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Refuse to Concede? Here's One Theory

'Atlantic' reports Trump could ask GOP state legislators to set aside electoral results
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 24, 2020 11:05 AM CDT

(Newser) – President Trump set off a political ruckus Wednesday when he declined to commit to a peaceful transfer of power after the results of the election are in. "We're going to have to see what happens," said the president, who again questioned the accuracy of mass voting by mail. Now the Atlantic is out with a story asserting that the White House is "laying the groundwork" for ways in which he could refuse to concede. Coverage:

  • One tactic: The Atlantic story by Barton Gelman, based on GOP sources, says the Trump campaign "is discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority." The idea is to claim fraud, then have state lawmakers "set aside the popular vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly."
  • Elaborating: Here's how a legal adviser to the Trump campaign puts it in the Atlantic: "The state legislatures will say, 'All right, we've been given this constitutional power. We don't think the results of our own state are accurate, so here's our slate of electors that we think properly reflect the results of our state.'"

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  • Trump's full comments: Watch the question and answer via C-SPAN. You can watch Joe Biden's reaction here, in which he asks, "What country are we in?"
  • From the right: At RedState, Joe Cunningham writes that it's ridiculous to think that Trump might seriously try to stay in office should he lose, calling it a dumb question that should never have been asked. So why the provocative answer? Trump is again trolling the media and Democrats, asserts Cunningham. He wants them to "freak out over something stupid because it's the perfect way to get them to stop talking about things he doesn't want them talking about (like 200,000 COVID-19 deaths, economic numbers, polls, etc.). It's a distraction game, and they fall for it every single time."
  • Taking it seriously: Lots of commenters were taking Trump's words seriously, including Stephen Collinson at CNN, who writes that they "posed a grave threat to the democratic continuum that has underpinned nearly 250 years of republican government." Collinson also thinks Trump "poured gasoline on an an already inflamed" situation by sending a signal to his supporters on how to react to losing results.
  • Skeptical: At the Week, David Faris doesn't think the plan laid out in the Atlantic would work. "The first and most obvious is that state legislatures play no clear post-election role in certifying slates of electors from the states."
  • GOP reaction: Axios rounds up reaction from prominent Republicans, most of whom don't mention Trump by name but insist that a peaceful transfer of power will, in fact, take place. Mitch McConnell: "There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792." Rep. Liz Cheney tweeted: "The peaceful transfer of power is enshrined in our Constitution and fundamental to the survival of our Republic. America's leaders swear an oath to the Constitution. We will uphold that oath."
(Read more President Trump stories.)

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