Donald Trump spent more than an hour on Saturday using a mixture of wheedling and threats in a phone call to get Georgia officials to change election results in the state where he lost to Joe Biden. The Washington Post released an audio of the conversation, which included fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Secretary of State.
“All I want to do is do that,” said Trump told Raffensperger. “I only want to find 11,780 votes, one more than us. Because we won the state. “Trump went on to tell Georgian officials who spoke to Raffensperger on the phone,” So what are we doing here folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.”
The entire call provides further evidence of the deterioration and lawlessness of Trump’s final days in office. Trump is the strong man that his political opponents have long feared (and that some of his political supporters have hoped for). But he does so in a way that has no real chance of success. Hence, his performance is both pathetic and criminal.
Listen to the whole callMost noticeably, Trump has delved into arcane conspiracy theories about election fraud, including great stories of votes cast by the dead, rigged machines, and elaborate ballot papers. At the beginning of the call, Trump refers to “suitcases” or “suitcases” filled with voices. Raffensperger calmly but decisively shoots down these fantasies.
Trump’s outright refusal to accept defeat even alarms some Republicans. On Sunday, The Washington Post published a Opinion piece of all 10 living former defense ministers – including two who served under Trump – who urge the election result to be accepted and oppose any role the military can play in the transfer of power. “Efforts to involve US forces in electoral dispute resolution would lead us into dangerous, illegal and unconstitutional territory,” they argue. “Civil and military officials who direct or carry out such activities would be responsible for the grave consequences of their actions for our republic, including potential criminal sanctions.”
As the post Office Remarks“The article was published because some Republicans plan to take the controversial step of contesting the electoral college’s ballot paper on Wednesday, even after the president’s repeated attempts to contest election results in court have failed Trump could try to use the military to keep himself in office despite losing his election. ”The letter was organized by two Republicans, Eric Edelman, a former defense official and Dick Cheney, the former vice president.
It is noteworthy that Republicans, even some up to Cheney, have taken the lead to speak out against the attempted coup. The debate over Trump’s coup was largely an inter-republican affair, in which the GOP was split into 140 members of Congress and at least 12 senators have announced that they will be challenging the election results. Conversely, some of the Republican leaders, particularly Mitt Romney and Pat Toomey in the Senate, were the loudest personalities who exposed Trump’s refusal to accept defeat.
The incoming Biden administration remained generally cautious in response to Trump’s provocations, apparently working on the theory that Trump’s coup is doomed to be thwarted by institutional controls, so expressing opposition would only turn those restrictions into a partisan affair.
But Trump’s Georgia phone call was so brazen that it provoked an unusually blunt testimony from Vice President-elect Kamala Harris called it a “bald, bold abuse of power by the President of the United States”.
Harris’ comments reflect the gravity of Trump’s offense. Speaking on CNN, Carl Bernstein suggested the call was evidence of a crime worse than the story that made his name Watergate. “I don’t think it’s déjà vu because it’s far worse than what happened in the Nixon presidency,” said Bernstein recommended. “What we are hearing here is the president proposing a conspiracy to steal the elections.”
Similarly, the Democratic representative Seth Moulton wrote“This is simply a crime. If a small town mayor did this, the FBI would make an arrest for corruption. The President should not be treated any differently. ” Speak with Bloomberg news, Representative of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said“I absolutely think it’s a criminal offense and, if it were up to me, articles would be on the floor pretty quickly.”
Trump’s attempted coup should not be treated alarmingly or complacent. Rather, it calls for a firm refusal, based on the principle that it is wrong for civil servants to attempt a crime even when they have no chance of breaking it off. As a Senior Fellow of the Cato Institute Julian Sanchez observed“If the worst consequence of trying to corruptly seize power after losing an election is that it doesn’t work, we are essentially saying that you should always try.” Radley Balko from The Washington Post suggested a range of penalties: “Accusation. Persecution. At least blame him. The president threatened a state election official with criminal charges unless he cast votes for an election. The only consequence of this cannot just be that the state election officer said “No”. ”
The possibility of a criminal investigation must wait until Joe Biden’s inauguration. Eric Holder, Attorney General under Barack Obama, recommended on Twitter that Trump may be violating election fraud laws.
Sanchez and Ralko are right when they realize that there must be punishment. Congressional Democrats may be gun-shy about further impeachment. But Trump’s actions certainly deserve impeachment or at least criticism. The political advantage of impeachment or censure is that it would serve to split the Republican Party and unite the Democrats.
There’s a growing gap between Republicans who have tied their futures to Trump (like Ted Cruz) and those who want to leave the Trump era behind (like Toomey). Increasing tension between these two GOP groups is a wise policy.
Trump is losing political power every day and there is no need to make unrealistic claims about his ability to overturn the elections. Even so, attempted crimes by a president require retaliation. Even if he’s just an irritant, Trump deserves to be put down.