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Errant flashlight beams occasionally escape the basement window of the courthouse as off-book campaign workers carefully replace another seal on a box of completed ballots. At two minutes a ballot, the team will barely finish in time to slip away before the early shift opens the building so the sheriff’s deputy can load the boxes to transport for final counting. Suddenly the snap of a light switch drowns the flashlight beams in merciless fluorescent light. The conspirators freeze as a pair of legs descends the stairs.
“What are you doing?” A voice asks, half puzzled and half accusing.
“Making corrections.” One of the workers responds as he brushes No. 2 pencil eraser crumbs from a ballot.
“This is a waste of time.” The consultant tells the workers. “I have a better way.”
Such is the scene that might play out in the hours after a future presidential election. Why would workers toil for hours to change individual ballots? The same result was achieved in 2016 when only two people were persuaded to change their votes. These two people, who were totally anonymous and unelected, nullified hundreds of thousands of lawfully cast ballots as they succumbed to a secret campaign of intimidation and persuasion in the weeks after the 2016 presidential election.
Politico noted that activists publicly doxxed personal contact information for many electors— “and it’s been used to bury them with massive email campaigns.” Famous actors made a public appeal to the electors to nullify American votes using out-of-context quotes from the Federalist Papers. Sharon Geise, an elector from Mesa, Arizona, estimated 8,000 emails flooded her inbox in the days leading up to the official Electoral College vote in the 2016 presidential election. The four electors from Idaho reported harassing phone calls from activists pressuring them to nullify the ballots cast for Donald Trump.
The effort failed to change the ultimate outcome in 2016. But it did result in the nullification of hundreds of thousands of votes lawfully cast for Donald Trump as two electors from Texas did indeed change their votes.
On October 30, 2016, days before the election, then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wrote the FBI accusing it of covering-up “explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers, and the Russian government.”
After the initial results of the election in November surprised the Clinton campaign, the Russia collusion hoax became the means by which Democrats would attempt to nullify votes by flipping the Electoral College electors. The effort climaxed in the days between December 9 and December 17, 2016. America came within a hair’s breadth of the 2016 presidential election being overturned through a collaboration of the Clinton campaign, the media, and like-minded public officials.
The CIA made the first move. On December 9, the CIA leaked an accusation that Russia “interfered in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency.” On December 12, 2016, just one week before the electors were to cast the final votes for president, a group of mostly Clinton-supporting electors sent a letter in which they demanded a “briefing” from the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. The letter appears to have been informed by the notorious Steele dossier commissioned by the Clinton campaign and other partisan misinformation. The letter cited an account of Roger Stone’s communication with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (which was false) and asserted that Stone knew about the hacked emails before they were released (which was also false).
The letter also cited unspecified contact between unspecified Trump aides and those associated with the alleged Russian election interference. This likely is a reference to the Steele allegation that Cohen traveled to Prague to pay-off Russian hackers (which was also false). Or it may have been a reference to the Steele dossier’s claim that former campaign manager Paul Manafort coordinated communication between the Russian government and the Trump campaign (also false). The letter further claimed that Carter Page met with the Putin aide in charge of the Russian intelligence on the U.S. election. That appears to refer to a meeting between Carter Page and Igor Divyekin (which didn’t happen).
Clearly somebody dripped Steele’s poison into the ears of compliant electors to build peer pressure against the Trump electors.
The Clinton campaign formally requested that the electors receive the requested briefing. In lofty tones, the Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta, lectured, “The bipartisan electors’ letter raises very grave issues involving our national security . . . Electors have a solemn responsibility under the Constitution and we support their efforts to have their questions addressed.” Keep in mind, Podesta would have known that the Clinton campaign secretly commissioned the fabrication and dissemination of the Trump-Russia collusion allegations.
Imagine the result if the director of national intelligence had sponsored the Steele falsehoods to American electors with no resources to investigate or dispute the smears. It’s difficult to imagine the plan would not have worked.
But somebody blinked. On December 16, 2016, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a press release acknowledging the request to brief the electors but declining the invitation to conduct it. The communique made an oblique reference to the classified nature of the underlying information. But this classification could have been lifted by presidential decree in a matter of minutes.
The real reason the electors were not so briefed might have been that insiders had already spotted critical flaws in Steele’s allegations. For example, an astute State Department official, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec, tipped-off the FBI that Steele incorrectly claimed the payments for the Russian interference were made through the Russian Consulate in Miami (a consulate that does not exist). Also, the FBI travelled to Prague in October of 2016 to run-down a promising arrest of a Russian hacker. It’s likely that they also used the trip to look into reports by Steele that Michael Cohen traveled to Prague months earlier to pay Russian hackers.
We now know that the Prague hacker had nothing to do with the 2016 election and that Cohen did not travel to Prague in 2016. Both Kavalec and senior Justice Department attorney Bruce Ohr warned the FBI that Steele had transparently political motives. Ohr also knew from his own Russian source that the claim that Manafort coordinated with the Russians was “preposterous.” The briefing the electors would have received was just a regurgitation of the lies commissioned by the Clinton campaign.
It didn’t need to be true. It just needed to work.
Viewed in the context of the 2016 election, the present-day effort to end the Electoral College is not about amending the Constitution but about softening-up the playing field for the next post-election campaign to flip electors. By running up vote totals in states like California, Democrats can claim a moral victory in the popular vote to justify an attack on the Electoral College’s constitutional result. In this way, padded vote totals in blue states can be combined with “troubling intelligence” reports by insiders in the deep state to make the next play to overturn an “unacceptable” election result.
That’s exactly what happened in 2016 and there is every indication that the technique will be refined and ratcheted up in 2020. This is the electoral vulnerability that must be addressed if we are to preserve self-government. Imagine the chaos that would have ensued if Clinton succeeded in flipping enough electors to capture the presidency. States should act to eliminate this vulnerability by installing failsafes to overrule citizen electors bribed or threatened into nullifying votes. A single unelected elector should not be allowed to nullify thousands of votes.
Photo Credit: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images