Trump tries to run out election certification clock, making even Wall Street nervous
With his lawyers failing to get ballots thrown out in state after state, Trump is switching to a strategy focused on delaying the certification of results and creating the image of a 'failed election.' He's hoping to run down the clock and cause chaos in the Electoral College. | Jacqueline Larma / AP

With their plan to steal the election by having ballots disqualified failing in court after court, President Trump and his legal team are switching gears. His lawyer Rudy Giuliani is now pivoting to a strategy of delaying the final vote count and certification in as many states as possible in order to cast doubt on President-elect Joe Biden’s decisive victory.

Giuliani has reportedly told Trump and a team of advisors that the new goal is to pressure Republican lawmakers and public officials in key states to stall certification and create the image of a “failed election.” This would then, theoretically, prompt GOP state legislatures to ignore the voters’ verdict and appoint alternative slates of pro-Trump electors.

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for President Donald Trump, speaks during the much-lampooned Four Seasons Total Landscaping news conference on legal challenges to vote counting in Pennsylvania, Nov. 7, 2020, in Philadelphia. | John Minchillo / AP

By disrupting the Electoral College and the formal declaration of a winner, the hope is to create confusion and encourage the idea that there was fraud, even if Biden’s win is ultimately upheld.

Switching gears

The outgoing president pushed his followers in that direction with lies about ballot-box stuffing in Michigan on Wednesday. Claiming that the state has more ballots than it does voters, he said “Democrats cheated” and, therefore, Michigan “cannot certify the election.”

Just like the previous focus on tossing out ballots failed to produce any evidence of vote tampering and ultimately hit a legal wall, experts expect the “alternative slates” strategy will also flop. Reportedly, even Giuliani believes it is nearly impossible to pull off.

Election law in two of the key states in contention—Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—provides no role for state legislatures to appoint electors. And in other states, most GOP lawmakers are showing little appetite to go down that path. In almost all of the states in contention, Trump’s team is challenging election rules that were actually written by Republicans.

Close Trump advisers have anonymously told The Washington Post that although Trump is still looking for any way possible to hold onto power, he’s also beginning to give more attention to keeping his voting base angry and mobilized for a possible 2024 comeback run. It appears to be working; a new poll from Monmouth University shows 77% of Trump voters believe Biden only won thanks to fraud.

Trump is stoking those false beliefs and leveraging them to raise money from supporters to fund his future endeavors. Near daily emails from the campaign direct supporters to donate to his new PAC.

Trump’s strategic re-orientation is driven by a string of losses over the last few days. In Georgia, a hand recount of ballots left Biden still holding an insurmountable lead over Trump of 12,000+ votes. In Allegheny County, Pa., a judge threw out two Trump requests to have nearly 3,000 ballots tossed for technicalities like a voter not writing a date on an envelope or signing on one line instead of two.

The Trump campaign even tacitly admitted its allegations about fake or faulty ballots were untrue when it agreed Wednesday to a stipulation in a Bucks County, Pa., lawsuit that there had been no fraud.

Perhaps the biggest loss was inflicted on Trump by the people of Wayne County, Mich., who rose up online, over the phone, and in person Tuesday evening to reverse what was essentially an electoral coup underway there. Two Republican members of the Board of Canvassers had blocked certification of the election results in the heavily African-American county, which includes Detroit. They faced an immediate avalanche of criticism and protest from the public and did an about-face, certifying the results three hours later. Reports from the White House suggested that Trump was furious over the outcome.

Most experienced Republican elections lawyers are distancing themselves from Trump, and some GOP figures are worried about the damage Giuliani and attorneys like Jenna Ellis are doing to their brand for future elections. On Fox Business Wednesday, Mick Mulvaney, former White House chief of staff, criticized his old boss for letting Giuliani represent him in the courtroom.

“It strikes me that this is the most important lawsuit in the history of the country, and they’re not using the most well-noted election lawyers,” he said. “This is not a television program. This is the real thing.”

Behind the scenes, Giuliani is apparently being closely guided by right-wing media figure, white supremacist, and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. While Giuliani directs the failing efforts in the courts, Bannon is rallying the troops on the outside. He told listeners to his podcast that Trump has a clear path to victory if the appointment of electors to the Electoral College can be short-circuited. “You can’t certify Michigan,” Bannon declared. “You don’t have to put up a slate of electors.”

After the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected the Trump claim that observers were not allowed to watch the counting, Giuliani has amended their lawsuit revealing a plan to argue in federal court that the state’s entire election results should be declared “defective” and that the GOP legislature should be allowed to appoint electors.

State law directs the governor, in this case, Democrat Tom Wolf, to appoint electors based on the popular vote. Thus, Giuliani’s claim will almost certainly be thrown out by the courts, but he’s charging ahead anyway.

In Wisconsin, meanwhile, the Trump campaign wired $3 million to elections officials to pay for a recount of two counties—another effort to delay certification.

Speaking to the Post, voter protection lawyer Laura Fitzsimmons says the Trump campaign is getting desperate. “They probably know better than the rest of us that their allegations are unfounded, and they’re just seeking a delay” for tactical reasons, not legal ones.

Worries and warnings from Wall Street

This latest attempt to overturn Trump’s defeat faces the same poor chances of legal success as the first, but the president’s determination to destabilize the entire process is starting to make some on Wall Street worried about a chaotic and unpredictable outcome.

The investor class saw massive gains from the tax cuts and anti-regulatory crusade that’s been pursued by the Trump administration, but the president’s total failure to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and the blockade on more economic stimulus in the Senate tempered support for Trump in the waning days of the election campaign.

The expectation of a return to stability under Biden and hopes for a GOP-controlled Senate have calmed some of the market’s recent volatility. The stock rally that happened following the projection Biden had won and investors’ lack of interest in Trump’s frivolous lawsuits reflected the market’s confidence in the certainty of the outcome.

But with Trump’s ongoing purge of top defense and election security officials, Attorney General Bill Barr’s abuse of the Justice Department to chase down voter fraud claims, and the attempted electoral coup in Michigan, some financial analysts are revisiting the possibility of further Trump chaos upsetting the already fragile economy.

JPMorgan Asset Management’s Michael Cembalest warned clients in a Wednesday report that he’s increasingly concerned about the “remote risk of an American horror story” and “constitutional mayhem.” Cembalest oversees $2.2 trillion in assets for the bank. He conceded that “a lot of unorthodox things” would still have to happen for Trump to keep power, but said, “I’m not ruling anything out.”

Not knowing who’s going to be president would send investors scrambling and possibly spark a sell-off. “Markets might react negatively if the U.S. … is seen as sliding down a path toward electoral illegitimacy due to post-election maneuvers by political parties.”

“The nightmare for markets,” Cembalest warned, would be if Senate Republicans overturn existing law and abet the alternative slates strategy, resulting in “dueling inaugurations.”

Influential voices on Wall Street, including JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, are sending a clear signal to Trump: It’s over. | Seth Wenig / AP

The dire scenario outlined by Cembalest was paired with a firm statement by JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon on the same day that Trump has to accept the outcome. “We need a peaceful transition. We had an election. We have a new president,” he declared. “You should support that whether you like it or not.”

The signals from some of finance capital’s most influential figures are telegraphing a clear message to Trump: It’s over. Lack of full-throated support from Wall Street is not dampening Trump’s efforts, however.

Chaos and confusion

It is becoming clear that the whole strategy on the part of Trump, Giuliani, Bannon, and the right wing is to destabilize the Electoral College process and potentially tie up everything into December and possibly right up to the eve of Inauguration Day.

Trump himself is staying largely out of sight except on Twitter, senior administration officials answer no questions from the media, and GOP senators mostly continue to cower in fear of the president and his base.

Never in U.S. history has there been this type of effort to stop the certification of votes in the states or such intense talk of engineering the appointment of alternative slates to the Electoral College. There are growing signs that the chaotic tactics of the president are causing splits to open up within the GOP and between the party and some of its big business backers.

Some are prepared to accept a Biden victory, even if they are already planning how to block him from implementing his agenda at every turn—especially if the Republicans can win in the Georgia Senate run-offs. Mitch McConnell will be happy to benefit from the illegitimacy of the election caused by Trump and his close followers and will court support from capital in preparation for 2022 and 2024.

Many of them may be ready to turn the page on Trump, but the outgoing president displays no intention of moving on.


C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People's World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.