Monday, December 19, 2016


Trump wins Electoral College vote,officially securing presidency

Trump wins Electoral College vote, officially securing presidency

Texas electors put the billionaire over the top, ending a last-ditch anti-Trump effort.

With Donald Trump poised to win a majority of the Electoral College vote Monday, Democratic leaders of an anti-Trump effort expressed anger and frustration toward Hillary Clinton and her top allies, insisting that their silence had all but doomed the long-shot plan to thwart Trump’s election.

One Democratic elector with Clinton campaign ties claimed dozens of Democrats on the Electoral College were willing to embrace the unprecedented plan to throw their votes to a consensus Republican candidate — like Mitt Romney — as part of a strategy to coax GOP electors to abandon Trump. All they needed, the elector said, was a signal from Clinton or her top allies.

"I have no problem casting my vote for Mitt Romney," the Democratic elector, who requested anonymity,told POLITICO.

That elector was not affiliated with the Democratic group known as the "Hamilton Electors," which lobbied Republican electors to defect from Trump and cast their votes for an alternative candidate. The group of nine Democrats and one Republican — Chris Suprun of Texas — has been in contact with Clinton's inner circle but did not receive any signals of support or opposition heading into the vote.

A signal of disapproval would have ended the effort weeks ago, they say, but as of Monday morning, just hours before electors gathered in their state capitals to officially choose the president, there was no word about whether Clinton approved of this strategic voting effort by Democratic electors, many of whom are pledged to support her.

“I understand Clinton’s hesitation because of winning the popular vote, but I believe that she had a chance to put her country above her party and help us stop Donald Trump,” said a Democratic elector involved with the anti-Trump effort. “That is my source of frustration.”

“There's a point at which the people's movement needs some top-down management,” one backer of the effort said. “What we did not have … was a voice with great authority. She's way too conflicted on it.”

Top advisers to Clinton, including campaign communications adviser Jennifer Palmieri, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. By late Monday morning, six states won by Trump had already cast their electoral votes — Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Indiana, West Virginia and Mississippi — and all 46 went to Trump. Four Democrats in New Hampshire cast their votes for Hillary Clinton as well, as expected.

Clinton and her team have refrained from public comment at all about the anti-Trump Electoral College push. Last week, however,Clinton's top campaign adviser John Podesta supported a separate push by 80 electors — all but one Democratic — to demand an intelligence briefing for electors ahead of Monday’s vote. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, ultimately denied that request.

Supporters of the anti-Trump effort were dismayed by Podesta's appearance Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," when Podesta said Democrats who cast a vote for someone other than Clinton would do nothing to affect the outcome of the election.

"The question is, are there 37 Republicans?" he said, in response to a question about the strategy of voting for an alternative GOP candidate. "It's not really what the Democrats are going to do."

Podesta's comment was the only public acknowledgment from Clinton's team that it's been eyeing the threshold of defections that would prevent Trump from claiming the presidency Monday.

Democrats were clearly divided on the issue heading into Monday. David Axelrod, a longtime top adviser to President Barack Obama, argued against efforts to vote against Clinton or Trump.

"Look, Alexander Hamilton conceived of the Electoral College and the Founding Fathers as a buffer against democracy run amok, as a safeguard against someone who was unsuited for the office to take the office. But it's never been used in the history of our republic,” Axelrod said Monday morning on CNN’s “New Day.” “To have it happen now, despite the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and all that's swirling around with Russia and so on, I believe would split the country apart in a really destructive way, and it would set this mad cycle in which every election the Electoral College vote would be in question.”

Meanwhile, Republicans expressed confidence that there would be no surprises when electors convene throughout the day.

"We’re very confident that everything is going to be very smooth," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, Trump's incoming chief of staff, on "Fox News Sunday."

Priebus noted that Suprun appears to be the only elector at risk of breaking from Trump. He also suggested Democratic hostility toward Trump, combined with timed intelligence leaks about Russia's involvement in the election, seemed to be part of a broader strategy to delegitimize Trump before he can even take office.

Republicans decried extraordinary last-minute attempts by Democrats to lobby GOP electors — who have already been bombarded by thousands of emails and letters — including door-knocks from activists hand-delivering letters urging them to buck Trump. Others described the pressure as harassment and intimidation, noting that anti-Trump protesters are planning to have a presence outside elector meetings.

There's no set format for voting when Electoral College members meet in their respective capitals, which could make real-time tabulations of the official vote tricky. Electors' only responsibility is to sign two sets of six ballots that represent their votes — one set for their presidential choice, the other for their vice presidential choice. One set gets mailed to Congress for the official counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6.

Anti-Trump activists say they intend to have a presence at all 51 meetings — the 50 state capitals plus Washington, D.C. — and to communicate the results from the early-voting East Coast states to activists in time zones where voting occurs later. If their effort appears to falter early, they're worried other electors preparing to cast "faithless" votes against their party's nominee will abandon those plans.

It's also unclear whether election officials will attempt to remove any electors who cast wayward votes in any of the 29 states that have laws requiring electors to support the winner of that state's popular vote. Those laws, which proliferated in recent decades, have never been enforced — but heightened awareness of the threat of defections has some election officials prepared to take action.

According to a Republican National Committee whip count of GOP electors, Trump is poised to capture enough votes to secure his place as the 45th president of the United States. But the effort to block him through the Electoral College will still represent a historic moment of resistance. Electors have never been subject to the intense lobbying and advertising campaign that accompanies this post-election period, nor have so many of them — nearly all Democrats — signaled a willingness to cast "faithless" votes. If those electors follow through, their votes could effectively negate millions of ballots cast across the country on Election Day.

The number of Democrats promising faithless votes may also set a historical record. The current record came in 1808, when six Democratic-Republican electors rejected James Madison. Already, there are six electors — five Democrats and one Republican — who insist they’re going to buck their party’s nominee on Monday. The most recent, David Bright of Maine, was reported by the Bangor Daily News to be casting his vote for Bernie Sanders.

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