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The Art of the Steal

President Donald Trump during a rally in Henderson on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

I swear I did not want to write about this man today. In fact, I’m looking forward to the day when I don’t even have to think about him. But I just spent the last hour of my life reading the full transcript of the call between Trump and Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, and now I must purge my brain of it. 

I’m perpetually shocked at my apparently endless capacity for outrage at the actions of this administration and yet here I sit, mind blown, rage seething from my pores, knowing that, if our recent history is any indication, he will likely never be held to account for his crimes. Meanwhile, my clients sit in prison for months, sometimes years, for the unforgivable act of crossing a made-up border. It’s a miracle I can sit here and write these words considering my entire head has exploded several times this evening. 

I’m sure by now you’ve all heard or read about Saturday’s blatantly criminal conversation whereby our dearest president, the “leader” of these great United States, demands that the Republican Raffensperger “find” the nonexistent 11,780 votes the Trump team would need to overturn Georgia’s election results, thereby stripping President-elect Joe Biden of sixteen electoral votes. 

Nevermind that (as Raffensperger and his team repeatedly attempt to remind the president), no evidence of widespread fraud has been found, all legal avenues to contest the election in the state have been exhausted, and the results have already been certified. I mean, what does a little thing like reality have to do with any of this, right? Sweet baby Thor, I may have lost a few brain cells back there, but since I have now made that sacrifice, allow me to break down the conversation so that you all might spare yourselves. 

First of all, while there were several others on the call with Trump and Raffensperger, namely Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and various attorneys for each of the parties, this was by any measure a mostly one-sided conversation. Our Prez goes on and on (and on and on) about the hundreds of thousands of votes that were either illegally counted or illegally NOT counted, depending, obviously, on which action produces the desired outcome. And of course, he and his team, and seemingly only he and his team, have evidence of any of this. So where are all these miscounted votes coming from? Glad you asked. According to Trump himself:  

  • “250 to 300,000 ballots were dropped mysteriously into the rolls” – I am no election expert so I don’t really understand how one would “drop” ballots into the rolls but apparently it has something to do with forged signatures and apparently these forgeries are coming from Fulton County, home to Atlanta, a majority-Black city. Because of course. 
  • 50K+ voters had to submit a provisional ballot because when they showed up to vote in person, they were informed that they appeared as having already voted. I’ve witnessed this happen in real life, so it’s certainly possible that it happened in some instances, but I question the number and very much question how they determined that all of those provisional ballots were from Trump voters. Color me skeptical. 
  • 18,325 votes from people with a vacant address, though he later claims the number of absentee ballots sent to vacant homes was 2,326. Sorry, I can’t bring greater clarity here, I don’t speak idiot. 
  • Another 18,000 fake ballots planted by some stealth, Democratic operative that they claim to have video evidence of. Those claims have been investigated and have been deemed in fact, unsubstantiated. Shocker. 
  • Also, 5,000 votes from dead people (Raffensberger later in the conversation, corrects this figure to a whole two); 4,502 votes from people not on any registration list; 904 votes from people with only a P.O. box address; and 300-3,000 pounds of shredded ballots. 

I’m a lawyer so I don’t do math but clearly, you guys, this would have been a landslide victory for Trump in Georgia but for those pesky missing or miscounted votes. Clear as swamp water. Of course, he doesn’t need a landslide, all he needs are 11,780 of those votes to materialize, and materialize quickly. 

To their credit, Raffensberger and his office’s general counsel, Ryan Germany, have no qualms about stating how deeply wrong the president’s “findings” are and they do so with what I can only describe as an inhuman level of patience and decorum. Realizing that these men will not fall in line like the rest of his minions, Trump goes on to insult them (“you’d have to be a child to think anything other than that;” “[t]hey’re either dishonest or incompetent, okay?”), taunt them (“…and they’re going around playing you and laughing at you behind your back, Brad, whether you know it or not, they’re laughing at you”), and threaten them (“it is more illegal for you than it is for them because, you know, what they did and you’re not reporting it. That’s a criminal, that’s a criminal offense… That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer”) before making the big ask: “So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes.” 

Boom. There it is, plain as day. The President of the United States demanding that a public official falsify election results. Nobody on his team even thinks to interject, to soften the language, maybe confuse the situation so his criminal acts aren’t as obvious. No, no need. This man will never face consequences. They know it, we know it, why bother to pretend otherwise? Listen, I am no constitutional scholar, no expert on how the executive branch must conduct itself, but I just did a complete re-watch of all seven seasons of The West Wing so I know some stuff.  This man is unhinged. He is unserious, uneducated, absurd, even. But he is also dangerous, and with help from too many others he has planted his danger seeds all over our democracy, like land mines waiting to pop off for the rest of our existence. Whatever happens to him and to our country after January 20th, I fear we won’t actually be able to put Trump out of our minds for a long, long time. Happy 2021!

Martha E. Menendez, Esq. is the Bernstein Senior Fellow at the UNLV Immigration Clinic.

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