From The New York Times, I'm Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily. Today, after weeks of delay, the Trump administration has authorized a formal transfer of power to President elect Joe Biden.
My colleague Jim Rutenberg on the unprecedented campaign of lawsuits, lies and pressure from the president to try to prevent that from ever happening.
It's Tuesday, November 24th.
Jim, the last time you and I talked was the morning, the Saturday morning at The New York Times called the presidential election several weeks ago.
Do you remember? Are you sure? We spoke because I have no recollection of that.
We absolutely spoke and it feels like four years ago.
But at that moment and actually in that conversation, our collective sense was that in the face of defeat, President Trump would be making the case that he, in fact, hadn't lost, that he would not concede anytime soon that he would file a few lawsuits, but that it really wasn't going to amount to all that much and would probably feel like a nuisance campaign.
And in fact, it's kind of become a pretty big deal.
Yeah, I've spent most of this year preparing to cover some semblance of something like this if he lost. But I was not prepared.
Nothing indicated to me it was going to look like this better.
President Trump remaining defiant and not conceding this race. By all indications, today, the president wants to keep fighting. We're going to win Pennsylvania, but they're trying to cheat us out of it because they know it's their only path to victory. The president's biggest battlegrounds, the courtrooms in the states that will decide the presidential race has not lost.
Do not concede, Mr. President, fight hard. And that's this incredibly intense effort that starts with some court cases. In Michigan, Republicans claimed they had evidence that counts should be stopped. And then more court cases in Nevada, Republican lawyers claim their observers weren't close enough. In Pennsylvania, Trump's lawyers claim their observers were being blocked. Then you have this pressure campaign on not just politicians, but election officials at the lowest levels of state government. This wheelbarrow, filled with more than a thousand handwritten letters from Trump supporters, was delivered to state legislators today in hopes of stopping the next stage in the election process.
As they work to do this very basic thing, which is to count the votes and declare the winner, it will not work, but it is so relentless and tenacious that it's causing a lot of trouble and it's really pointing up some weaknesses in the system.
OK, so let's walk through this evolving strategy from the president and how it has evolved and how it's actually playing out in some key states, and it feels like the most interesting development so far have occurred really in three states, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan. And I wonder if we could start in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania sure got a good state. My home state I will have.
You know, so Pennsylvania has been where President Trump has followed a strategy of litigation, just filing lawsuit after lawsuit, state court, county court, city court at every level, just lawsuit lawsuits. The lawsuits are all of it. Kind of the same basic idea that the president trumps. Observers weren't able to see what was going on when they were sort of monitoring the vote counting. This is, by the way, not true. And then the arguments are about mail ballots, basically, that these have been flawed and open to fraud sort of system of voting that should be cast aside.
And our cruise director for this fantastical voyage is none other than the former New York City mayor, now the president's personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani. Wow, what a beautiful day. Thank you. Thank you for coming.
Listeners will remember that he starts this right the weekend after Election Day. He debuts his big premiere. Is that a joint called Four Seasons Total Landscaping, Inc. on the outskirts of Philadelphia, across from a pawnshop and, you know, some tchotchke places. So I'm here on behalf of the Trump campaign to describe to you the first part of a situation that is extremely troubling. And at this press conference, as you know, from the very beginning, the mail in ballots were innately prone to fraud.
Mayor Giuliani basically impugns the entire Philadelphia election system and the Democrats who control the city in Philadelphia, they keep the votes of dead people secret.
I'm not attacking the people of Philadelphia. I'm attacking a decrepit democratic machine, which has a lot of other reasons to be attacked. You are poorly served. Ladies and gentlemen in Philadelphia.
And then a matter before the court this afternoon is that of Donald J. Trump for president.
He kind of continues on it. He takes an increasing leadership role in these lawsuits.
W Giuliani, I represent the plaintiffs in this case member. Remember the bar of New York. I have had at least one federal court. You're good to go.
For the first time in decades, Giuliani, who started his career as a very famous prosecutor in New York, re-enters a federal courtroom. He's like coming back to swing the old bat.
The best description of this situation is it's a widespread nationwide voter fraud.
He starts making kind of a similar argument that he made it good old Four Seasons Total Landscaping, Inc, with these kind of wholesale allegations of fraud.
But the principle ones are in Philadelphia, an elegant, both of them Democrat machines controlled by Democrats in the case of Philadelphia, well known for voter fraud.
But the lawsuit is, in fact, narrower. It's not a big fraud suit. It's basically about alleged improprieties and irregularities with mail in ballots for which there's not much evidence.
And the judge pressies Giuliani, does the amended complaint lead fraud with particularity? Is this a fraud case because I was not aware of that. No, you're honor and it doesn't plead fraud.
And Giuliani has to admit, no, your honor, this is not a fraud case, huh? All right. Thank you, counsel.
So the judge, pretty mild mannered in the courtroom, renders an absolutely stinging rebuke this past Saturday in his decision. And that decision reads plaintiffs. And that would be the president through Mr. Giuliani asked this court to disenfranchise almost seven million voters. He goes on, This court has been unable to find any case in which a plaintiff has sought such a drastic remedy in the contest of an election in terms of the sheer volume of votes asked to be invalidated. One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption.
Instead, this court has been presented with strange legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations unsupported by evidence. Our people, laws and institutions demand more. Right, he's basically saying, get out of my courtroom. You have asked me to do something extraordinary and you have provided no evidence that I should do it, so at this point, their case has completely fallen apart.
They just don't have it. And with that stinging ruling, it's basically definitely in Pennsylvania, this legal strategy is kind of hitting the end of its road. Mm hmm. OK, so let's move on to Georgia, where it feels like we start to see the strategy evolving from just a legal effort to refute the outcome.
Yet Georgia, where we see President Trump's kind of number one asset come into play, and that's his influence in the party, which is his power in the party and his power not only to persuade but to pressure.
Georgia secretary of state says fellow Republicans are pushing him to exclude legally cast votes and that he and his wife are getting death threats over it.
And he brings this pressure to bear upon for secretary of state of Georgia, a Republican, Brad Ratzenberger.
I understand everything that we do will be put under a microscope.
And what's going on here is George has been very close, but closer than Pennsylvania, a few thousand votes. And this pressure is coming from President Trump, his supporters in the state, very powerful Republican Party there that he needs to order before there's any certification and that it should be a hand recount. And what that's going to do if the president is to get his way here is slow this process down, because that's the goal, stave off the inevitable certification of Joe Biden's went.
And lo and behold, the secretary of state caves on this with a margin being so close it will require a full by hand recount of each county. This will help build confidence. It will be a heavy lift and agrees to a hand recount.
The Trump campaign is celebrating. The Democrats have their heads in their hands. But lo and behold, this recount takes place pretty quickly. They do find, in fact, a couple of major counties have thousands of lost votes. But when those votes are counted by hand, again, Trump gains like between one and two thousand extra votes, not enough to overcome the result. So it only solidifies the fact that Joe Biden won the state of Georgia. So the president and his allies in the state to start beating the heck out of the poor secretary of state.
And this afternoon, Senators Perdue and Leffler, both of them Republicans, issued a joint statement calling for the resignation of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
And it's not just President Trump. He gets buy in from some powerful figures in his party, notably Senator Lindsey Graham, who's not even of Georgia. Well, and Senator Graham called.
I just assumed that he was calling about the two runoffs for the senators. So I called him back.
Who Ratzenberger comes out and says publicly that Lindsey Graham called him and pressured him to throw out legally cast votes.
I felt that he implied that for us to audit the envelopes and throw up bouts of counties with the highest frequency error of signatures. And I mentioned that that's not something we can do. That people called you and asked you this, Brad, did you feel it was inappropriate? Yeah, I did. And that's why I didn't call back.
The results have held up. The little discrepancies are nowhere near changing the result.
And so Trump is bringing incredible pressure, pressure to bear on this lowly public official who, despite being a fellow Republican, stands up for the results and Joe Biden is declared the winner of Georgia.
So in Georgia, what we're seeing is this much more hard edged and I guess creative form of interference by the president to threaten a public official who holds responsibility for vote counting and certification and basically have them start to fear for their future and therefore do the president's bidding, which in this case might just be throwing out votes. Yeah, it's an open bid for wholesale disenfranchisement. And in fact, it's failed because Georgia certified its vote last week and Ratzenberger kind of delivered a sort of ringing endorsement of democracy in his state.
And he said in a statement, The truth is that the people of Georgia and across the country should not have any remaining doubts about who won the presidential election earlier this month. That was as definitive as you could get. This is it. But he's telling them it's over in Georgia. Yeah, it's it's going in the mail, right. To the Electoral College. We'll be right back. Preparing for the holidays brings lots of joy and a whole lot of mess, from disorganized closets to piles of laundry to, you know, the smartest ways to get your home and your clothes deep cleaned in a snap, tights got the answers straight from one of their scientists and a high quality clean.
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OK, so, Jim, finally, we have Michigan now in Pennsylvania, an elaborate legal strategy is tried and failed in Georgia. Pretty elaborate pressure campaign has tried that failed. So what happens in Michigan?
Michigan is like a Trumpy and wrench into the gears of democracy, where he delves into the machinery of certifying a presidential vote from a state and he starts clunking it up.
What does that look like, clunking it up?
So what it looks like is, first of all, you get to see these gears that as a voter, you never see. And suddenly we start hearing last week that pressure is mounting on something that I've never heard of in 20 years of covering politics.
There's a canvassing board and Wayne County, every county has a canvassing board that runs through this process in this Wayne County canvassing board. It's a four member board to Republicans, to Democrats, very low level party members.
It's coming under immense pressure from the Trump world to refuse to certify the vote on these two board members who are Republicans are being told you must, because of these tiny discrepancies, not certify this vote. And if they don't, this will be a big problem. Why would that matter so much? Because then Michigan's ability to certify its vote and send its delegates to the Electoral College is hindered. This is a major county, but even any county would cause this problem.
And we learned a thing about these two Republicans on the Wayne County Canvassing Board. In fact, they are ardent Trump supporters and they are fully buying into this idea that fraud is rampant. And in fact, one of these two, William Hartmann, his Facebook page was filled with conspiracies about fraud in this election, things that are just abjectly false. It's in their hands, the future of democracy in Michigan.
And sure enough, when it comes time to certify.
Well, Craig, it was a dramatic night in Michigan. Here's what happened, citing these tiny little discrepancies in a few precincts in Wayne County and in Detroit.
Two Republican county officials in Michigan's largest county, which includes Detroit, refused to certify the election results in that county.
They say we can't certify these two Republicans. So now that board is going to be deadlocked.
Well, that move outraged the Democrats on the board and speaker after speaker on the board's public zoo meeting.
The short of it is there's a great outcry. You have extracted a black city out of a county and said the only ones that are at fault is the city of Detroit, where 80 percent of the people who reside are African-American.
Detroit voters are not going to go along with this, that there are hundreds of people in this meeting and these two Republicans reversed course and they vote to certify.
And that would be that, lo and behold, who caused them.
But the president of the United States calls the two members of the Wayne County Canvassing Board. Yeah. And twenty four hours later, they released a statement that they're trying to take back their vote. We don't want to certify we're taking it back after they've spoken to the president. Now, it turns out legally they can't do that. So that's over. So now the next step in the process, the president turns his attention to the state canvassing board and suddenly that four member body that again, I'd never heard of in the last four days.
They are under immense pressure, immense pressure.
And we start seeing some interesting things about those two Republican members. And that is that one of them, Norm Shinkle. He is such an ardent Trump supporter that last month he sang the national anthem at a Trump rally in Lansing. Wow. So now it's all about this state canvassing board. And Norm Shinkle tells us over the weekend this is happening kind of late in the week into the weekend, that he is under such pressure. His phone is ringing off the hook in a way that has never rang off the hook.
And he says, now, wait a minute, I don't know what I'm going to do here. Now, this is an interesting quandary, because these boards do not, as a matter of course, weigh whether or not to certify votes. Right. The job is to be a rubber stamp. They're a rubber stamp, literally.
They used rubber stamps in Wayne County. This is a formality. And suddenly Norm Shinkle saying, well, we might have to do an investigation or an audit here.
The answer is this important decision, whether or not to certify the results before a general election so that we come into Monday.
And there's a great anticipation about this vote. This is kind of this incredible moment where the state of Michigan may not be able to certify its election result, an election result. By the way, mind you, there is some one hundred and fifty thousand votes in Joe Biden's favor. So this is an extraordinary norm. Shinkle shows up and and raises his concerns. He doesn't feel confident about this.
He doesn't know what's become too clear to us, as many in Michigan and across the country that Michigan has a problem conducting elections.
And he's told you're not a body to investigate fraud, that you do not have a choice. This is a rubber stamp body.
Your job is to certify that you doesn't give you the authority to mandate documents or compel testimony.
And then there's this kind of surprising moment where the other Republican on the board, his name is Aaron Värmland.
We have a clear legal duty to certify the results of the election as soon as the returns that were given to us.
What he raises his hand to say, you know, that is our job.
We cannot and should not go beyond that. Our job is to simply certify him. And ultimately, he sides with the two Democrats to vote for certification.
So we take it will call the chair Bradshaw. Yes. Vice Chair Bantling. Yes. And Norm Shinkle.
Mr. Shinkle, something gets to keep his good standing and Trump intact by abstaining motions to move.
And ultimately, this canvassing board votes to certify the result, therefore declare final victory and hand him all of Michigan's, I believe, 16 electors from the Electoral College.
That is exactly the case. Jim, I just want to pause and marvel at that's the right word and what you have just described, because the lawsuits, what we saw in Pennsylvania, that was one thing, right?
Every candidate for every office is entitled to use the legal avenues available to them to challenge the results of an election.
But the bullying of officials like the secretary of state in Georgia. Feels very different, it feels deeply unethical and asking officials in Michigan to basically void the results of a free and fair election to take actions that could lead to the overturning of the will of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of voters, that just feels not.
Merely shocking, right, but undemocratic and for many people, deeply immoral. Yet, Michael, we we've never seen anything like this. And there's an extra, frankly, disturbing twist to this. And that is that the communities he's targeting our cities with large black populations, in Detroit's case, majority black population in a country whose great shame has been the disenfranchisement of black voters. And Trump went to a place we'd still never seen as a country, which is throw out the entire city's votes.
And not and not just Detroit, but also, as you said before, when it came to Rudy Giuliani, Philadelphia, you know, we're not even talking about Atlanta or Milwaukee and so much of this effort, this campaign, whatever you want to call it, is to malign black majority cities, black voters with this ridiculous, unsubstantiated accusation that somehow these cities are too corrupt for their votes to count.
Right. And yet, in all of the attempts that you have just described, none of them have worked, which I guess shows that the system does contain a fair number of checks and balances, because, as you said, this is without question an unprecedented assault on the system. But the system in the three cases that we just went through did not succumb.
I guess I'll do a glass half full answer on that is yes, the checks and balances worked, but they only worked because people like the secretary of state of Georgia, people like the lone Republican who is willing to vote for certification in Michigan, believed in that system enough that they followed the law and didn't go along with President Trump on this. But it took those people standing up. That's been the lesson here is the system is run by human beings with their own partisan passions.
Jim, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Thanks for having me. Shortly after we spoke with Jim, the head of the General Services Administration, Emily Murphy, issued a statement formally designating Joe Biden as president elect and providing the funds and resources necessary to begin the transition process. In a letter to Biden, Murphy said she had made the decision on Monday afternoon following the string of legal defeats for Trump and the certification of Biden's victory in states like Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan.
In a tweet, Trump said that he accepted Murphy's decision, but did not concede and promised to continue his fight. We'll be right back. There's nothing like home for the holidays unless you're surrounded by a festive mess. That's why we talk to the deep cleaning experts at times about the smartest ways to clean the mess. You can see and all the dirt that goes unseen to learn how to tackle laundry, transform your home and beat stains and odors in a snap head to NY Times dot com slash tide.
Here's what else you need to know today.
The Times reports that President elect Biden is close to naming several key figures to his cabinet, including Janet Yellen, the former head of the Federal Reserve Bank, as treasury secretary.
Yellen would be the first woman to ever run the department. Biden is also expected to name Alejandro Mayorkas, a former Obama administration official, to lead the Department of Homeland Security, the first Latino to hold that post, and Avril Haines, another Obama official as the director of national intelligence, making her the first woman in that role. Finally, the president elect will create a new post international climate envoy to be filled by John Kerry, the former secretary of state.
That's it for The Daily, I'm Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow. Preparing for the holidays brings lots of joy and a whole lot of mess, from disorganized closets to piles of laundry to, you know, the smartest ways to get your home and your clothes deep cleaned in a snap, tights got the answers straight from one of their scientists. And a high quality clean is a lot simpler than you think. To learn the top ways to transform your home before holiday crunch time, head to NY Times dotcom slash tied.