The 50th anniversary of Watergate comes at a time when the bipartisan select committee formed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is holding a series of public hearings on the January 6, 2021 insurrection. It was 50 years ago, on June 17, 1972, that the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters became the target of a break-in, and it was 48 years ago, in August 1974, that President Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace.
With the January 6 hearings underway during the Watergate anniversary, some Donald Trump/Nixon comparisons are inevitable. Yet the damning evidence being presented during the January 6 hearings underscores the fact that Trump and his MAGA loyalists were willing to cross dangerous lines that even Nixon wouldn’t have crossed. One such line was using fake “electors” in a brazen effort to steal the 2020 election from now-President Joe Biden.
Journalist Rosalind S. Helderman, in a report for the Washington Post published on June 20, explains, “The convening of the Electoral College on December 14, 2020, was supposed to mark the end of the wild, extended presidential election that year. But when the day arrived, a strange thing happened. In seven swing states won by Joe Biden, when the Democrat’s electors assembled to formally elect him president, Trump supporters showed up, too, ready to declare that their man had actually won.”
Those fake “electors” tried to pull off a coup in states ranging from Michigan to Nevada.
“At the time, the gatherings seemed a slapdash, desperate attempt to mimic President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede,” Helderman explains. “But internal campaign e-mails and memos reveal that the convening of the fake electors appeared to be a much more concerted strategy, intended to give Vice President Mike Pence a reason to declare the outcome of the election was somehow in doubt on January 6, 2021, when he was to preside over the congressional counting of the Electoral College votes.”
In its Thursday, June 17 hearing, Helderman notes, the January 6 select committee “explored” the “pressure campaign placed on” (then-Vice President Mike) Pence to accept the Trump electors as somehow legitimate.”
The select committee will be presenting more evidence on the fake “electors” scheme, according to Rep. Adam Schiff of California. During a June 19 appearance on CNN, Schiff announced, “We’ll show evidence of the president’s involvement in this scheme. We’ll also, again, show evidence about what his own lawyers came to think about this scheme. And we’ll show courageous state officials who stood up and said they wouldn’t go along with this plan to either call legislatures back into session or decertify the results for Joe Biden.”
The fake “electors” scheme was unprecedented in U.S. history. Never before had a U.S. president lost an election by 7 million votes only for his supporters to try to snatch the electoral votes from the candidate who legitimately won them.
“The notion that state legislatures could choose electors in defiance of voters would be a radical one in modern American history,” Helderman observes. “But the documents show Trump strategists quickly began to pursue the theory, especially as lawyers for the campaign and allied groups racked up losses in court cases that they had urged judges to hear expeditiously, before the electors could meet. Their idea was that state legislatures could step in if the election had been marred by massive fraud or illegality. The Trump campaign pushed the fraud narrative even though the president and other top officials were told over and over, even by allies, that there was no evidence to support it, committee evidence and testimony has shown.”
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