US President Donald Trump and his allies launched a desperate attempt early on Tuesday to undo President-elect Joe Biden's victory, cajoling, threatening and pleading with state officials to keep the former in the White House for another four-year term.
Their desperation rises as America enters the final phase of the electoral battle that began on Nov 3 last year and Trump refuses to go away even though Biden has won the Electoral College as well as the popular vote.
Last year on Dec 14, the 538-member electoral body decisively confirmed Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election — 306 against 232. Biden, a Democrat, also has a lead of seven million popular votes — 81 million against Trump’s 74 million.
But Trump, a Republican, refuses to understand how he lost an election in which he received more votes than any presidential candidate ever, except Biden.
On Tuesday, the state of Georgia is also holding two runoff elections which would decide who controls the US Senate. If the Republicans retain their seats, they would have the Senate too.
This can prevent Biden from taking any major decision or making any significant appointment as he needs the Senate’s approval for both.
If the Democrats, who already control the House of Representatives, win the Senate as well, Biden can do what he has pledged to do — restoring America’s image as a liberal democracy which was greatly damaged during Trump’s four years.
So, it was no surprise that both Trump and Biden were in Georgia on Monday. Biden focused on the Senate election, telling voters that if they elect Democrats, they would "break the gridlock that has gripped Washington and this nation” since 2016 when Trump won his first election.
Trump too talked about the Senate election, urging voters to elect the Republicans, but his focus was on Wednesday’s joint congressional session that meets to ratify the electoral votes.
If the session ratifies Biden’s vote, it would end Trump’s efforts to keep the presidency. But the incumbent is working on several fronts to stop Biden's confirmation — ranging from lawsuits to administrative maneuvering.
Trump and his campaign have already filed almost 60 lawsuits in state and federal courts as well as the Supreme Court. Most of these lawsuits, however, have been rejected. And there’s little hope of them winning the legal battle.
So, Trump and his team have turned their focus on officials in Republican states, like Georgia, that Biden won by a thin margin.
On Saturday, Trump telephoned Georgia’s secretary of state, who has a decisive role in determining the outcome. Trump and his legal aides urged Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to cancel the 11,500 votes that won the state for Biden.
Raffensperger, who also included his legal team in the conversation, refused to do so.
The conversation continued for almost an hour, with Trump reminding the secretary that he was a Republican as was the state and that he would never win another election in Georgia if he did not overturn the election results.
Trump also told Raffensperger that he was talking to other swing states as well and they seemed inclined to follow his advice. He warned that if those states accepted his advice and he retained the presidency, Raffensperger would be in trouble.
“You know what they did and you’re not reporting it,” he said, referring to his claims of widespread election fraud. “That’s a criminal — that’s a criminal offense. And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to your lawyer. And that’s a big risk.”
Yet, he failed to have an impact on Raffensperger, who insisted throughout the conversation that his team had thoroughly examined the votes “and found no evidence of election rigging”.
So, on Monday evening Trump turned his attention on Vice President Mike Pence who would preside over the joint congressional session on Wednesday.
“I hope that Mike Pence comes through for us, I have to tell you. I hope that our great vice president, our great vice president comes through for us. He’s a great guy,” Trump told a crowd of supporters at a rally in Dalton, Ga.
“Of course, if he doesn’t come through, I won’t like him quite as much,” he said. “Nah, Mike is a great guy. He’s a wonderful man and a smart man and a man that I like a lot.”
On Saturday, Pence’s Chief of Staff Marc Short issued a statement saying that the vice president “welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate […] to raise objections and bring forward evidence (of fraud) before the Congress and the American people on Jan 6".
The statement convinced Trump that Pence was on his side, but he did not articulate what he wanted his vice president to do during the joint session.
The Republicans plan to raise enough objections, each backed by a member of the House and a Senator, to delay the entire process.
Pence has the power to accept or reject the objections, lump them together as one move or deal with each individually, causing lengthy debates.
This process is called filibustering, which allows one or more members of a parliament to debate a proposal with the intention to delay or prevent a decision.
While a filibuster cannot undo election results, it can give time to Trump to bring more pressure on swing states and file more lawsuits, as he said he plans to do.
Even if Trumps fails to prevent Biden’s expected inauguration on Jan 20, the move can create enough bitterness to spoil his victory.
This bad blood can also put the Republicans and the Democrats on the war path for the entire term, creating room for Trump to make another bid for the White House in 2024.