Despite concerted efforts by angry and frustrated Clinton campaign officials, liberal Democrats, and the pro-Clinton members of the mainstream media, they were unable to interfere with the constitutional presidential election process. On Monday, each state’s delegates to the Electoral College gathered to cast their ballots according to the choice of that state’s votes for president on November 8, officially confirming Donald Trump’s status as the president-elect. It was one more important step towards Trump’s inauguration as the 45th president of the United States on January 20, which will enable him to implement the radical changes in federal government policy and approach that he promised voters.
In state after state which Trump won on Election Day, the Electoral College delegates who were pledged to him withstood the chants and boos by desperate Clinton supporters pleading and shouting at them to “vote their conscience” by becoming “faithless electors” and casting their ballots for almost any other candidate.
Last week, a major public relations campaign was mounted to influence and/or intimidate electors pledged to Trump into turning their backs on the majority of voters in their state who chose Trump over Mrs. Clinton. The electors reported being inundated by thousands of letters and e-mails, most of which came from blue states, including some which carried death threats if they did not comply.
The organizers believed that with a little encouragement from the Clinton campaign, they had a long shot chance of persuading enough Trump electors to abandon him to throw the election into the House of Representatives. But that encouragement never came.
Instead, more electors abandoned Clinton on Monday than Trump. Only two Trump electors from Texas cast their votes for other Republicans. One of them was not a surprise. Chris Suprun had announced his intentions in a New York Times op-ed piece two weeks earlier. He voted for Ohio Governor John Kasich. Another Texas delegate pledged to Trump cast his vote for former Congressman Ron Paul. But the other 304 Trump electors around the country stood firm and did their duty, casting votes which officially make Trump the president-elect.
MORE ELECTORS REBEL AGAINST CLINTON
Seven Democrat electors from Washington State, Minnesota, Maine and Colorado pledged to Clinton attempted to cast their votes for other candidates.
Rules governing what happens to faithless electors vary from state to state. In Colorado and Minnesota, the rebellious Clinton elector was automatically replaced, while in Maine, the elector who tried to vote for Bernie Sanders was declared out of order, and ultimately agreed to recast it for Clinton. In Washington State, three of the four faithless electors cast their ballots for former secretary of state Colin Powell, and the fourth voted for a Native American environmental activist. In accordance with state law, each of the four will be fined $1000.
In the end, another attempt to overturn the outcome of the election failed on Monday, but the pro-Clinton media and anguished Democrats remained in denial, continuing their efforts to undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s victory. As soon as one question about the election was shot down, they took up a new one to challenge Trump’s status as this country’s duly elected president.
A consistent theme of the Democrat and media efforts to discredit Trump’s victory is to blame Clinton’s defeat on everyone and everything possible except Clinton’s fatal weaknesses as a candidate and the arrogance of her campaign’s strategy.
CLINTON SUPPORTERS POINT TO THE POPULAR VOTE
Initially, the Clinton team and Democrats blamed the U.S. Constitution for setting up the Electoral College system which requires a candidate to have a broad base of support across the nation in order to be elected president. As late vote counting in California padded Mrs. Clinton’s lead in the popular vote, they suggested that the system was unfair and undemocratic.
In the 2000 election, Al Gore defeated George W. Bush by half a million ballots in the popular vote but nevertheless lost to Bush in the Electoral College because of the disputed outcome of the voting in Florida.
Democrats voiced the same complaints at that time, but made no effort over the next 16 years to amend the Constitution to replace the Electoral College with a system based on winning the popular vote.
As a result, nothing changed. Democrats and Republicans were well aware of the rules governing the outcome of the election before this year’s presidential campaign began. The Clinton team, in particular, often boasted about its reliably Democrat-voting “blue wall” of Rust Belt and Midwestern states, which they claimed foreclosed Trump’s “path” to a 270-vote Electoral College majority. The Clinton campaign ridiculed Trump’s campaign for “wasting its time and resources” by scheduling their candidate for appearances in Wisconsin and Michigan, although the Clinton campaign did respond vigorously to Trump’s outreach to rural and suburban voters in Pennsylvania.
In his first post-election interview on Sunday, John Podesta, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, acknowledged that the campaign was partially “responsible for the loss,” and should have spent more time shoring up her support in Wisconsin and Michigan, but with regard to Clinton’s loss in Pennsylvania, Podesta insisted, “at the end of the day, there’s nothing more we could have done.”
In an op-ed published by the Washington Post last week, Podesta suggested that the FBI was primarily responsible for Clinton’s defeat because it spent too much time and effort investigating Mrs. Clinton’s private e-mail server, while doing far less to counter the hacking of the DNC’s computers and his own emails. Citing disputed secret national intelligence reports promulgated by the CIA and leaked to the media, Podesta and other Democrats claim the hackings were a conspiracy orchestrated by Russian President Vladimir Putin to help Trump defeat Mrs. Clinton.
Podesta wrote “something is deeply broken at the FBI” and that the email hacking purportedly by the Russians was the “political equivalent” of the 9/11 terror attacks.
REFUSING TO ACCEPT THE ELECTION OUTCOME
In his Sunday interview with pro-Clinton NBC reporter Chuck Todd, Podesta refused several times to concede that the 2016 presidential was “free and fair” and insisted that its outcome “was distorted by Russian intervention,” even though recounts in Wisconsin and Minnesota supported by the Clinton campaign failed to uncover any signs of hacker tampering with the vote count itself.
He said that “Russia clearly intervened” and that Putin was “personally involved” in the email hacks because he wanted Donald Trump as his “lap dog” in the White House. Podesta borrowed the disparaging “lap dog” comment about Trump from New York Time columnist Nicholas Kristof.
Appearing immediately after Podesta on the NBC News program, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates suggested that Podesta was saying just what the Russians wanted to hear. They had intended hacks to make American elections look “corrupt, incompetent, rigged, and therefore no more honest than anybody else’s in the world including theirs.”
Attorney General Loretta, who has maintained a low public profile since her ill-advised meeting with former President Bill Clinton at a Phoenix airport this summer, rejected Podesta’s complaints about lax FBI efforts to investigate his hacked emails, declaring, “he’s not involved in the ongoing investigation so he wouldn’t be privy to everything that would have been done or said to that.” In his interview, Podesta confirmed that it has been months since the FBI talked to him about his hacked emails.
PODESTA WAS HACKED THROUGH A TYPO
The circumstances which led to the hacking of Podesta’s e-mail are very ironic. In March, a Clinton campaign staffer monitoring his e-mail account noticed a suspicious looking e-mail declaring that the account had been penetrated and urging him to go to a website in order to change his Google password immediately.
The e-mail was forwarded to Charles Delavan, one of the campaign’s computer experts, for evaluation. He says he immediately recognized it as a hacker’s “phishing” trap intended to capture a victim’s password. But Delavan claims he made a fatal typo in responding to the inquiry, calling the original phishing email “legitimate” instead of “illegitimate,” as he had intended. Podesta’s aide clicked on the link in the bogus e-mail, taking the computer to the hacker’s web site, and when a new password was entered, Podesta’s real e-mail account was fatally compromised.
BLAMING COMEY’S LETTERS
Podesta repeated a claim made by Mrs. Clinton in her first appearance after losing the election that the letter sent by FBI Director James Comey to leaders of Congress less than two weeks before the election was the turning point of the campaign. The FBI’s discovery of new Clinton e-mails on a laptop used by her top aide, Huma Abedin, prompted Comey to re-open the investigation into Clinton’s private server that he had closed in July without recommending charges against her.
On November 6, two days before the election, Comey went public again to declare that the new emails contained no new evidence against Mrs. Clinton, and he was closing the investigation again. But Clinton and Podesta claimed that the temporary re-opening of the FBI investigation broke the momentum of her campaign.
Podesta and former President Bill Clinton argue that the revival of the private server controversy, combined with the steady flow of damaging emails hacked from Podesta’s computer, unfairly influenced the millions of American who were casting early ballots before Election Day.
THE PUBLIC HAD BEEN TOLD ABOUT THE RUSSIAN HACK
But political analysts point out that most voters had heard the Clinton campaign claim that the Russians were behind the hacked emails published on WikiLeaks in an effort to damage Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. On October 7, more than a month before the election, a statement issued by the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson identified the Russians as the party responsible for the hacking attacks, but stopped short of speculating on their motive.
During the campaign, Clinton and her surrogates repeatedly criticized Trump for refusing to publicly criticize Vladimir Putin, and suggested that as president, he would act as “Putin’s poodle.”
In the third presidential debate, on October 19, Trump said, “from everything I see [Putin] has no respect for this person.” Mrs. Clinton replied, “Well, that’s because he [Putin] would rather have a puppet as President of the United States.” Trump then responded: “You’re the puppet.”
As a result, it is difficult to accept the Democrat argument that enough voters were “hoodwinked” by the Russian disclosures to cost Mrs. Clinton the election.
The first time CIA officials accused Putin of deliberately trying to help Trump win was two weeks ago, in a classified briefing to members of the Senate intelligence committee.
The accusation touched off a storm of political controversy. It prompted Democrats to launch a last minute effort to browbeat Trump Electoral College delegates into withholding their votes for him while demanding a further investigation of Russian interference in the election.
DID THE HACKING CHANGE THE OUTCOME OF THE ELECTION?
But President Obama, at his year-end press conference on Friday, suggested that the impact of the Russians on the outcome of the election was minimal. He defended the basic “integrity of our election system” and emphasized the lack of any evidence that the vote count had been tainted. He denied that the hacking was “some elaborate, complicated espionage scheme.” and that the relevant information about it had been withheld from American voters.
In response to complaints by some Democrats that the FBI and CIA were slow to respond to the hacking when it was first discovered more than a year ago, Obama insisted that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies were “playing this thing straight” and that they had disclosed sufficient information about the hacks for “the American public to make an assessment as to how to weigh that going into the election.”
Obama conceded that some of the leaks proved to be “embarrassing or uncomfortable” for the Clinton campaign, but that put into the context of a hard fought political campaign, it was all “pretty routine stuff.”
OBAMA BLAMES THE MEDIA FOR CLINTON’S LOSS
Curiously, the main complaint about the election that Obama did voice during his press conference was, “I don’t think she [Clinton] was treated fairly” by the press corps, and that the Russian hacks became “an obsession that dominated the news coverage.”
He asked “how it is that a presidential election of such importance, of such moment, with so many big issues at stake and such a contrast between the candidates, came to be dominated by a bunch of these leaks.
“What is it about our political system that made us vulnerable to these kinds of potential manipulations which. . . were not particularly sophisticated? This was not some elaborate, complicated espionage scheme.”
Most media critics did not accept Obama’s view that Mrs. Clinton was the victim of unfairly hostile treatment by reporters and mainstream news organizations, many of whose reporters have admitted that their coverage of the general election campaign was distorted by their own pro-Clinton biases.
OTHER FACTORS WERE MORE IMPORTANT TO THE OUTCOME
The WikiLeaks’ publication of the hacked Podesta emails did not seem to move the polls nearly as much as more dramatic events during the general election campaign, such as Comey’s letters to congressional leaders about the email investigation, the release of unfortunate comments by Trump made on an open microphone in 2005, and questions about Mrs. Clinton’s health after her near-collapse at a 9/11 memorial ceremony at Ground Zero. By comparison, the impact of any Russian interference on the decision of the voters appeared to be minimal.
Some of Obama’s critics have suggested that he deliberately downplayed the reports of hacking during the campaign because he and the Democrats were confident that Mrs. Clinton would win, regardless of the Russian interference. As a result, they were reluctant to raise any questions about the election for fear of damaging Mrs. Clinton’s legitimacy as president.
However, after Clinton unexpectedly lost the election, Democrats were eager to grasp at any explanation that might discredit Trump while absolving Clinton from responsibility for the embarrassing loss of an election she was widely expected to win.
FOREIGN HACKING SHOULDN’T BE A PARTISAN ISSUE
Obama said that any attempt by a foreign enemy to attempt to influence the outcome of an American election is unacceptable, but that it “shouldn’t be a partisan issue. . . I think it is very important for us to distinguish between the politics of the election and the need for us as a country, both from a national security perspective but also in terms of the integrity of our election system and our democracy, to make sure that we don’t create a political football here.”
He explained that the White House did not speculate about the possible impact of the cyber-attack on the election because of the “hyper-partisan” atmosphere at the time. “My primary concern was making sure that the integrity of the election process was not in any way damaged, at a time when anything that was said by me or anybody in the White House would immediately be seen through a partisan lens.”
In order to prevent any “potential hacking that could hamper vote counting, affect the actual election process itself,” Obama said that he told Putin when they met in China in early September “to cut it out” and warned him that, “there were going to be some serious consequences if he did not.”
Obama claimed that his warning was effective, and that there was no “further tampering with the election process.” However, since Podesta’s emails had already been hacked and were in the hands of WikiLeaks, Obama said there was nothing the U.S. could do to prevent their release during the final weeks of the election campaign.
Obama said that in retrospect, he had no regrets about how he and his administration handled the hacks.
BRAZILE WAS DISAPPOINTED IN OBAMA’S RESPONSE
However, the current chair of the Democrat National Committee (DNC), Donna Brazil, disputes Obama’s claim that the hackers stopped their attacks on the DNC as soon as he confronted Putin about it in September.
She told ABC News that the DNC’s donors and others associated with the campaign, as well as the DNC’s systems, were hacked on an “hourly” basis.
“They came after us absolutely every day until the end of the election,” Brazile said. “They tried to hack into our system repeatedly. We put up the very best cyber security, but they constantly [attacked].”
Brazile acknowledges that the FBI and other federal agencies informed the DNC “what was happening. We knew as of May,” Brazile said. But she felt that the DNC was “no match” in fighting “a foreign adversary in cyberspace,” even though, “we fought constantly.” She indicated that the DNC felt itself to be constantly on the defensive because of the steady drip of revelations from the hacked emails.
Brazile admitted that she was a “little disappointed” with Obama’s response to the attack. She called for an “independent, bipartisan investigation of the attacks” including public hearings.
BILL CLINTON ACCUSES TRUMP OF EXPLOITING WHITE ANGER
Former President Clinton had another explanation for Trump’s unexpected electoral success. In remarks he made to a local reporter in a small bookstore not far from the Clinton home in Chappaqua, New York, the former president said that Trump “doesn’t know much,” but “one thing he does know is how to get angry, white men to vote for him.”
Clinton agreed with his wife, placing some of the blame on the Russian cyberattacks and FBI Director Comey’s letter to congressional leaders.
President Obama seemed to be much more willing to recognize that the way the Democrats have changed, alienating their previous working class supporters in middle America, was the main cause of Clinton’s defeat.
In his press conference Friday, Obama was effusive in praise of the candidate. “I couldn’t be prouder of Secretary Clinton, her outstanding service, and she’s worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and I don’t think she was treated fairly [by the media] during the election.”
OBAMA SAYS THAT DEMOCRATS NEED TO REBUILD
He then offered to give the Democrat Party some advice on how to win future elections.
“I think the thing we have to spend the most time on is [to] make sure that we’re showing up in places where I think Democratic policies are needed, where they are helping, where they are making a difference, but where people feel as if they’re not being heard,” Obama said.
He added, “where Democrats are characterized as coastal, liberal, latte-sipping, politically correct, out-of-touch folks, we have to be in those communities. And I’ve seen that when we are in those communities, it makes a difference. That’s how I became president. . .”
“So the question is, how do we rebuild that party as a whole, so that there’s not a county in any state, I don’t care how red, where we don’t have a presence and we’re not making the argument, because I think we have a better argument,” Obama said.
Obama also admitted his failure to transfer his personal popularity to other Democrats during two midterm elections in 2010 and 2014 in which the Republicans made major gains in Congress and state government across the country.
The lame duck president continued that discussion in what was called his “exit interview” with NPR reporter Steve Inskeep. He acknowledged that the Democrats have a structural problem because their voters “are clustered in urban areas,” which is why Clinton lost by a substantial margin in the Electoral College while winning 2.8 million more popular votes than Trump did.
IGNORING RURAL AND EXURBAN AREAS
While Obama insists that the Democrat liberal policy agenda he supports is more popular with voters than Republican positions, such as Obamacare, he admitted the “failures on our part to give people in rural areas or in exurban areas a sense day-to-day that we’re fighting for them or connected to them.”
He also accepted “some responsibility” for the fact that Democrats “have a bias towards national issues and international issues, and as a consequence I think we’ve ceded too much territory,” in state and local government. Obama also recognized that his personal popularity with many voters “wasn’t immediately transferable to [Democrat] congressional candidates.”
For that reason, when Obama moves out of the White House next month, he will be leaving his party in the weakest position in comparison to the Republicans in almost a century. He also said that after leaving office, he intends to serve as a “talent scout” and “coach” to develop his young supporters into Democrat leaders of the future, tacitly admitting that the party’s leadership ranks have been decimated since he took office.
MUCH MORE THAN JUST A FORMALITY
Monday’s Electoral College vote was supposed to be nothing more than a formality, carrying out a 220 year old constitutional formula which even its supporter view as obsolete. But it took on the emotionally charged atmosphere of the Clinton supporters who still cannot accept the outcome of the election.
Unable to deal with Clinton’s defeat, they turned their fury and frustration on the Trump electors, who were doing what they saw as their patriotic duty by participating in the peaceful transition of power, which is still the envy of much of the rest of the world.
The experience of Ash Khare, a Republican Electoral College delegate from rural Warren County in northern Pennsylvania, appeared to be typical. Khare reported receiving 3,000 to 5,000 emails, letters and phone calls a day from around the country and overseas urging him to abandon Trump. But instead of convincing him, they just made him angry and more determined. “This is stupid. Nobody is standing up and telling these people, ‘Enough, knock it off,’” he said.
Khare told CNN that he had arrived in America in 1961 from his native India at the age of 21 with a scholarship to an American school, $8 in his pocket and a burning desire to live the American dream. After years of hard work and poverty, he achieved his goal, becoming a successful engineer and business owner, and participating in democracy by becoming active in the state’s Republican Party.
Khare was proud that his party picked him to play the part of a Trump elector, but was caught by surprise by the consequences. A day after Trump’s narrow victory in Pennsylvania, his wife called to inform him that his inbox was stuffed with 5,000 emails. Then came the bags of mail and the phone calls, all with the same message: don’t cast your Electoral College vote for Donald Trump.
TURNING THEIR LIVES UPSIDE DOWN
Some of the messages were pleading, some talked about fear of Trump’s presidency, and a few were threatening. He told CNN that the sheer volume “turned my life upside down. I can’t find my bills in all the mail. I can’t find emails that pertain to my business. Even my rural post office had to designate someone specifically to deliver my mail because there is simply too much of it.”
After he gave the threatening messages to law enforcement, he was assigned a plain clothes policeman to protect him until he cast his ballot.
But Khare remained adamant about carrying out his mission. “I am doing my duty,” he said. “I am for Mr. Trump. I am for his agenda. I am totally excited. The way he his picking his cabinet, the way he is doing his thing. I believe the greatest days of this country are yet to come. And I am glad I am alive to be able to see it.”
Donald Trump took note of the plight of Khare and the other electors who had been pledged to him and blasted the media for its sympathetic coverage of those who were tormenting them. He tweeted on Sunday, “If my many supporters acted and threatened people like those who lost the election are doing, they would be scorned and called terrible names!”
In each of the state capitals where Trump won, crowds of anti-Trump protesters showed up for a last ditch effort to try to convince the electors to defy the will of the voters.
BILL CLINTON CASTS A VOTE FOR HIS WIFE
Perhaps the most poignant scene was in the state Senate chamber in Albany, New York. Former President Bill Clinton was present to cast his Electoral College vote for his wife in what he knew would be a losing cause. Governor Andrew Cuomo rose to praise the former president, in whose administration Cuomo had served as secretary of housing and urban development. Cuomo praised the former president for teaching “an entire generation of elected officials what it means to be to a professional and effective elected official. He showed that government mattered.”
Afterward, Clinton told reporters he had “never cast a vote I was prouder of.” Explaining the reason for his wife’s defeat, Clinton said, “At the end, we had the Russians, and the FBI deal. She couldn’t prevail against that. But she did everything else. And still won by 2.8 million votes.” But in the end, she couldn’t win the 270 votes she needed to become president.
After the Electoral College votes were tallied Monday, the torment of the Trump electors came to an end, but the bitterness of Mrs. Clinton’s followers and their sense that she was cheated out of victory still festers, driving their continuing effort to undermine and discredit Trump’s presidency.