And there you have it: Former President Donald Trump and company put the heat on the Department of Justice to investigate unsubstantiated claims of widespread electoral fraud.
Now, remember that then-U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr said there was not one shred of evidence of any fraud, and so did GOP election officials across the nation, who echoed Barr, not to mention declarations from Department of Homeland Security that said the same thing. Yet despite all of that, Trump kept the pressure on then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to keep up the challenges, which included the suggestion of filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court.
The ludicrous nature of Trump's scheme regarding White House pressuring of the DOJ was completely off the rails with then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows actually inquiring about the allegations of voter fraud linked to satellites from Italy, to which then-acting Deputy Attorney General Rich Donoghue responded with the phrase "PURE INSANITY!" Rosen simply informed an ally of Rudy Giuliani that he just needed to follow the FBI's standard operating procedure regarding the use of the Bureau's public tip line. In other words, Rosen's message was, "You are out of your mind!"
The Trump White House eventually emailed the acting attorney general and acting solicitor general, which included a SCOTUS brief and a number where Trump could be reached regarding the Electoral College votes in six battleground states that Trump lost. Trump even asked that a special prosecutor be named to look into all of this voter fraud nonsense, and was considering appointing a special counsel without DOJ approval.
Dominion Voting conspiracy theories, Italian satellites, theories about bamboo in ballots being audited in Arizona persisted, and many Americans believed this. Attempting to win by fraud has been a staple of Trump's business and political endeavors. Michael Cohen tells of how, once upon a time, Trump instructed Cohen to find a way to manipulate the numbers and get Trump in CNBC's top 25 list of U.S. businessmen. Via Cohen's connection, he found a man to fudge the numbers and get Trump ranked ninth, but when CNBC yanked Trump – and T. Boone Pickens – from that top 25 list, Trump was furious. It was a similar tirade that Trump launched into while on the phone with the Georgia Secretary of State about those 11,780 votes that were never there for Trump in the first place.
There is also no way this "alternate" slate of electors from those states in question would have swung the election for Trump, as Electoral College votes are linked to the winner of the popular vote. And these states certified the results in favor of Joe Biden. The vice president's role in the certification of electoral votes is purely ceremonial, but what was important for Trump and the plotters was how to sow doubt within the minds of a base of voters. Thus, the legitimacy or legality of an alternate slate of electors was not really paramount at all.
Consider the Eastman memo wherein Pence would have been instructed to declare the Electoral Count Act unconstitutional, and throw out the electors of those states in dispute. And remember that Trump was weaponizing the DOJ to back GOP-led state legislatures regarding the investigation of "irregularities," so that by the prestige of the DOJ supporting state governments' suppression of the vote, those alternate slates of electors would replace those legitimate electors.
Ultimately, through outright lying about how the process works and by duping the MAGA base, it wasn’t difficult for Trump to incite a violent insurrection.
Brent Been is a Tahlequah educator with an emphasis on civics and history.