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Dahlia Lithwick: Trump’s Ridiculous Coup Attempt Will Fail, But It Will Hurt Democracy in Long Run

StoryNovember 11, 2020
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As President Trump continues to launch baseless accusations of widespread voter fraud in the presidential election, Democratic and Republican election officials across the United States have told The New York Times they uncovered no evidence to support Trump’s claims. Despite his electoral defeat, Trump has not conceded, and his administration is proceeding as though it will continue into a second term, blocking President-elect Joe Biden from accessing government funding and other resources for a smooth transition. “The entire country is trying to figure out: Is this just going to go away?” says Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate magazine. “Or are we really in this slow-rolling denialist attempt to give this man a second term?”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, finally, in these last few minutes, I wanted to go back to Dahlia Lithwick. You talk about President Trump’s refusal to concede the election, which will bear on everything from Medicare for All to war and peace to climate change. Your new piece for Slate is titled “The Real Threat of Trump’s Ridiculous Coup Attempt.” Can you talk about what’s happening right now? You have Secretary of State Pompeo saying he’s all for a peaceful transition — to a second Trump administration. You have world leaders calling to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden, but the Republican leadership refuses to concede. Talk about what’s happening right now, Dahlia.

DAHLIA LITHWICK: It’s such — it’s just a paradox, Amy, because you have to live in this world where it’s either a really truly terrible Peter Sellers movie about the Republican Party getting together to mollify somebody who is either a narcissist or totally devoid of a sense of reality, and so they’re all trying to pander to him and make him feel good, right? Senator Chris Coons reported that, off the record, all sorts of Republicans are congratulating him and saying, you know, “We just can’t say it out loud, because the president hasn’t quite gotten there.” So, that’s the kind of Peter Sellers scenario.

And then there’s the one that you’ve just described, where there is a really quite alarming level of denialism and these claims that this handful of lawsuits in Michigan and Pennsylvania are going to change the results of the election. That’s not possible, I think we can stipulate. Each of those are talking about a handful of votes. And then you see these really disturbing actions — cleaning house at the Pentagon; threatening to fire Chris Wray and Gina Haspel; as you said, Pompeo either joking or not joking about whether there’s going to be a transition, refusing to turn over briefing books to the transition team, that Biden’s team needs in order to prepare for national security disasters.

So, we’re living with this split screen. And I think the entire country is trying to figure out: Is this just going to go away? Are the credits going to roll, and we get at the end? Or are we really in this slow-rolling denialist attempt to give this man a second term? And I think that we kind of toggle between those two realities every day. But I think my point was, we just do need to take seriously the reality that, if anything, we’ve seen the GOP harden behind these claims that the election was stolen and that maybe Donald Trump wins a second term.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And we just have about 30 seconds, but your sense of this Hail Mary pass of Donald Trump to somehow run out the clock on the count and get the intervention of the Supreme Court before the electors have to meet in mid-December to actually vote in the Electoral College?

DAHLIA LITHWICK: My sense is that the lawsuits are trivial and ridiculous. There is, I think, no vehicle that would get to the Supreme Court that would overturn tens and thousands of votes in multiple states. This is not a few hundred votes from Bush v. Gore. I do think the effort to poison the waters, to muddy the question, to maybe signal to states, “Hey, maybe your legislature could just send some electors that are not won in the popular election,” that is still in question. I think that’s the thing to look at. The lawsuits are a joke. But I think the real question is: Does this turn into something that is hardened into an attempt to end this thing?

AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it there, Dahlia Lithwick. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

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