The Backlash Against Trump's Efforts To Subvert The Election : Consider This from NPR Election experts say there is no realistic legal path for President Trump to overturn the results of the 2020 election. But his determination to proceed anyway is doing real damage to the idea of American democracy. A growing number of current and former government officials are speaking out against his efforts.

Sue Gordon, former deputy director of national intelligence, tells NPR if this were happening in another country, "we would say democracy was teetering on the edge."

And Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, tells NPR he was pressured by Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to reject certain absentee ballots.

In participating regions, you'll also hear a local news segment that will help you make sense of what's going on in your community.

Email us at considerthis@npr.org.
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The Growing Backlash Against Trump's Efforts To Subvert The Election

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The Growing Backlash Against Trump's Efforts To Subvert The Election

The Growing Backlash Against Trump's Efforts To Subvert The Election

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AUDIE CORNISH, BYLINE: Hi. It's Audie Cornish, and we here at CONSIDER THIS want to know what you think of the show. A short, anonymous survey is open now. Go to npr.org/considerthissurvey to share your thoughts. That's npr.org/considerthissurvey. And thanks.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Here's one reaction to the events of this week.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT")

TUCKER CARLSON: This may be the single most open-minded show on television. We literally do a UFO segment.

CHANG: Fox News host Tucker Carlson said his staff had asked the Trump campaign to present evidence to back up the president's claims about widespread voter fraud. But a Trump campaign lawyer named Sidney Powell refused to provide any.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT")

CARLSON: When we kept pressing, she got angry and told us to stop contacting her. When we checked with others around the Trump campaign, people in positions of authority, they told us Powell has never given them any evidence, either.

CHANG: That was Thursday.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT")

CARLSON: We're telling you this because it's true. And in the end, that's all that matters - the truth.

CHANG: Also on Thursday, another notable reaction to this week came from Republican Senator Mitt Romney. He said in a statement, quote, "the president has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election. It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American president."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

SUE GORDON: If I were briefing the president on this at this moment in time, I would say stop it.

CHANG: Sue Gordon has briefed presidents, including the current one. Until last year, she was the No. 2 official in the office of the director of National Intelligence. She told NPR if this were happening in any other country...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

GORDON: If it were a purported democracy, I think we would say the democracy's teetering on the edge.

CHANG: CONSIDER THIS. More and more people - and I'm talking about people from the president's own party - are speaking out against his attempts to overturn the result of a free and fair election. Election experts say there's almost no chance he'll succeed, but the president's determination to proceed anyway does real damage to the idea of American democracy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHANG: From NPR, I'm Ailsa Chang. It's Friday, November 20.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHANG: It's CONSIDER THIS from NPR. The turning point this week seemed to come on Tuesday night.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Breaking news tonight out of Michigan, where two Republican members of the four-person board of canvassers in Wayne County, Mich., were tasked with certifying the results of the election - have decided not to do that.

CHANG: Officials in Wayne County, Mich., home to Detroit, were about to do something that's routine in any election - that is certify the results of their county's own vote count. But two Republican officials voted not to.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES")

JOCELYN BENSON: It's extremely rare. I mean, this is a board that performs a ministerial function of certifying the results. They have in every election in years past.

CHANG: That's Michigan's secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES")

BENSON: And here are two individuals going far beyond their role to invalidate the votes of tens of thousands of African Americans in the state of Michigan.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHANG: The two members who voted not to certify the results had some support. Members of the state Republican Party praised their vote, and so did the president himself in a tweet.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: I'm not impressed with the work that you're doing tonight, and I apologize for my tone.

CHANG: But things quickly changed...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: I cannot contain my anger.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHANG: ...After a period of public comment...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: You guys need to certify this vote...

CHANG: ...That took place over Zoom.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: ...And stop playing with elections.

CHANG: ...Just after the board members' initial decision not to certify.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: I am mortified right now.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: This is a disgrace.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: This is going to be an embarrassment for you.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: The law isn't on your side. History won't be on your side.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: This is nothing but an attempt to disenfranchise voters, especially voters in a 85% Black city. You all should be ashamed of yourself. Shame on you. And you know what?

CHANG: After that intense public pressure, those two Republican board members reversed their decision. They agreed to certify the vote count after all, and it looked like the story was over.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHANNON BREAM: Breaking news now from Wayne County, Mich. - in a dramatic reversal, Wayne County election board Republicans have reportedly rescinded their votes certifying the results in Michigan last night. You remember there was a flip-flop...

CHANG: Yeah. Well, the day after voting to certify the election results, those same Republicans wanted to reverse course again and rescind their votes. One of them said she had had a phone call with the president himself.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KEVIN CORKE: So the very latest we have tonight - Republicans who agreed to certify now say they will not, Shannon.

CHANG: The secretary of state's office said there was no legal mechanism to change their votes. And then President Trump invited some Republican members of the Michigan State Legislature to meet with him at the White House on Friday.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHANG: Now, state laws are generally pretty clear that the winner of the state's popular vote gets the electoral votes. There's no real legal path for the president to change the results of the election in Michigan or in any other state. But all of this marks a new phase in the president's attempts to subvert the process, you see, because the effort that had been playing out in recent weeks was mostly confined to courtrooms across the country, where the president had been repeatedly defeated. But after what happened in Wayne County, it was clear that the president's team had shifted gears, now pushing a strategy that goes well outside a court of law, which brings us to Brad Raffensperger.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER: Well, they say that as pressure builds, it reveals your character. It doesn't change your character.

CHANG: Raffensperger is the Republican secretary of state in Georgia. He told NPR this week that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, pressured him to reject valid absentee ballots. Now, Raffensperger did not do that. In fact, on Friday afternoon, Georgia completed a hand-count audit of its votes, and the state announced it will certify Joe Biden's victory there.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

RAFFENSPERGER: But at the end of the day, as secretary of state, my job is to make sure we run an honest and fair election. It doesn't matter if you're Democrat, Republican or independent. I have to assure them that every legal vote will count.

CHANG: Raffensperger spoke to NPR's Ari Shapiro about the president's pressure campaign and why attacks on election integrity could actually hurt his own party in Georgia's crucial Senate runoff elections.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

ARI SHAPIRO: Will you begin by describing the phone call with Senator Graham where you say he pressured you to reject valid absentee ballots?

RAFFENSPERGER: Someone from his office called our office, and I called him. I thought it was going to be about the senatorial runoff race, but he asked if our absentee ballots could be matched back to the envelope. And Senator Graham implied for us to go ahead and audit the envelopes, the signatures on the envelopes, and then throw out the ballots from counties that had the highest frequency error rate of signatures. I think that's similar to what the lawsuit was or has been filed in Michigan.

I went ahead, and I explained our laws. And it's pretty clear that both Senator Graham, President Trump and Attorney Lin Wood - they're all on the same page, and they don't understand the laws here in Georgia. They also don't understand that we actually strengthened signature match here in Georgia for the first time in 2005.

SHAPIRO: But even if the outcome of the presidential race in Georgia, which Joe Biden narrowly won - even if that changed, it would not affect the outcome of the presidential election. And so why do you think all of this time, money, energy and hostility is being invested in attacking the outcome of the presidential race in your state?

RAFFENSPERGER: Well, it's extremely unhelpful to the two senatorial candidates that are running in the runoff because right now - this is me taking off my SOS hat and putting on my Republican hat. We really need to have a unified focus so that we can, you know, win those two runoffs. But that's - I guess people don't understand the politics of it, and they're taking us down these rabbit trails. At the end of the day, I want voters to understand that when they cast their ballot in Georgia, it will be accurately counted. You may not like the results, and I get that. I understand how contentious it is. But you can then respect the results.

SHAPIRO: Do you think the disinformation, the conspiracy theories, the personal attacks reflect today's Republican Party?

RAFFENSPERGER: I sure hope it doesn't. I've had a tremendous number of people reach out to me - you know, people of goodwill that are Republicans. I know the Democrats may like what I'm doing, but it's not about that. It's about integrity because I think that integrity still matters. And people are reaching out that they appreciate that I'm standing, you know, on the principle of one person, one vote. Integrity matters.

Are they disappointed in the results? Yes. I'm going to be disappointed if President Trump doesn't win because we are conservative Republicans. But we move on, and we'll come back, and we'll fight the good fight in two years for congressional races. And we'll also then fight the good fight in four years for president. But our job is to stand for what is right, for what the law is.

SHAPIRO: Now, there are still two months until the Senate runoff in January, which could determine control of the Senate. Do you think, given all of the alarm bells and false claims, that this will go smoothly? Or, given that you're already getting death threats and calls for your resignation, is this just going to be a downward spiral over the next two months?

RAFFENSPERGER: I hope it's not. Typically, you can expect Democrats to take pot shots at Republicans. But when Republicans take them at each other, it's not helpful. In fact, there's so many going back and forth right now that I'm sure the Democrats have just gone out and bought a box of popcorn and are watching and enjoying the show.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHANG: That's Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state in Georgia.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHANG: Earlier, you heard from Sue Gordon, a career intelligence official who, until last year, was the deputy director of national intelligence under President Trump.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

GORDON: To openly suggest that our election process is illegitimate weakens our stature and lessens our moral authority to be the leader of the world that we have been for so many years and so important to the stability of free and open societies.

CHANG: On the same day that Gordon spoke to NPR this week, the president's lawyer was promoting baseless conspiracy theories on TV. In court, the president's lawyers have been steadily losing more and more cases. But, of course, lawyers can't lie in court as easily as they can on television. Sue Gordon spoke to NPR's Steve Inskeep about her former boss' effort to overturn a democratic election.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

STEVE INSKEEP: When you were inside the government during the Trump administration, the intelligence community was preparing for the possibility of foreign interference in U.S. elections. Did you anticipate the possibility, the danger that foreign actors would try to do things like delegitimize election results?

GORDON: Yes.

INSKEEP: Which we don't need an adversary to do anymore because the president is doing it. Is that your view?

GORDON: I think that's the worry - is our adversaries can now sit back, particularly from a Russian perspective, which is to undermine democracy. So it's a worrisome situation that no intelligence professional would want to have happen, and everyone would encourage the president to understand how it would be seen and how it could be used.

INSKEEP: I want people to know that of the many, many agencies that have a role in intelligence gathering and are in one way or another part of the intelligence community, there are elements in the Department of Homeland Security, which was overseeing an effort at election security and also beating down false rumors about the election. Chris Krebs, the guy in charge of that, was fired a few days ago. Did you have any dealings with him or with his office? And what did you think of his dismissal as he called out disinformation, including disinformation by the president?

GORDON: I know Chris well - I mean, just a remarkable leader and human. I have nothing but respect for him. I worry about when the - independents is what I'm going to call them, the organizations that are typically independent. When those leaders start being removed for what seem to be political reasons, that is a worrisome thing to me.

INSKEEP: You must have been through a good number of presidential transitions during your time in government.

GORDON: Yeah, I have.

INSKEEP: How much does it matter whether the incoming administration can coordinate with the intelligence agencies before the inauguration?

GORDON: There are two ways we can think about the Biden team. No. 1, you can say, well, it's not so important because they're a pretty experienced bunch. But as good as that team is, they've been out of the game for a few years. And so, you know, you want them to not be reacting just on what they used to know. You want them to take all that wisdom and apply it to what the current situation is. There is no reason in the universe that they shouldn't be allowed to begin this transition process. It's in the best interest of the nation.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHANG: Sue Gordon served as deputy director of national intelligence under President Trump until 2019. It's CONSIDER THIS from NPR. I'm Ailsa Chang.

CORNISH: Once again, just a reminder that we want to hear what you think about CONSIDER THIS. A short, anonymous survey about CONSIDER THIS is open for a limited time at npr.org/considerthissurvey. This is going to help us all so much and will give you a chance to help shape the future of the show. That's npr.org/considerthissurvey. And thanks.

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