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President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

The rapidly unfolding events in Georgia this past weekend showcased the lengths that President Trump will go to overturn the 2020 general election's popular vote, the depth of disinformation that he is pushing and many partisans are accepting, and the fortitude of a handful of Georgia's constitutional officers who did not bend under pressure.

On Monday, Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the recount found that Democrat Joe Biden had won his state's 2020 presidential election by nearly 12,000 votes. It was the third statewide tally of the presidential election, following a manual hand count of 5 million paper ballots after Election Day, and the Election Day tally. No other battleground state in 2020 conducted as thorough an examination to verify its vote.

Georgia's governor, Republican Brian Kemp, who served as secretary of state before being elected governor in 2018—a race that his opponent, Democrat Stacy Abrams, said was marred by voter suppression—has affirmed that he will certify the presidential results. Trump has repeatedly called on Kemp to convene a legislative session to select a pro-Trump Electoral College slate, rather than have the slate reflect Georgia's popular vote.

But as Trump made clear on Saturday at a rally in Valdosta, Georgia, he will not stop trying to muscle his way to a second term—even if that means ignoring the popular vote, urging Republican governors in other swing states, such as Arizona, to convene special sessions to anoint him, and filing lawsuits that he hopes will end up before the Supreme Court, where he expects that conservative justices to elevate him to a second term.

The Valdosta rally, Trump's first major event since the November election, had attendees from across the county who supported Trump and fanned his unfounded claims of a stolen election. The event's advertised purpose was to promote Georgia's two Republican senators who face January 5 runoffs, where, should they lose, that body would return to a Democratic majority. But from the start, Trump said that he won, listed grievances, showed videos purporting to prove electoral theft, slammed skeptics in his party, and pledged to emerge victorious.

"We're all victims. Everybody here, all these thousands of people here tonight, they're all victims," Trump said 90 minutes into the rally filled with mounting cheers of "Stop the Steal" and "Fight for Trump." Trump leaned on podium, relishing the cheers and holding forth.

"The next great victory for our movement begins right here on January 5th [the Senate runoffs] and then we are going to win back the White House," he continued. "We're going to win it back. And we're going to win back the House in 2022. And then in 2024, and hopefully I won't have to be a candidate, we're gonna win back the White House again. A friend of mine said, 'Oh, don't worry about it, sir. You are way up in the polls, you'll win in 2024.' I said, I don't want to win in 2024, I want to go back in three weeks."

Trump's strategy is to keep pressuring any official who has authority to interrupt certifying their state's vote or impact their state's Electoral College slate to act on his behalf. He mocked Kemp for not being tough enough and encouraged Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), a loyalist, to run against Kemp in two years. He mused that maybe Arizona's GOP governor would be tougher, meaning he would be the first to convene a special session to select a pro-Trump slate.

Trump periodically returned to the rally's ostensible purpose, to boost the Republicans in the state's January runoffs, but not without repeating his desire to stay in power and modeling the tough-minded stance that he expected Republicans to take in this fight.

"If they [Georgia's incumbent Republican senators] get in—and add me to this group if you don't mind—we will be greater than ever before," Trump said toward the end to loud cheers. "America's destiny has just begun. We will not bend. We will not break. We will not give. We will never give in. We will never give up. And we will never back down. We will never ever surrender. Because we are Americans and our hearts bleed red, white and blue."

Trump's passionate attacks on the 2020 election are not just urging Republicans to override millions of legally cast votes and delegitimize Joe Biden's presidency before it has begun. He has weaponized the voting system in such a way that no matter what any election official says, including top Republican state officials in Georgia, election outcomes cannot be trusted.

Georgia is a red-run state where Republicans hold all constitutional offices and both legislative chambers. In the days before Trump's rally, Republican legislators convened hearings to build a case to reject the popular vote. Much of their rationale was based on what their party's largely untrained citizen election observers saw during the post-Election Day counting process. These observers thought they saw systemic breakdowns, which is a result of their unfamiliarity with election administration's intricacies and a process that often lacks transparency to be easily understood. But Trump observers were predisposed to believe that the process was rigged, that local election officials could not be trusted, that poll workers were part of a vast plan to steal the presidency. No one noticed that Republican officials had oversight of Georgia's elections—its technology, its procedures and eligibility rules—for years.

One of the witnesses who expected to testify before the Georgia Senate late last week was seen by this reporter during the presidential ballot hand count making unfounded claims of ballot forgery, ballot box stuffing and falsified counting. Yet there he was, issuing press releases with the same claims to legislators who seemed primed to override the popular vote.

Over the weekend, a handful of Republican state senators circulated a petition that they hoped would force Gov. Kemp to hold a special session. The petition claimed that every category of illegal election crime occurred due to "systemic failure."

Allegedly, votes were cast by felons, underage youth, non-state residents, residents of different counties and dead people, the petition said. Voter registrations illegally contained post office boxes, not street addresses, it said. Signatures on absentee ballot return envelopes allegedly had not been properly authenticated. Election observers could not see every step to validate ballots. The petition, needless to say, did not note that Georgia's 2020 elections were the first elections in two decades to use a paper ballot. Nor did it say that the state was the only 2020 battleground that counted its presidential votes three times.

The recent developments in Georgia suggest the 2020 election is not yet over. Despite the responsible steps by its secretary of state and governor to defend their electoral system and the popular vote outcome—even if it meant their candidate lost—the fight will continue.

One can expect more fights over Electoral College slates. There are deadlines that will be a focal point for more legal fights and partisan bluster—if not disinformation. States that certify their presidential results by December 8 cannot have those results overturned by Congress when it convenes on January 6 to ratify the Electoral College vote. (Each state's presidential electors meet on December 14 to officially certify the winner.)

On January 6th, one should expect some Republicans in Congress to challenge Biden's election. That would be no different than in 2004, when two Democrats, California Sen. Barbara Boxer and Ohio Rep. Cynthia Tubbs Jones, rejected, George W. Bush's nomination. Their objections, citing GOP-led voter suppression, forced each chamber to debate for two hours. When the joint session reconvened, the Congress ratified Bush's second term.

It is unlikely that Trump will block Biden's presidency, as he keeps losing in federal court—including two more lawsuits on Monday.

"They want this court to substitute its judgment for that of two and a half million Georgia voters who voted for Joe Biden -- and this I am unwilling to do," said U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten on Monday, dismissing the latest litigation in Georgia to overturn the election's results, while issuing his ruling from the bench.

In Michigan, another pro-Trump lawsuit was rejected for similar reasons.

"Plaintiffs ask this Court to ignore the orderly statutory scheme established to challenge elections and to ignore the will of millions of voters," wrote U.S. District Judge Linda A. Parker on Monday. "This, the Court cannot, and will not, do."

Nonetheless, one should expect Trump's supporters to drag out the fight for Georgia's senate seats. Unlike the presidency, there are no congressional deadlines for seating senators. It could be months before the newest senators were seated, if the results were close and challenged. Recall that in Minnesota in 2008, the senatorial recount took six months to resolve before Democrat Al Franken was finally seated in mid-2009.

A similar trajectory in 2021 would keep a Republican majority in the Senate. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would remain majority leader. He would oversee committee assignments and the legislative agenda in the early months in the Biden presidency, even if the two Democrats in Georgia eventually prevailed.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.


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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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