Commentary

Living in a dangerous time: We have a President willing to do anything, legal or illegal, to remain in office

January 4, 2021 2:22 pm

President Donald Trump. Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

His phone call to Georgia Saturday is just as blatantly a crime as it would be to start shooting.

Trump once bragged he could shoot someone in the middle of Manhattan and not lose voters. Heck, Congress would probably support him.

Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s top election official. Credit: Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder (Oct. 14, 2020).

Trump made 18 attempts to talk to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger before the Saturday afternoon call in which Trump alternately threatened some sort of criminal action against Georgia officials and pleaded with him to just find 11,780 more votes so he could win in Georgia.

To Raffensperger’s credit, he resisted Trump’s repeated solicitations to commit a crime by declaring Trump won the most votes.

Trump’s repeated attempts to get Georgia officials to change vote totals has sparked comment from lawyers throughout the nation.

Famed Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe tweeted a description of “federal and state crimes galore’’ that could be charged, suggesting that Trump sounded like “a typical mob boss, but not a very smart one.’’

Federal and state laws also make it a crime for any federal official to interfere in the election of a president or other federal officials.

The phone call – tape recorded for posterity – has now been played for the world to hear. Transcripts have been published for all of us to read.  We know who else was on the call: Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, a former North Carolina member of Congress who should know better and several lawyers.

Raffensperger had his own general counsel, Ryan Germany, on the line.

Trump immediately claimed to have won “very substantially’’ in Georgia.  “You can see it by rally size, frankly.  We’d be getting 25,000 to 30,000 people a rally and the competition would get less than 100 people,’’ he added in the call published in a transcript by The Washington Post.

Trump went on to accuse Georgia officials of accepting 250,000 to 300,000 ballots “dropped mysteriously into the rolls” and a couple of hundred thousand forged signatures on ballots plus many more that were denied a chance to vote and others from out of state that were allowed to vote.  Some votes were cast by close to 5,000 dead people, the president charged.

Raffensperger listened quietly to Trump’s rant and an attempt by Meadows to initiate a further investigation of the accusations.

“President Trump, we’ve had several lawsuits and we’ve had to respond in court to the lawsuits.  We don’t agree that you have won,’’ he said.

Trump suggested the people of Georgia and the nation are angry, saying there would be nothing wrong with Raffensperger announcing he has “recalculated.’’

Raffensperger, continued to insist that the president’s data “is wrong.’’  They had checked the allegations, including the suggestion that 5,000 dead people voted, he said.  They found just two dead people actually voted.

Point by point, Raffensperger and lawyer Germany rejected each of Trump’s accusations and his repeated claim that he won Georgia “by hundreds of thousands of votes.’’

Trump was harshly critical of Georgia Gov. Brian P. Kemp and Stacey Abrams, a former legislator who led a voter registration campaign in Georgia, saying she was “Totally corrupt.’’

The president also suggested Raffensperger was guilty of criminal conduct because he failed to report ballots being shredded.

“That’s criminal conduct….That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer,’’ Trump said.

“All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state,’’ Trump repeated throughout the conversation.  He also repeatedly suggested that Raffensperger had committed crimes by failing to count many of his votes.

“We believe our numbers are right,’’ Raffensperger said over and over in the taped call.

Trump urged the Georgia officials to admit to “faulty election results’’ before Tuesdays runoff election between U.S. Senate candidates. “You know the people of Georgia know that this was a scam.  Because of what you’ve done to the president, a lot of people aren’t going out to vote…’’

Trump again asked the Georgia officials to quickly announce that there was a new count and Trump actually won the election in Georgia.

“Everybody knows I won it by hundreds of thousands of votes,’’ Trump added.

So far the President’s outrageous conduct does not seem to have dimmed the fervor of at least 12 U.S. senators and the many House members who have pledged to support Trump’s effort to trash the electoral College votes cast on Wednesday for President Elect Joe Biden.

We are living in a dangerous time. We have a President that is willing to do anything, legal or illegal, to remain in office despite the fact that he clearly lost the election by more than 7-million votes.

U.S. Capitol. Credit: Getty Images

And a bunch of members of the U.S. House and Senate continue to support him despite repeated court decisions to reject claims of fraud.

Trump is desperate. He is reaching out in every direction attempting to defy the Constitution and hang on to power.  And he is encouraging the right wing whackos to descend on Washington for rallies on Wednesday, a call that is sure to upend life in our nation’s Capitol in the midst of a deadly pandemic.

Some of those who know him best are so worried they’ve taken to writing editorials urging Trump and members of Congress to stop questioning the results of the election.

Ten former secretaries of Defense, both Republicans and Democrats, have cautioned Trump against any attempt to use the military to remain in office and criticized Trump’s attempts to block the Biden administration from taking over.

We are as close to an illegal coup d’etat as we have ever been.

On Wednesday the House and Senate will gather in Washington to approve Electoral votes which approve Biden’s election.

There are some who want to delay acceptance of the votes for 10 days to audit election results in each state.  The plan ignores the fact that every conceivable suggestion of election fraud has already been raised in courts all over the nation. All have been summarily rejected.

The U.S. Supreme Court has voted unanimously to uphold those lower court decisions despite the fact that three members of the court were appointed by Trump.

So far the courts are saving us from an absolute disaster.

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Lucy Morgan
Lucy Morgan

Pulitzer Prize-winner Lucy Morgan was chief of the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times capital bureau in Tallahassee for 20 years, retiring in 2006 and serving as senior correspondent until 2013. She was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame and the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame. The Florida Senate named its press gallery after Morgan, in honor of her two decades covering the Legislature.

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