Trump's extrajudicial attempt to 'stay in office' would have 'terrified most of the founders,' historian says

Rudy Giuliani
(Image credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President Trump's remaining lawyers and their improvised strategy of claiming fraud and spinning software conspiracies to overturn Trump's sizable loss to President-elect Joe Biden have been laughed out of court. Trump is losing recounts, and his increasingly strenuous efforts to stop certification of Biden's victory in Michigan and other states are running into hard deadlines, unshakable math, and resistance from the Republican leaders of state legislatures to overturn the will of their voters.

Trump's remaining strategy, led by lawyer Rudy Giuliani, is to try and cast enough doubt about the vote-counting in big, heavily Democratic cities to force Republican lawmakers, badgered by Trump-loving constituents, to intercede on Trump's behalf, a senior campaign official told Reuters. The theoretically constitutional plan is to get GOP state legislators in at least three states Biden carried to declare the election "failed," allowing them to name their own slate of pro-Trump electors, then hope the Republican U.S. Senate and Democratic-controlled House to deadlock on rival slates, throwing the election to a GOP-dominated special House session.

"Trump's chances of succeeding are somewhere between remote and impossible, and a sign of his desperation," David Sanger writes at The New York Times. But the fact that "Trump is even trying has set off widespread alarms." Historians and legal experts describe Trump's scheme as "the words and actions of an attempted coup," The Washington Post reports.

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"We have never seen anything like this before," presidential historian Michael Beschloss told the Post. "This is a president abusing his very great powers to try to stay in office, even though it is obvious to everyone that he has been defeated in the polls. That is a prospect that terrified most of the founders."

The claims being made by "Trump's zombie reelection campaign" are "superficial and almost universally ridiculous," Philip Bump writes at the Post. "But just because all of this is an anti-democratic effort to wrench the election away from the candidate selected by American voters, and just because it's ludicrous and clumsy, doesn't mean it can't work." Mike Godwin, the lawyer most famous for Godwin's Law, agreed.

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"I don't want to be alarmist," Beschloss said, but "this is what many of the founders dreaded."

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