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We needed to make a timely decision as to who was to be inaugurated on January 20th. We have a whole system of laws and courts through which an election can be challenged, and charges of election fraud can be made and evaluated, and the president brought charges to those courts and lost. Donald Trump is not the first person in this country ever to go to court and not get the result he wanted. The way “law and order” works is that, rather than shooting at each other or beating each other up, we take our case to the courts and live with the result, for better or for worse.
Nearly all lawyers agree that the vice president does not have unilateral authority to overturn an election. Theoretically, the election could be overturned if both chambers voted on January 6th, 2021 to do so, but given that the Democrats had the majority in the house, that was never going to happen.
So if the election was going to be overturned, it had to happen before the electoral college votes were counted on December 14, 2020, and really even before that, before individual states ratified their results. That was why, after the December 14th vote was taken, senate majority leader Mitch McConnell accepted the results and congratulated Biden on his victory.
Were there irregularities in the election? Of course there were. An election consisting of 160 million votes will have some illegal votes, some dead people voting, some irregularities and mistakes in counting. This is unavoidable. But the question is, “Were there irregularities on a scale sufficient to justify throwing out the result, and was sufficient evidence of this provided in court in time to flip states before their counts were ratified?”.
What about all the evidence of fraud presented by Trump and his lawyers prior to that?
Nothing Trump said was said under oath. He was not legally accountable for lying when he said those things. To my knowledge, nothing that president Trump has said since he took office in 2017 has been under oath.
Trump’s legal team, notably Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, pursued a two-track strategy:
- They held press conferences, during which they were not under oath so there was no penalty for perjury, and made wild allegations of vast conspiracies to change thousands of votes.
- They then filed lawsuits, and when in court under oath, where the penalties for a lawyer who lies are very severe, offered little or no evidence, even saying, in some cases “This lawsuit is not alleging voter fraud.”, or filing lawsuits about legitimate voting irregularities, but where there were so few votes in dispute that it would not flip any state if they prevailed.
It is clear that Trump’s legal team realized that the lawsuits they filed had no hope of overturning the election. Their goal was to try the case in the court of public opinion, and the lawsuits were a token effort to create the illusion of legitimate legal action. They relied upon much of the public being insufficiently sophisticated to notice the drastic difference between what they were saying while under oath and when not.
Another strategy they pursued was talking about “releasing the Kracken”, “the Kracken” being a dump of persuasive evidence of massive voter fraud. It should be pointed out that all the legal deadlines to overturn the votes of states before the December 14th deadline came and went and surprise, surprise “the Kracken” never materialized, in fact now it’s January 13th and “the Kracken” still has yet to see the light of day. There is not, and never was, a “Kracken”.
The whole time all this legal activity was going on, the Supreme Court consisted of a 6-3 majority of Republican appointees, 3 of them appointed by Trump himself. Such a court was guaranteed to be sympathetic to any legitimate evidence of Democratic voter fraud presented to it. If Trump’s lawyers had any legitimate evidence of voter fraud sufficient to flip any state, let alone adequate to overturn the whole election, they could bring that evidence to a lower court, and if they didn’t get satisfaction there, appeal up to the Supreme Court, and win. The fact that that never happened is, by itself, evidence that Trump’s claim to have evidence of voter fraud does not hold water.
You might wonder why this essay doesn’t respond to a lot of specific claims of voter fraud that were floated in the media (though not in the courts). It is important to stress here how false conspiracy theories usually work. They usually spin a very intricate, detailed story consisting of rabbit holes within rabbit holes, some of the details true and many more of them plausible, so that it will take an honest person years to even understand the theory, and many lifetimes to rebut it all. Often this vast body of details doesn’t add up to any consistent, coherent world view. Eventually, the person is presented with so many details, none of them conclusive but many on shaky ground, that eventually one becomes convinced that the theory MUST be true by the sheer quantity (as opposed to quality) of arguments they’ve learned. The thing about fraudulent conspiracy theories is that they make up so many detailed pseudo-facts that in the time that it takes to debunk one of them, they can make up a dozen more.
One might argue that voter fraud sufficient to change the result of the election occurred, it just couldn’t be proven. Perhaps, but the fact is, both Trump and his lawyers asserted, many times, before the deadlines to ratify state results had passed, that they had such proof. But they never presented it in court. The conclusion from that is that they were lying the whole time — and that conclusion is inescapable. I cannot prove that significant fraud did not occur, just like I can’t prove that UFO’s aren’t real. But the evidence is overwhelming that Trump and his lawyers perpetrated a con on the American public.
The mainstream media, while being totally opposed to anything Trump did since being elected, did a poor job of convincing anyone who was committed to giving the president the benefit of the doubt. All the MSM did was say, over and over again, was that the president had “no evidence” of voter fraud. This was not convincing to anyone who was reading the right-wing media which was floating many, many detailed stories of “voter fraud”.
Trump’s lawyer Sidney Powell told wild stories of a Venezuelan conspiracy to hack Dominion voting machines to change thousands of votes from Trump to Biden. No evidence of this was ever filed in court. Immediately after congress certified the election in January, Dominion sued Powell for slander for $1.3 billion. American slander laws are very weak, the plaintiff has to meet a very, very high burden of proof to prevail. If there is any truth whatsoever to anything Powell said about Dominion, then Dominion will lose the case. I predict that they will nail her to the wall.
Note that the Democrats did far more poorly than pollsters were predicting in house and senate races. If the Democrats were able to mount a conspiracy to change ballots, why didn’t they give themselves a lot more seats in both chambers?
To believe that the election was “stolen” from Trump, you must believe that:
- The voting machines can’t be trusted.
- The hand recounts of paper ballots that confirmed the tallies from the voting machines can’t be trusted.
- The election officials, including the ones who voted for Trump, can’t be trusted.
- The media, including National Review, the Wall Street Journal, Ben Shapiro, and Megyn Kelly, can’t be trusted.
- Trump’s attorney general William Barr can’t be trusted.
- The lower courts, including the ones where the judges were Trump appointees, can’t be trusted.
- The appellate courts can’t be trusted.
- The Supreme Court, with a 6-3 conservative majority, 3 of them chosen by Trump, can’t be trusted.
- Donald Trump can be trusted.
Trump and his lawyers perpetrated a systematic, deliberate fraud on the American public, to create an illusion of a “stolen election”, and continued to stoke his conspiracy theory and fan the flames until he eventually used it to incite a violent attack on the seat of government.
Bill Chapman, Republican
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