The answers to these questions are troubling. But they also indicate a way to protect us from the worst. Will Congress act?
Emails from attorney John Eastman show him urging GOP state lawmakers in Pennsylvania to cast doubt on the 2020 vote totals, to create a cover to certify a list of presidential voters for Trump. Politico reported on emails the Jan. 6 select committee obtained from the University of Colorado, where Eastman was working at the time.
The key reveal: Eastman’s plan had an added layer. We already knew his plan was to urge Trump’s vice president to abuse his role in congressional voter counting to overturn the conclusion of the election.
Now, in these new emails, Eastman is seen crafting a pretext for state legislatures to invalidate Joe Biden voters and certify fake Trump voters. He advises a Pennsylvania lawmaker to use a complex formula — based on treating mail-in ballots as illegitimate — to extrapolate that enough Biden votes are invalid to show Trump won the popular vote.
Then, having made that calculation, you would end up with a significant lead from Trump that would strengthen the case for the Legislature to adopt a Trump voter list – well within your power to do so. anyway, but now bolstered by the popular vote intact. This would help provide some coverage.
Eastman advises lawmakers to argue that governor-certified Biden voters are therefore “null and void.”
It is something extraordinary. Eastman advised that a state legislature should concoct a fig leaf rationale to declare governor-certified good Biden voters invalid and certify Trump voters instead.
First note that Trump himself also did something like this. When Trump pressured the Georgian secretary of state to “find” votes to make him the winner, it was designed to create a similar pretext to replace Biden voters with Trump voters.
“Eastman wasn’t doing anything that Trump wasn’t doing himself,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a Jan. 6 committee member, told me. “They were both trying to get those responsible for the electoral process to substitute a forgery for the actual vote totals.”
“Eastman was looking to implant a new mathematical calculation designed to produce a Trump victory in Pennsylvania,” Raskin said.
These emails from Eastman show that manipulating vote totals to create a “cover” for state legislatures to nominate fake Trump voters was more central than we knew.
Whether that creates more exposure for Eastman and others remains to be seen. But it also has other important implications: it reveals with greater clarity a pathway through which nefarious actors might seek to overturn a future election.
Note that Eastman says, almost as an aside, that state legislators have the “power” to appoint new voters. even if the popular vote totals do not justify it.
“Eastman’s view is that the legislature has absolute power in terms of selecting presidential voters,” election expert Richard L. Hasen told me, even if that means “ignoring the will of the voters.” or “the previous rules of the legislature as to how to choose such voters”. voters”.
In the future, Hasen notes, bad actors might see this as “a way to steal an election.”
There’s more: Right now, many Republicans in the grip of Trump’s lies in 2020 are running for positions to oversee the state-level election machinery, including secretarial posts. State.
Basically, these people would be able to create exactly the pretext Eastman envisioned. How? Using official stature to cast doubt on popular vote results, fabricating a “cover” for a state legislature and/or governor to certify fake voters for a losing candidate. A GOP-controlled House could then count those voters and overthrow a state or even an election.
Eastman laid out the plan. “It shows the country another strategic trap that was improvised by the Trump team and can be used by bad faith actors in future elections,” Raskin told me.
Such a scenario may seem unlikely at this time. Nevertheless, all of this points to the urgent need to reform the Electoral Count Act of 1887 in order to minimize the risks that such a thing be attempted.
Done correctly, reform could help thwart a repeat of exactly the pattern Eastman developed. This could create a requirement that if a state-level attempt is made to certify fictitious voters, Congress should count only the list that the courts deem legitimate.
“Congress absolutely must reform the CEA to clarify that no state official — not governors, not secretaries of state, not state lawmakers — can manipulate the electoral votes they will count,” said ECA legal expert Matthew Seligman. me.
“The only way to do that is to require Congress to follow court rulings regarding valid voters,” Seligman said.
Failure by Congress to act would be tantamount to relying on the virtue of individual actors in the right places to thwart such a scheme. But given everything we’ve seen since January 6, institutional reforms seem like a much safer bet, wouldn’t you say?