Frank DeFilippo: Beware Trump’s Legal Ju-Jitsu

President Trump applauding Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Every election reaches a point where nothing can be done to alter its outcome and all we can do is sit back and watch it happen as the returns roll in. Or trickle in. Or arrive late. Or not at all.

The winner, as well publicized, may not be known on election night even though many states have kept pace with mail-in and early voting.

This has been an election year like no other – a raging pandemic that has caused nearly a quarter of a million deaths and tanked the nation’s economy; a lawless and out-of-control presidency; senseless police shootings and civil unrest across the nation; devastating wildfires in the West and destructive storms in the South; a stubbornly polarized nation; and the recessional of America around the world.

Such is the condition of America’s voter delivery system that the pandemic and President Trump’s policies – which are interchangeable toxins – have caused or worsened. Not fraud, not rigging – nothing so simple or blatant – but a malicious effort by Trump, and friends, to undermine the election itself.

We, the people, are being set up.

The ruse began months ago with Trump’s Ayn Rand-like declaration: “I don’t like to lose.”

Frank
Frank A. DeFilippo

That was followed by Trump’s numerous refusals to say whether he would quietly and gracefully yield the presidency to his successor if he loses the election. Even at his late-stage campaign rallies Trump has been insisting that the only way he can lose is if the election is rigged. Nearly every national poll shows Trump trailing Joe Biden.

The machination culminated with the quickie confirmation and installation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett as the newest Supreme Court justice. She packs in her briefcase the example of her mentor, Justice Antonin Scalia, who warped the 2000 election and hand-delivered the presidency to George W. Bush before the Florida vote recount was finished.

It’s anyone’s parlor game to guess what legal ju-jitsu Trump and his Justice Department lawyers have in the planning if the election doesn’t go his way. Only an overwhelming defeat at the polls might persuade Trump to look elsewhere for future diversions from his tax dodging and personally indebted real estate business.

The 2 ½ months between the election and inauguration could be a vengeful time in Trump’s rejected hands.

So look, for crying out loud, who suddenly might appear guilty of trying to rig an election. Or did we posit, in paragraph four, that rigging was not in the bag of tricks for clogging the vote-count?

Students of human motivation must realize that the driving force to eject Trump from the White House is not the esoteric baloney of policy pronouncements or oaths of restoration of normality.

But rather, people are exhausted and profoundly fed up with Trump’s daily bombardment of tweets, his minimizing of the pandemic, his destructive antics, his corrupt direction of public funds for private gain, his deployment of government agencies as a protective shield against his private behavior, and on, and on, and on, and on.

Perhaps most annoying of all is Trump’s constant whining that he is a victim.

And let us not forget that The Washington Post fact-checkers have catalogued at least 20,000 instances of lies, falsehoods and misinformation that Trump has issued since his presidency began nearly four years ago. The list is likely hundreds longer since the book was published earlier this year.

But little Trump has done compares with his outrageous attempts at voter suppression and the undermining of the sanctity of the vote – a revelation of his desperation to cling to the presidency as his ultimate personal liberty against the institutions and laws that govern the rest of America.

Even the venerable Postal Service, stripped down by Trump’s hand-picked postmaster general and short-handed by pandemic sick-calls, has cautioned that last-minute mail-in ballots might miss delivery deadlines and not be counted.

Many voters waiting in lines said they chose to vote in person because of their distrust of the mail and drop boxes after being hammered for months with news of internal troubles within the Postal Service and long delays in receiving mail deliveries at their homes.

Yet the Trump administration, and its political adjuncts, have been rebuffed by the courts numerous times in their efforts to delay or invalidate ballots – most recently in Pennsylvania and North Carolina and before that in Nevada and other states. And several years ago, the Supreme Court gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

The outpouring of votes and voters – by mail, drop box, early voting, and what is yet to come on election day – is a powerful force, able to move, not just mountains, but an entire nation. Records in this notoriously low-voting nation are about to be shattered, as many already have.

If anything, this election has proven that early voting, and mail-in voting by whatever variation, are welcome accommodations and not the fraudulent mischief that Trump claims. Repeated studies over the years have never uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud.

In Maryland, for example, the number of requests for mail-in ballots has been overwhelming, and the long lines on the first days of in-person early voting have far surpassed those of 2016. Voter participation in Baltimore City spiked with the parallel election of a new mayor.

That scene has been replicated on television every evening with footage showing long lines at polling places in states across the nation, which reveals an electorate that is energized and eager to participate.

Most punditry has the election of a president narrowed to three or four states that will provide the 270 electoral votes required to win, despite the outcome of the popular vote. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won nearly 3 million more popular votes than Trump, but Trump won the presidency with 304 electoral votes.

This has provoked the cyclical call for abolishing the electoral college, an artifact that has become outdated and unfair because the representation does not reflect today’s population imbalances among the states. We continue to live by rules that were written by dead men.

To abolish the electoral college would require a constitutional amendment adopted by Congress and ratified by 38 states which, even if successful, would take years to accomplish. There are 27 amendments to the Constitution. The last one was adopted in 1992. It deals with the composition of Congress.

By nearly everyone’s count, the key states to victory are Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, although some analysts include North Carolina and Florida.

Another factoid is that Joe Biden has more paths, or combinations, to victory than Trump, and that there’s no possible way Trump can win without Florida, given the current status of the electoral map. (That may be one reason Trump switched his legal address from New York to Florida. Another reason might have been to escape the jurisdiction of the New York attorney general and the Manhattan district attorney because of his multiple legal woes.)

Other than the result, and what cataclysms could follow, the biggest suspense is which publication or website is prepared to be the first to rush out the headline – L O S E R – Trump’s favorite put-down for others.

Frank A. DeFilippo
Frank A. DeFilippo is an award-winning political commentator who lives and writes in Baltimore. DeFilippo has been writing about the comic opera of politics for more than 50 years. He reported on the Maryland General Assembly for 10 years before joining the administration of former Gov. Marvin Mandel (D) as press secretary and speechwriter. Between times, he was a White House correspondent during the administration of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, and he has covered six national political conventions. DeFilippo is the author of Hooked, an alleged work of fiction, and an unpublished manuscript, Shiksa: The Rise and Fall of Marvin Mandel.