The common refrain amongst the social media class remains this Electoral College challenge amounts to sedition requiring the arrest of everyone involved.
“If it’s not technically sedition,” CNN’s Jake Tapper said on State of the Union Sunday morning when commenting on this week’s challenge, “It is the work of enemies of American democracy.”
Tapper’s comments came before The Washington Post released the full audio of soon-to-be ex-President Donald Trump telling Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, “I just want to find 11,780 votes which is one more than we have, because we won the state. And flipping the state is a great testament to our country because, you know, this is — it’s a testament that they can admit to a mistake or whatever you want to call it. If it was a mistake, I don’t know. A lot of people think it wasn’t a mistake. It was much more criminal than that. But it’s a big problem in Georgia and it’s not a problem that’s going away. I mean, you know, it’s not a problem that’s going away.”
Good grief, that’s a horrible statement from Trump and he needs to just accept he lost in November. He won’t but he needs to.
Back to Wednesday’s Electoral Challenge on Capitol Hill.
Congressional Research Service reported three previous instances of Electoral College vote disputes, mostly in the past 50 years. One involved a 1968 Electoral College “faithless elector” vote for Geroge Wallace instead of Richard Nixon in North Carolina. The House and Senate rejected the dispute. There was an attempt to dispute the 2000 election however Vice President Al Gore, who could have benefited from any sort of dispute, refused to hear the objection because the rules weren’t followed. Gore deserves credit for making sure the rules were followed.
The other two arguably set the stage for what likely happens on Wednesday.
California Senator Barbara Boxer and Ohio Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones raised worries about Ohio’s voting procedures in the 2004 election. The pair claimed they didn’t want to overturn the election but raise awareness on voter disenfranchisement. It went nowhere and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, wanted no part in the challenge because he didn’t find any questionable voting issues in Ohio.
Boxer still thinks she did the right thing and told CNN she didn’t set a precedent for this year. “[Republicans are] talking about the vote that the presidency was stolen from Donald Trump. It’s not even a close comparison.”
It’s more than likely the 2017 challenge by Democrats to Trump’s election paved the way for this week, not whatever Boxer did in 2005. House Democrats challenged the Electoral College vote then, under the idea it was the great Russian bogeyman of Vladimir Putin who put Trump in the White House. It went nowhere because, again, Senate Democrats wouldn’t join the challenge.
“It’s not going to have an impact on the outcome of the election,” then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters at the time. “So, that’s not the point. But I think that people don’t want the day to pass without registering concern. In some cases, members are concerned about voter suppression. In some cases they are concerned about Russian influence on our election. There are a number of concerns. But really, it’s not going to have an impact at the end of the day.”
Meaning the challenges on Wednesday likely won’t change the outcome of the election either (despite the hopes of the MAGA faithful).
This raises the question of whether the challenges meet the legal definition of sedition. The answer: nope. From U.S. law:
If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
First Amendment attorney Ari Cohn, who is no fan of Trump, noted the keywords are “by force” meaning Republican Representative and Senators are not engaging in sedition. They’re just engaging in politics and hoping to avoid any mean tweets from Trump on his way out of the White House. It’s likely some of them believe Trump lost the election via fraud but a vast majority likely just hope to get attract his own supporters when/if the famed Trump bubble ever pops. Of course, they’ve been waiting for the bubble to pop since 2015 and it hasn’t yet.
Republicans know their challenge won’t change anything about the 2020 election. President-elect Joe Biden will take the oath of office and reside in the White House on January 20th. This continued clinging to Trump’s coattails is just foolish and could eventually set the stage for more nefarious actions by a presidential candidate or president in the future. They can challenge the results on Wednesday, but it’s a horrible idea, and won’t go anywhere.