At this point in our devolving spiral toward irreversible political chaos, it seems beyond dispute that Donald Trump is not simply throwing a temper tantrum to ease his addled mind into the inevitability of a Joe Biden presidency, but is in fact genuinely throwing all his considerable political clout into a (thus far unsuccessful) plot to snatch victory from the jaws of his absolutely obvious electoral defeat.
While that effort appears, at least for now, to be destined to not only fail, but fail spectacularly (this is what you get when you put a Rudy Giuliani in charge of your legal strategy a this point), the fact that the Trump campaign and administration together feel empowered to make a naked power grab this blatant should terrify us all.
Ground zero for the president's shenanigans is Michigan, a state he appears to have lost by at least 60,000 votes, but in which he appears dead-set on causing as much trouble as possible in an effort to overturn his apparently insurmountable margin — or at the very least sow as much confusion as about the results as possible. And to do so, Trump has taken the extraordinary step of personally wading into the electoral miasma.
First, Wayne County Board of Canvassers chairwoman Monica Palmer announced Thursday morning that she had received a personal phone call from the president the previous evening — just before she made the bizarre, and legally inconsequential, decision to reverse her vote to certify Wayne County's vote tally, and shortly after the president baselessly assaulted the electoral process in the state, claiming it had been a "giant scam" and that actually "I win Michigan." Wayne County is home to Detroit.
Palmer claimed that the president had reached out "to make sure I was safe after seeing/hearing about the threats and doxxing" she'd received after initially refusing to certify the vote count — a move that prompted a massive outpouring of rage and accusations of racism aimed at her and the board's other Republican member. She stressed to The Washington Post that she did not feel any pressure from the president that led her to ultimately change her vote.
Still, it's hard to reconcile the president reaching out to a lowly county board of canvassers chair in a municipality he has repeatedly accused of having perpetrated fraud, and the fact that the person he called made an abrupt reversal just hours later — particularly given the other front in the president's assault on the Michigan election results.
Because at the same time Trump was apparently personally checking in with one of the people who helps certify the votes in a heavily-Black district in a state that helped put Biden over the top in the election, he was also busy inviting two of Michigan's top Republican lawmakers to come hang out with him at the White House later this week.
Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield are reportedly set to visit the White House on Friday, just ahead of the statewide certification of votes scheduled for this coming Monday. While the purpose of their visit has not been officially announced, there is a large movement within Michigan for Republican legislators to appoint pro-Trump members to the Electoral College who would vote for the president regardless of the fact that Biden won the state's electoral votes.
It's a tactic Shirkey has expressly rejected, telling Bridge Michigan "that’s not going to happen." His apparent refusal to participate in an electoral coup, however, flies in the face of lead Trump post-election attorney Guiliani's apparent plan to simply cause as much chaos and confusion as possible through largely baseless lawsuits — so much so, his thinking reportedly goes, that people will simply reject vote totals altogether, and turn to their state legislators to decide things instead.
"Rudy told people he was trying to get the legislatures to flip,” a campaign source told Time. "Rudy's view of the world is if he does a good enough job inflaming the results, Pennsylvania won’t certify, Wisconsin won’t certify."
It's a tactic Trump's other legal lead stated explicitly in a tweet this week.
Given how even the president's most ardent detractors have spent the past four years flipping, one by one, into some of his staunchest defenders (hello to Sens. Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio), it's easy to see how the president's overtures to key Michigan Republicans fits into his overall pattern of cajoling and bullying. It's also easy to see how, if necessary, he might simply move ahead with proclaiming himself the victor, regardless of facts on the ground.
The question now becomes: Will he get away with it?