Will A Group Of BiPartisan Senators Kill Trump's Carefully Laid Plans For Coup II In 2024?

When Conservatives Can't Buy Government, They Turn To Overturning Democracy Itself

"Unshackled, Unhinged" by Nancy Ohanian

A few days ago we looked at a dangerous candidate from the Manchin-Sinema wing of the Democratic Party, running, as an independent tp be governor of Oregon: Betsy Johnson. At the time, I predicted that Oregon's wealthiest citizen, Nike founder Phil Knight would be likely to jump into the race in his never-ending quest to own the state government. And, sure enough, Johnson reported the $250,000 contribution to her SuperPAC yesterday. He is likely to spend over, perhaps well over, a million dollars on the campaign. Last year, he tried to buy the seat for Republican Knute Buehler-- another Johnson donor-- with $3.5 million in contributions ($2.5 million directly to Buehler and $1 million earmarked for him to the Republican Governors Association). All those millions from Knight bought Buehler 43.6% of the vote.

Knight primarily gives to GOP candidates but sometimes gives to conservative Democrats. Johnson is a Republican who ran for the legislature as a Democrat and often voted with the Republicans. Business interests are contributing big to Johnson's campaign and Knight isn't her only $250,000 donor.

I bet Oregon Democrats wish they could Johnson-proof their election... but they can't. A much more important question, though, is whether the U.S. can Trump-proof the national election. Greg Sargent sounded optimistic in his Wednesday Washington Post column. "In a welcome turn of events," he wrote, "a new plan to 'Trump proof' the 2024 election is advancing in Congress. Surprisingly, it appears to have some Republican support. And Donald Trump is in a fury over it. The plan in question concerns reform of the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which governs how Congress counts electoral votes. Sen. Angus King (I-ME) has introduced an ECA reform bill, and a bipartisan group of senators is negotiating another version."

Sargent continued that The senators are seeking "to patch holes in the ECA that Trump relentlessly tried to exploit to overturn his 2020 loss. Which may be why Trump has issued two statements raging about these efforts. What’s darkly amusing here is that Trump himself is making the case for ECA reform as powerfully as anyone could want. He is telegraphing with absolute clarity his intention to rerun his effort in 2024 if the conditions are there for it. As it turns out, a close look at the specifics of these ECA reforms shows that they actually would help thwart Trump’s 2024 designs."

Given the disordered jumble of corruption and malevolence that characterizes Trump’s mental universe, it’s hard to pin down his thinking. But Trump is tipping his hand.
For instance, Trump’s latest claim is that the mere fact that we’re debating ECA reform shows he was right in saying his vice president should have invalidated Joe Biden’s electors, kicking them back to states. They could have then sent sham electors, overturning Trump’s loss.
Trump’s thought is this: Because one facet of ECA reform would clarify that the vice president has no role in counting electors, this must mean Mike Pence did have the power to refuse to count them.
“It has now been shown that he clearly had the right to do” this, Trump raged in one statement. He insisted the only reason Jan. 6 happened at all is because Pence blinked. Trump also fumed that Pence should have “overturned the election.”
In other words, the attack Trump incited on our government was a righteous effort to correct a grievous wrong done to him and his supporters. The move to reform the ECA proves it: Pence did have the power to correct that wrong but didn’t use it.
By doubling down on this unabashed stance-- that exploiting the ECA to keep him in power illegitimately would have been the right thing to do-- Trump has strengthened reformers’ hand. In flaunting his corruption, Trump has clarified the debate: Opposing ECA reform is now firmly aligned with making it easier for him to pull off a rerun next time.
But it’s important to get the details right.
However, other things in the King proposal likely would thwart a future attempt.
One danger is that a single GOP governor and/or state legislature could send a fake slate of electors to Congress, defying a Democratic popular vote win, in a state set to decide the election.
A GOP-controlled House could count those sham electors. Under the current ECA, a single slate only gets tossed if both chambers vote to invalidate it. In that scenario, the Republican might win.
So the King bill would trigger a new process of judicial review if electors are appointed in defiance of a state’s previously existing procedures. When courts declare those electors invalid-- and validate the winner’s electors-- the King bill would require Congress to count the right ones.
“The right principle here is that once courts have spoken on who the valid electors are, Congress’s hands are tied,” Matthew Seligman, a legal scholar who specializes in the ECA, told me. “They have to count those electors.”
Another danger: A GOP-controlled House and Senate could refuse to count a state’s legitimately appointed electors. So King’s bill would raise the threshold to invalidate electors from a simple majority to an elusive three-fifths in both chambers. The bipartisan group also appears supportive of such a fix.
The differences between now and last time are crucial. In addition to pressuring Pence, Trump tried to get state legislatures to send fake electors and got dozens of congressional Republicans to object to Biden electors.
Both failed. But now, Trump is supporting many candidates for state-level offices who have pledged fealty to his 2020 lies-- and likely would execute such schemes in 2024. His gubernatorial candidate in Georgia is running on an implicit promise to do just this.
If a corrupt secretary of state or governor does help send fake electors, do you doubt that a Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) would count them?
ECA reform would cut off these pathways at a time when Trump himself is telegraphing his intentions to exploit those pathways.
So it’s heartening that some Republicans appear supportive of reform. Here, a mea culpa: I recently suggested that if Trump opposed reform, it might become impossible for Republicans to support it. So far, that isn’t happening.
So what will Republicans ultimately do, now that Trump himself has confirmed that opposing ECA reform is tantamount to enabling him to execute his corrupt designs? We’ll see, but it would be amusing indeed if Trump’s flaunting of his own corruption ultimately helped push them to action.