In fear-mongering, there are plenty of fine people on both sides. the Trump 1968-styled campaign looks for a 2000 result, with one state making it go to SCOTUS, failing that a House decision based on faithless electors. You figure, all it would take would be a stack of Russian, Saudi, or Turkish gold bars. Heck, Russia could do Trump a solid by invading (____) on 2 November.
The Transition Integrity Project has gamed out possible scenarios and unfortunately, unless there’s an overwhelming Biden win, there will be conflict that easily escalates to violence reaching the “the brink of catastrophe, with massive disinformation campaigns, violence in the streets and a constitutional impasse.”
Because folks inevitably object to any proposal that Trump is scheming, on the grounds that he's too dumb to pull any such thing off, let's just get this out of the way: Trump doesn't need to be smart. He just needs to surround himself with smart but immoral people. There's significant evidence he has done just that.
After months of reading reports on Trump's various schemes to steal the election, I've outlined below roughly how I think they see this playing out, both on the legal and political fronts. This isn't to scare readers, it's to help us all be better prepared to fight back.
1. Keep as many Democrats as possible from voting in the first place.
Unfortunately, this is the strategy that will likely be most effective, as it builds on years of Republican voter suppression tactics that predate Trump and don't depend on him. For example Georgia has reportedly purged 200,000 voters off the rolls by claiming they had moved when they likely had not.
2. Declare victory on Election Day before final results are tallied.
Trump has made public statements arguing that the winner should be declared on the night of Nov. 3, even though it's far more likely that the election can't be called for at least a few days, until the mail-in ballots have been counted. Democrats reasonably believe, therefore, that Trump, perhaps aided by Fox News, will declare victory before the votes are counted. Having established his claim to “victory,” which will snag the headlines, Trump will then paint efforts to get all votes counted as usurpation by Joe Biden and the Democrats.
3. Disqualify as many mail-in ballots as possible.
Trump has been on a media war to stoke the idea that mail-in ballots are “fraudulent,” even going so far as to tell his own voters to vote twice, once by mail and again in person, implying this will “prove” that mail-in ballots are frauds…
4. Build an ad hoc right-wing militia to intimidate election officials or pro-democracy protesters.
It's not a mystery why Trump, Fox News and the White House are fashioning Kyle Rittenhouse — a 17-year-old charged with a double homicide for shooting anti-racism protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin — into a hero. It's to encourage other Trump supporters to take up arms and join up with militia groups that are being hastily organized on social media…
5. If all else fails, reject the election results by declaring the election “rigged” and refuse to leave office.
The good news is that this strategy is the least likely to work, because the Constitution is quite clear on the timeline and methodology for the Electoral College to convene and to declare a new president. If the votes are counted and Biden is the winner, there is not much Trump can do, in terms of legal dirty tricks, to keep the Electoral College from doing its job. Furthermore, the Constitution is clear that Trump's term ends at noon Eastern time on Jan. 20, and whoever has been duly elected becomes president, with or without a Supreme Court justice administering the oath amid all the pomp and circumstance. (If there is no duly elected president or vice president on Jan. 20, the speaker of the House would become president. I think it's safe to assume Republicans would prefer President Biden to that scenario.)
In each scenario, Team Trump — the players assigned to simulate the Trump campaign and its elected and appointed allies — was ruthless and unconstrained right out of the gate, and Team Biden struggled to get out of reaction mode. In one exercise, for instance, Team Trump’s repeated allegations of fraudulent mail-in ballots led National Guard troop to destroy thousands of ballots in Democratic-leaning ZIP codes, to applause on social media from Trump supporters. Over and over, Team Biden urged calm, national unity and a fair vote count, while Team Trump issued barely disguised calls for violence and intimidation against ballot-counting officials and Biden electors.
That dystopia is based on how events played out in one of the Transition Integrity Project’s exercises. We explored the four scenarios experts consider most likely: a narrow Biden win; a big Biden win, with a decisive lead in both the electoral college and the popular vote; a Trump win with an electoral college lead but a large popular-vote loss, as in 2016; and finally, a period of extended uncertainty as we saw in the 2000 election.
With the exception of the “big Biden win” scenario, each of our exercises reached the brink of catastrophe, with massive disinformation campaigns, violence in the streets and a constitutional impasse. In two scenarios (“Trump win” and “extended uncertainty”) there was still no agreement on the winner by Inauguration Day, and no consensus on which candidate should be assumed to have the ability to issue binding commands to the military or receive the nuclear codes. In the “narrow Biden win” scenario, Trump refused to leave office and was ultimately escorted out by the Secret Service — but only after pardoning himself and his family and burning incriminating documents.
For obvious reasons, we couldn’t ask Trump or Biden — or their campaign aides — to play themselves in these exercises, so we did the next best thing: We recruited participants with similar backgrounds. On the GOP side, our “players” included former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, conservative commentator Bill Kristol and former Kentucky secretary of state Trey Grayson. On the Democratic side, participants included John Podesta, chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and a top White House adviser to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama; Donna Brazile, the campaign chair for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential run; and Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan. Other participants included political strategists, journalists, polling experts, tech and social media experts, and former career officials from the intelligence community, the Justice Department, the military and the Department of Homeland Security.