days to investigate the widespread fraud and well before the day of the Report to the inauguration. January 20th … our efforts focused on getting this message across. “
When violence broke out in the Capitol, Epshteyn said, “In line with President Trump’s position and message, the Trump legal team immediately made it clear that any violence is unacceptable.”
Even more alarming was the Post’s reporting that Trump – along with Giuliani and another conservative lawyer – reportedly told them on 2nd Trump: “You are the real power.” For Trump, GOP civil servants were the “power” behind our democracy, not America’s voters.
One of the GOP state lawmakers on the call, Michigan Sen. Ed McBroom, told the Post he listened to see if Trump would come up with evidence of electoral fraud that could change the results in his state. McBroom stated that no such evidence was presented to him; so he refused to request decertification of the results from Michigan.
This lack of evidence did not stop dozens of other GOP state lawmakers who participated in the appeal from writing to Pence urging him to postpone confirmation of Biden’s victory for 10 days so that “our respective bodies meet , investigate and, as a body, “vote on the confirmation or decertification of the election.” They did what Trump asked to stay in power, despite our courts – including those Trump-appointed judges – all against his demands to reject the election, But Trump wasn’t interested in our laws or the decisions of the courts; he was focused on staying in power at all costs.
This is what an attempted coup looks like. Coups aren’t just tanks rolling on the streets. It is an illegal attempt to break the will of the people to retain political power. And if the organizers of the failed coup are not punished, what prevents them from making another attempt in the future?
As a result, the Justice Department must ask itself: Are the actions of the Trump team rising to the level of a federal crime, such as a conspiracy to meddle in a federal election? At least that’s what a law professor thinks.
But no one who supports our democratic republic can read behind the scenes about these 2020 election repeal actions and fail to believe that it was dangerous and wrong. And if somehow this does not violate our applicable laws, Congress must act quickly to pass laws criminalizing such behavior. If not, the next attempt to override valid election results may be successful.