Anti-Trump ac­tivist sees GOP elec­tor de­fec­tions

Needs at least 37 to throw vote to House

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY VALERIE RICHARD­SON

State of­fi­cials scram­bled Wed­nes­day to up­hold the Elec­toral Col­lege process as a Har­vard Law School pro­fes­sor in­sisted that he was clos­ing in on enough Repub­li­can de­fec­tors to up­end Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump.

Pro­fes­sor Lawrence Les­sig said his group, Elec­tors Trust, and two other or­ga­ni­za­tions ad­vis­ing elec­tors be­hind the scenes have found 20 to 30 Repub­li­cans who are con­sid­er­ing with­hold­ing their votes for Mr. Trump at the Mon­day cer­e­mony.

An exodus of 37 elec­tors would put Mr. Trump at 269 elec­toral votes, one shy of the 270 needed to make his win of­fi­cial, and throw the de­ci­sion to the Repub­li­can-con­trolled House.

“Our goal is to let the elec­tors ex­er­cise their judg­ment, and what we be­lieve is at least 37 elec­tors will make the judg­ment not

to sup­port Don­ald Trump” Mr. Les­sig told MSNBC. “And if that hap­pens, then of course it goes to the House, and the House has to pick among the top three can­di­dates.”

The cur­rent num­ber may be higher than 20. “Some tell me that the num­ber is higher than that. It should be more like 30, but I feel con­fi­dent say­ing there’s at least 20,” said Mr. Les­sig, who was briefly a can­di­date for the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

Na­tional Repub­li­cans aren’t buy­ing his claim, but the rev­e­la­tion that Demo­cratic lawyers are pro­vid­ing le­gal ad­vice to Repub­li­can elec­tors has fu­eled the tur­moil sur­round­ing this year’s Elec­toral Col­lege vote.

At least three states — Cal­i­for­nia, Colorado and Wash­ing­ton — have grap­pled with law­suits filed by elec­tors seek­ing to de­vi­ate from the pop­u­lar vote.

In Wash­ing­ton, a fed­eral judge re­jected Wed­nes­day a bid by two “faith­less elec­tors” — in this case, two elec­tors who would be ex­pected to sup­port Hil­lary Clin­ton — for an in­junc­tion that would al­low them to vote their con­science.

Wash­ing­ton state’s sec­re­tary of state spokesman Dave Am­mons said any Demo­cratic elec­tors in Wash­ing­ton who bolt from Mrs. Clin­ton will face the pos­si­bil­ity of civil penal­ties, which would be a first since the law bind­ing elec­tors to the pop­u­lar vote was passed in 1977.

An­other group of more than 50 elec­tors — again, mostly Democrats — led by House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi’s daugh­ter Chris­tine, a Cal­i­for­nia elec­tor, have signed a let­ter de­mand­ing an in­tel­li­gence brief­ing on al­le­ga­tions of Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the cam­paign.

Only one mem­ber of the Pelosi group, Chris Suprun of Texas, is a Repub­li­can.

As a re­sult, it doesn’t mat­ter how the Democrats vote Mon­day as long as at least 270 Repub­li­can elec­tors stand by Mr. Trump.

Left-wing film­maker Michael Moore is­sued a plea for Repub­li­can elec­tors to “have a stand-up mo­ment and say, ‘I care about this coun­try.’”

“Hope­fully, there is a chap­ter to be added to John F. Kennedy’s ‘Pro­files in Courage’ on Mon­day,” Mr. Moore said on MSNBC. “We only need 37 more of th­ese elec­tors, and they have to be Repub­li­can elec­tors.

In Colorado, Sec­re­tary of State Wayne Wil­liams wants to stop the elec­tors be­fore they be­come faith­less. Af­ter a judge ruled Tues­day that such elec­tors may be re­placed, he be­gan work­ing with the state Demo­cratic Party to line up sub­sti­tutes.

If any of the nine Demo­cratic elec­tors ei­ther de­clines to take the pledge swear­ing to fol­low the pop­u­lar vote or sup­port Mrs. Clin­ton, Mr. Wil­liams said, they will “cease to be an elec­tor un­der the pro­vi­sions of Colorado law” and will be im­me­di­ately de­cer­ti­fied.

Sub­sti­tutes pro­vided by the state Demo­cratic Party are sched­uled to be on site dur­ing the cer­e­mony at the state capi­tol, he said.

The Democrats are aligned with the Hamil­ton Elec­tors move­ment, which seeks to per­suade a to­tal of 270 Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can elec­tors to join forces and sup­port a con­sen­sus can­di­date in or­der to keep Mr. Trump out of the White House.

A fed­eral judge ruled Mon­day against two Colorado Demo­cratic elec­tors who had sought an in­junc­tion against the state law bind­ing them to the win­ner of the pop­u­lar vote.

Mr. Wil­liams, a Repub­li­can, said the 1959 state law, not pol­i­tics, is driv­ing his de­ci­sion.

“It is the re­quire­ment of Colorado law that elec­tors vote as Colorado voted, and as sec­re­tary of state, I would en­force that law re­gard­less of who won the elec­tion,” Mr. Wil­liams said. “And in fact in this case, it may be one of the first times in my life that I’ve asked peo­ple to vote for a Demo­crat. But that’s what Colorado law pro­vides. And we’re a na­tion of laws.”

Find­ing a con­sen­sus can­di­date that 270 Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can elec­tors would back is tougher than flip­ping 37 Repub­li­cans, as Elec­tors Trust is try­ing to do.

Mr. Les­sig warned that the 20 or so Repub­li­cans con­tem­plat­ing a break with the party may not do so come Mon­day if they see the ef­fort as fruit­less.

“Now, of course, if they don’t get to 37, I doubt any of them beyond the one Chris Suprun, who’s ac­tu­ally come out in pub­lic, is go­ing to vote against Don­ald Trump,” Mr. Les­sig said. “But if the num­ber gets to 40, or around 40, then I think you’re go­ing to see a very in­ter­est­ing dy­namic as they see that there’s a rea­son to ex­er­cise their vote of con­science, which I think they’re all strug­gling with right now.”

What if the House Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity picks Mr. Trump? “That’s the con­sti­tu­tional rule,” Mr. Les­sig said. “The House gets to de­cide. All we’re de­fend­ing is the con­sti­tu­tional right of th­ese agents to ex­er­cise their judg­ment.”

Of­fi­cials with the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee have dis­missed con­cerns about such a sce­nario. They said their whip oper­a­tion has de­tected only one at-risk elec­tor, Mr. Suprun, ac­cord­ing to Politico.

Still, op­po­nents of Mr. Trump are de­ter­mined to fight un­til the last Elec­toral Col­lege bal­lot is cast. Left-wing groups such as Pro­gres­sive Change Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, Amer­i­cans Take Ac­tion and Democ­racy Spring are or­ga­niz­ing protests at the 50 state capi­tols to co­in­cide with the elec­toral vote.

Twenty-nine states and the Dis­trict of Columbia bind their elec­tors to the pop­u­lar vote, but Mr. Les­sig said Mr. Trump’s vic­tory gives them a “moral rea­son” to de­vi­ate from the will of the vot­ers.

“[T]hey have a moral or eth­i­cal obli­ga­tion once they take the pledge, and they must vote that way un­less there’s a moral rea­son not to vote that way, and the dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion or fail­ure of a can­di­date not to live up to the qual­i­fi­ca­tions would be one such rea­son, and that’s ex­actly the is­sue that’s raised by this elec­tion,” Mr. Les­sig said. “The Elec­toral Col­lege was made for this elec­tion pre­cisely.”

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