Show an ad over header. AMP

The apocalypse scenario

Democratic lawyers are preparing to challenge any effort by President Trump to swap electors chosen by voters with electors selected by Republican-controlled legislatures. One state of particular concern: Pennsylvania, where the GOP controls the state house.

Why it matters: Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, together with a widely circulated article in The Atlantic about how bad the worst-case scenarios could get, is drawing new attention to the brutal fights that could jeopardize a final outcome.

What we're hearing: Stung by the Supreme Court Bush v. Gore decision in 2000, there’s a separate effort to ensure that no state recounts, like Florida in 2000, are cut short by the Supreme Court, according to a Democratic attorney familiar with the strategy.

  • The Biden campaign has been reluctant to telegraph their precise strategy, but campaign officials have enlisted thousands of lawyers and volunteers on voter protection efforts across the country, and have set up national and state voter hotlines, according to the campaign.
  • They also plan an aggressive response to vote suppression activities.

And Trump advisers are ready to challenge the legitimacy of the election results, especially with the expected late wave of Democratic mail ballots. They're also ready to defend against Democratic lawyers who mount their own election challenges.

  • One Trump campaign source told Axios that their lawyers will litigate where needed, including suing in key states that have changed election laws to allow for an extended period of time to vote or to count ballots.
  • “There are a lot of options if it turns out that the election results aren’t fair and free,” the source said.

The big picture: Trump's own advisers are providing a reality check: the Constitution makes it clear that, even if Trump chooses denial, if Joe Biden is elected president he will be president on Jan. 20.

  • "Trump can say 'I don't concede, I think it's rigged,' but he would not be the president," a Trump legal adviser told Axios.

But legal experts are increasingly worried about how the next president will be chosen if the mechanics for democratic elections fall apart and we face a constitutional crisis.

  • Some lawyers, especially Democrats, don't like to talk about it because they don't want to discourage voters who already feel their votes won’t matter — but they're still gaming out different scenarios so that they are prepared to respond for any event.

David Rivkin, who served in the White House counsel’s office and Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, warned about what he characterized as the "Titanic scenario":

  • Disputed election results in many states with potentially inconsistent opinions on the same legal issues.
  • A deadlocked Supreme Court if Trump doesn't fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat before the election.
  • It becomes up to the House of Representatives to declare the winner. But the question of who controls the delegations in the House may also be at play, given that every member of Congress is also up for reelection this year.

“It’s tremendously dangerous from every perspective,” said Rivkin, who supports Trump.

Benjamin Ginsberg, a top GOP election lawyer, says Trump could ask for state recounts and even contest the election in states if he finds fraud. "The biggest concern is that Trump throws the results of the election — and therefore the peaceful transfer of power into doubt — by unsupported rhetoric,” he said.

Between the lines: Trump's answer to the question about the peaceful transfer of power — "we're going to have to see what happens" — is a catchphrase he uses often when he doesn't want to answer a question.

  • But it would have been an easy answer for any other president, and he forced the GOP to spend Thursday doing cleanup. Nearly every Republican insisted there will be a peaceful transition of power, and how any assertion otherwise would be a rejection of American democracy.
  • Aides to the president argued Thursday that Trump is being misinterpreted, and that he instead was refusing to say whether he'd accept a losing result without a legal fight.

For the record: "The Biden campaign has assembled the biggest voter protection program in history to ensure the election runs smoothly and to combat any attempt by Donald Trump to create fear and confusion with our voting system, or interfere in the democratic process," said campaign spokesman Michael Gwin.

  • And the Trump campaign says it's just focused on the "integrity" of the election. "The Trump campaign is fighting to ensure every valid ballot across America counts as we work to deliver the free and fair election Americans deserve," said campaign general counsel Michael Morgan.

The bottom line: The worst-case scenarios don't always happen, and they may not with this election. But 2020 has already been a year full of worst-case scenarios.

CDC: It's time for "universal face mask use"

The CDC is urging “universal face mask use” for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, citing recent case spikes as the U.S. has entered a phase of “high-level transmission” before winter officially begins.

Why it matters: Daily COVID-related deaths across the U.S. hit a new record on Wednesday. Face coverings have been shown to increase protection of the wearer and those around them, despite some Americans' reluctance to use them.

Keep reading... Show less

Saudi Arabia and Qatar near deal to end standoff, sources say

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are close to a deal to end the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf following U.S.-mediated reconciliation talks this week, sources familiar with the talks tell me.

Why it matters: Restoring relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar would bring a sense of stability back to the Gulf after a 3.5 year standoff. It could also notch a last-minute achievement for the Trump administration before Jan. 20.

Keep reading... Show less

President of Soros foundation leaves amid speculation of potential Biden role

Patrick Gaspard, who served as ambassador to South Africa under President Barack Obama, is stepping down as president of George Soros' Open Society Foundations, fueling speculation that he'll join the Biden administration, potentially as Labor secretary.

What to know: Before his stint as ambassador, Gaspard was Obama's political director in the White House, drawing upon his experience in the labor movement to advance Obama's legislative agenda on health care and financial services reform.

Keep reading... Show less

House passes bill to decriminalize marijuana

The House on Friday voted 228-164 in favor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, marking the first time a congressional chamber has voted in favor of decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level.

Why it matters: The Washington Post describes the bill as a "landmark retreat in the nation’s decades-long war on drugs," which has disproportionately affected people of color.

Keep reading... Show less

Clean trucks are paving the road to the electric vehicle era

The electric vehicle revolution is underway, led by the un-sexiest of plug-in models: the commercial truck.

Why it matters: Growing demand for cleaner trucks means 2021 will be a pivotal year for electric vehicles — just not the kind you might have expected.

Keep reading... Show less

Over 13 million people are receiving pandemic unemployment assistance expiring on Dec. 26

Data: Department of Labor; Chart: Axios Visuals

The number of people receiving unemployment benefits is falling but remains remarkably high three weeks before pandemic assistance programs are set to expire. More than 1 million people a week are still filing for initial jobless claims, including nearly 300,000 applying for pandemic assistance.

By the numbers: As of Nov. 14, 20.2 million Americans were receiving unemployment benefits of some kind, including more than 13.4 million on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs that were created as part of the CARES Act and end on Dec. 26.

Keep reading... Show less

The top candidates Biden is considering for key energy and climate roles

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has urged President-elect Joe Biden to nominate Mary Nichols, chair of California's air pollution regulator, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: The reported push by Schumer could boost Nichol's chances of leading an agency that will play a pivotal role in Biden's vow to enact aggressive new climate policies — especially because the plan is likely to rest heavily on executive actions.

Keep reading... Show less

U.S. economy adds 245,000 jobs in November as rate of recovery slows

Axios Visuals. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The U.S. economy added 245,000 jobs in November, while the unemployment rate fell to 6.7% from 6.9%, the government said on Friday.

Why it matters: The labor market continues to recover even as coronavirus cases surge— though it's still millions of jobs short of the pre-pandemic level. The problem is that the rate of recovery is slowing significantly.

This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.



Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories