Mafia Don and His Mob

There’s nothing wrong with saying that, you know, that you’ve recalculated.  

I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break. 

All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state. —  All quotations are from phone call of President Donald Trump to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, January 2, 2021.

President Donald Trump and Brad Raffensperger, Georgia Secretary of State

President Donald Trump, in his own words, caught on tape, begging, cajoling, committing treason while trying to intimidate, in the manner of a Mafia Don, Georgia’s top election official into fraudulently changing the state’s vote tally so that Trump, and not President-elect Joe Biden, receives Georgia’s electoral votes. No longer is there any pretense by Trump that the totals were manipulated in battleground states to give Biden a victory in the Electoral College. In Saturday’s call, the president simply tells Raffensperger to “recalculate.”

This is the stuff of Banana Republics or post-Soviet elections in Belarus. It is treasonous. I will leave it to the lawyers to decide whether Trump’s vague threats against Raffensperger (“you’re not reporting” what “they did” is “a criminal offense,” Trump tells Raffensperger) rise to a prosecutable crime, but it certainly is impeachable. Impeaching the president before January 20 is highly unlikely, but a case can be made for impeachment after he leaves office — if Congress wants to insure that the former president can never hold federal office again. Since Trump has served only one term as president and has said he may run again in 2024, there is a powerful case for the House to move forward.

Vice President Joe Biden certifying the Electoral College vote in 2017

But, that is for the future. For now, there is the looming certification of the electoral votes by Congress this Wednesday, with a substantial number of Republican representatives and senators poised to object to certifying the votes of key battleground states. Their refusal will force each chamber to debate and vote on each challenge, placing other Republicans in the uncomfortable position of having to choose between the Constitution and Donald Trump. The choice should be a no-brainer, but the cowardly and sycophantic members of the Republican Party have shrunk, for four years, from doing their patriotic duty.

The challenges are a case of civic vandalism and constitutional trashing. Some of the leaders — especially Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas — are graduates of Ivy League law schools and purport to be constitutional scholars (both clerked for chief justices of the United States Supreme Court). They know better. Apparently, for these politicians, overthrowing the Constitution is a small price to pay to advance their presidential ambitions. Literature is full of stories about ambitious young men and women who ignore moral niceties in the march to the top, but a politician sacrificing the bedrock of American democracy to reach the pinnacle used to be unthinkable. Our republican experiment is in danger if ambition trumps principle when it comes to the Constitution. 

The level of cynicism of congressional Republicans supporting the challenges may be unmatched in American political history. In a statement, the senators said they are challenging the electoral votes because “election integrity should not be a partisan issue. A fair and credible audit — conducted expeditiously and completed well before January 20 — would dramatically improve Americans’ faith in our electoral process and would significantly enhance the legitimacy of whoever becomes our next President.” Unmentioned in the statement is that many Americans question the integrity of the election because Trump and his minions (including those on Capitol Hill) spent months before the election and weeks after saying the balloting was fraudulent. All claims of fraud have been debunked, with Trump losing every law suit but one and no one presenting a shred of credible evidence proving chicanery in any state’s election. Despite that, these senators want an investigation to assuage the fears of some voters that were stoked by the very politicians asking for the investigation!

Their challenges become even more untenable following the revelations in Trump’s call to Raffensperger. As long as Trump could claim he was merely demanding that only legitimate ballots be counted and illegitimate ones disqualified, his toadies had sufficient cover to support his debunked allegations. But, his one-hour phone call with Raffensperger removes that veneer, exposing Trump’s ploy for what it has always been: An attempt to subvert the outcome of a fraud-free election to keep him in power.

A recount in Georgia

It is difficult to understand what Trump is seeking. Even if Raffensperger were to play along and “recalculate,” claiming he had found 11,780 votes, that would swing only Georgia’s electoral votes to Trump, leaving him still short of a majority in the electoral college. A clue to Trump’s thinking — if one could call what goes on in his mind thinking — may be found in the revelation that the White House switchboard had placed 18 other calls to the Georgia election official’s office over the last two months. Since that many calls were made to Raffensperger, Trump may well have been calling secretaries of state in other battleground states as well, asking them to find votes for him. Since Trump frequently speaks the quiet parts out loud, it may not be too long before we know whether the calls to Raffensperger were part of a larger scheme to steal the election.

Make no mistake: Stealing is what it is. Trump often tweets: “Stop the Steal,” but the only attempted theft being committed is by him and his craven supporters. Biden won convincingly and every official with responsibility for certifying the results has proclaimed the election free of fraud. But, Trump faces multiple legal problems on many fronts — including, potentially, this new one stemming from his outrageous phone call to Raffensperger — and is desperate to cling to power to preserve his immunity from prosecution. In addition, Trump cannot accept that he is a “loser” (in his thinking, the worst insult in his bag of slurs) who lost to “Sleepy Joe.”

The Saturday phone call was shocking but not surprising. It fits the pattern of Trump’s behavior as a mob boss and is no different from the attempt he made in July 2019 to extort damaging information about Biden and his son, Hunter, from Ukraine’s president. The House impeached Trump for that crime, but Senate Republicans exonerated him. Will they continue to indulge his behavior at the expense of the Constitution? All members of Congress swear an oath to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” The United States has no greater enemy today than Donald Trump, a president who would subvert the Constitution to remain in power. Let us hope that Republicans in Congress — representatives and senators — will live up to the oath they swore just this past weekend.

Posted January 5, 2021

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