How a 'conservative legal giant' is trying to prevent Trump from stealing the 2024 election
Donald Trump (AFP)

On Valentine’s Day 2022, the New York Times published an op-ed by conservative attorney and former federal judge J. Michael Luttig — who called for the U.S. to strengthen the Electoral Count Act of 1887 and warned that failing to do so could make it easier for former President Donald Trump to steal the 2024 election. One of the people who took notice of Luttig’s op-ed was liberal Washington Post opinion writer Greg Sargent, who applauds Luttig for speaking out in his Valentine’s Day column.

“Luttig minces no words, declaring that Trump and his allies pose a ‘clear and present danger to our democracy,’” Sargent explains. “Luttig says they are preparing to ‘exploit’ the ECA to ‘seize the presidency in 2024’ if Trump or his ‘anointed candidate is not elected by the American people.’ We know Trump is doing this, because he told us so.”

Sargent continues, “Luttig, a ‘staunch conservative’ and appointee of President George H.W. Bush, notes that Trump recently declared his vice president should have ‘overturned the election.’ In so doing, Luttig rightly points out, Trump signaled he thinks the ECA’s ambiguities provide a way to do just that, and that he’s fully prepared to try it again.”

Luttig, according to Sargent, “aims to address the scenario I’ve reported on: A single governor in a state poised to decide the election sends sham electors for the losing candidate, in defiance of the state’s popular vote, and a GOP-controlled House counts them.”

“Under the current ECA,” Sargent observes, “those electors would count, even if the Senate refused to count them. That’s because under current law, both chambers must sustain objections to electors for them to be invalidated. One answer is for ECA reform to create a judicial review process that’s required after a state certifies electors, as legal scholar Matthew Seligman suggests.”

Sargent adds, “With this reform, if a governor or state legislature appoints fake electors, the courts would declare that only electors appointed in accordance with the popular vote are real. A reformed ECA would require Congress to count only those electors. But what happens if a GOP-led House ignores that law and counts the fake ones? Well, here ECA reform could direct the Supreme Court to resolve that dispute after January 6, in keeping with the law stating that only the correct electors count.”

Sargent interviewed Seligman for this column, and the legal scholar stressed that Luttig is highly regarded among traditional conservatives.

Seligman told Sargent, “Luttig is a conservative legal giant who was on the short list to be a Supreme Court justice for a decade. There is no one whose view matters more in defining ECA reform as in keeping with conservative principles.”

Sargent wraps up his column by praising Luttig for being a conservative Republican who refuses to join Trump in promoting “insurrection.”

“Trump’s comments and actions, along with the Republican National Committee’s recent suggestion that January 6 constituted ‘legitimate political discourse,’ are leaving no middle ground,” Sargent writes. “Either Republicans are for insurrection, or they’re against it.”

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