Democrats make plans to counter Trump’s attempts to cast doubt on election results

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“They say we want a just and friendly transition,” he said. “I say:” Really? Well, when I won you spied on my campaign. “”

Trump’s rhetoric has sounded the alarm among local officials worried about civil unrest or even violence after the election.

Democratic sources say they are taking the president at his word. The Biden campaign is bracing for a number of legal contingencies that could arise if the vote is tight, as lawmakers brace for plausible – and also utterly implausible – scenarios that could arise if the presidential election is postponed to the Congress to decide on a winner. Democrats are also preparing a response to Trump’s fraud allegations – which could lead his voters to doubt the legitimacy of the result, even if it is a Biden landslide – with plans underway for protests nationally if Trump attempts to challenge the outcome. They are also working with social media companies to try to discourage an untimely declaration of victory on election night.Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats on Sunday released a report titled “Counting the Votes and What to Expect on Election Day,” aimed at preemptively pushing back against allegations of Trump fraud, which details how not all states will likely finish votes on November 3.

“Despite the president’s false statements, according to our country’s leading electoral experts, electoral fraud is almost non-existent,” the report said. “In some states, we may not know the winner on election night. It’s OK. “

Don’t take risks

While plans are in the works, there are fears Democrats simply don’t have the messaging power to counter the pulpit of Trump’s bully – and his Twitter account – if he claims victory in the evening elections before states are called or claims Democrats stole the election. .

“We need to step up our messages,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia. “There is no organized effort. We’re really going to have to hyper-train here to counter this false and insidious narrative from the President and lower expectations that you’re going to know everything you need to know on November 3. ”

Connolly added, “He’s setting up a straw man and he’s got to be knocked down. ”

The Trump campaign has championed the president’s rhetoric on voter fraud. In a statement, campaign spokeswoman Thea McDonald accused the media of “peddling liberal arguments and ignoring the president’s pledge to accept the results of a free and fair election.” Yet last month Trump’s son Eric Trump told his supporters in Nevada that Trump would concede if he “was kicked out of the water,” according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

But Democrats say they are taking no chances and fear that even if Trump resigns, he will undermine public confidence in the results if he loses. A campaign official for Biden told CNN the campaign was in coordination with Capitol Hill Democrats and voting rights groups with a message surrounding Trump’s attacks on the integrity of the election. The campaign also spoke with social media companies about combating disinformation and communicating election results, the official said.

“Donald Trump can boast and lie whatever he wants, but we are confident this election will be decided fairly, and we have built the largest voter protection program in history to prepare for any eventuality and fight against any attempt to interfere with the democratic process, ”said Biden campaign spokesman Mike Gwin.

A senior Democratic congressional official said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had weekly discussions at executive team meetings on messaging and House Democrats were coordinating with the Biden campaign.

“The Biden campaign will obviously be in the driver’s seat,” the aide said.

Outside groups are mobilizing

Trump’s rhetoric of election theft or rigging has mobilized both liberal activists and Washington veterans keen to ensure confidence in the election results. They are looking to provide air support if Trump launches a protest on Twitter against the results after election day.

Priorities USA, the biggest Democratic super PAC backing Biden, is starting to foresee the possibility of Trump attempting to present election results that favor Biden as illegitimate.

“We have started making internal plans,” said Guy Cecil, who chairs the group. “We are working with allied organizations to sort out our role both in terms of potential litigation and also what our role is in responding to the president. ”

Two progressive advocacy groups, Stand up America and Indivisible, have formed a bipartisan coalition of 100 advocacy groups called Protect the Results, which is staging protests across the country if Trump tries to challenge the results.

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“We see these mobilizations as an essential means of countering any disinformation from Trump,” said Sean Eldridge, founder of Stand up America.

A new bipartisan group of officials, called the National Council on Electoral Integrity, was launched earlier this month with a campaign to build confidence in the electoral system. It includes Republicans like former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, who was Homeland Security Secretary in the George W. Bush administration; former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, a former GOP senator who served in the Obama administration; and former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, also a former GOP senator who served in the Trump administration.

After the election, Ridge said, the group’s focus will shift to ensuring a peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another, including continuing to push back Trump’s efforts to undermine the legitimacy of late-counted ballots.

“Our goal over the next two weeks is to make sure every vote is counted, and that people are patient and wait for American voices to be heard,” Ridge told CNN. “And then, ultimately, work now to promote a peaceful transition of power that has continued since President George Washington left office. “

Bipartisan social media concerns

Trump’s use of social media to potentially raise doubts about election results or prematurely declare victory is perhaps Democrats’ biggest concern. But Republicans also have their own complaints.

Biden’s campaign manager said there have been conversations with social media companies about tackling election misinformation and reporting election results.

Facebook and Twitter have announced steps they will take to push back efforts to prematurely declare victory on election day. And Facebook has said it will ban political advertising after polls close on election day.

But Cecil said these measures are not only inadequate in his group’s view, they also disproportionately help Trump and his allies, who are adept at harnessing viral content, rather than paid advertising, to spread their messages. .

“It only benefits Donald Trump and the Republicans who are trying to sow confusion and disinformation,” Cecil said. “They are not doing enough and what they are doing is late in the game. ”

Democrats are also concerned about how heavily-followed media organizations and social media accounts respond to or amplify the president’s comments. While Twitter has fact-checked a handful of Trump’s election tweets, the social media company’s rigid fact-checking rules allow Trump to continue spreading false information about the election.

“It’s the tweets quoting him or the headlines saying ‘Trump refuses to concede voter fraud’ that scares me,” the source said. “Echoing what the president said on election night is a dangerous thing. ”

Yet complaints about social media and the elections have been bipartisan. Conservatives are furious at Twitter and Facebook after social media giants took significant action to limit the dissemination of a New York Post article about Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden, prompting accusations that companies were trying to protect Biden.

Challenges in Courts and Congress

In case the election results are near, the Biden and Trump campaigns have brought together hundreds of lawyers across the country for what would be the high-stakes dispute after the polls close: a contested outcome.

Election experts say another dispute like the 2000 Florida recount, where the winner of the presidential contest was at stake, is highly unlikely. But both sides are bracing for such a scenario – and Trump has even said he expects the election to go to the Supreme Court.

If a state comes down to the wire, the votes cast – especially by mail – will likely be considered ballot by ballot, and this scenario is perhaps the most likely to end up being challenged by campaigns in the courts.

But a post-election dispute could also play out on Capitol Hill. If there is a debate over the Electoral College’s results, the election could be overturned by an obscure 19th-century law called the Electoral Tally Act.

A group of House Democrats have been studying the law ahead of the congressional election, said Maryland Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin, a constitutional law professor who is part of the group.

“We are going to have all the constitutional and statutory tools on the table to prepare to defend the outcome,” said Raskin.

Democrats say they are optimistic that if Trump loses the election, some of the Congressional Republicans who have stood by his side for four years will begin to distance themselves from him, underscoring Trump’s rejection. received after refusing to commit to peaceful peace. power transition.

Several Republican senators, including Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, have publicly and privately criticized Trump’s conduct in recent days.

Raskin said the political landscape after the election is declared – whether it’s November 3 or days or weeks after – will depend on the margin of victory.

“Obviously, the bigger the landslide,” said Raskin, “the easier it will be to defend the result. “

Ellie Kaufman contributed to this report.

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