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Worst-case scenario planners are worried about Trump and the November election

WASHINGTON — In October, President Donald Trump declares a state of emergency in major cities in battleground states, like Milwaukee and Detroit, banning polling places from opening.

A week before the election, Attorney General William Barr announces a criminal investigation into the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden.

After Biden wins a narrow Electoral College victory, Trump refuses to accept the results, won’t leave the White House and declines to allow the Biden transition team customary access to agencies before the Jan. 20 inauguration.

Far-fetched conspiracy theories? Not to a group of worst-case scenario planners — mostly Democrats, but some anti-Trump Republicans as well — who have been gaming out various doomsday options for the 2020 presidential election. Outraged by Trump and fearful that he might try to disrupt the campaign before, during and after Election Day, they are engaged in a process that began in the realm of science fiction but has nudged closer to reality as Trump and his administration abandon long-standing political norms.

The anxiety has intensified in recent weeks as the president continues to attack the integrity of mail voting and insinuate that the election system is rigged, while his Republican allies ramp up efforts to control who can vote and how. Just last week, Trump threatened to withhold funding from states that defy his wishes on expanding mail voting, while also amplifying unfounded claims of voter fraud in battleground states.

“In the eight to 10 months I’ve been yapping at people about this stuff, the reactions have gone from, ‘Don’t be silly, that won’t happen,’ to an increasing sense of, ‘You know, that could happen,’” said Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown University law professor. Earlier this year, Brooks convened an informal group of Democrats and never-Trump Republicans to brainstorm about ways the Trump administration could disrupt the election and to think about ways to prevent it.

But the anxiety is hardly limited to outside groups.

Marc Elias, a Washington lawyer who leads the Democratic National Committee’s legal efforts to fight voter suppression measures, said not a day goes by when he doesn’t field a question from senior Democratic officials about whether Trump could postpone or cancel the election. Prodded by allies to explain why not, Elias wrote a column on the subject in late March for his website — and it drew more traffic than anything he’d ever published.

But changing the date of the election is not what worries Elias. The bigger threat in his mind is the possibility that the Trump administration could act in October to make it harder for people to vote in urban centers in battleground states — possibilities, he said, that include declaring a state of emergency, deploying the National Guard or forbidding gatherings of more than 10 people.

Such events could serve to depress or discourage turnout in pockets of the country that reliably vote for Democrats.

“That to me is that frame from which all doomsday scenarios then go,” he said.

To ward off such a scenario, Elias is engaged in multiple lawsuits aimed at making it easier to cast absentee ballots by mail and making in-person voting more available, either on Election Day or in the preceding weeks.

Biden, for his part, has suggested more than once that Trump might try to disrupt or delay the election. And his campaign grew very concerned this month when it was announced that election security briefings, which in past cycles had been delivered to candidates by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, would now be the province of the director of national intelligence. That post is currently held by John Ratcliffe, a Trump ally who was confirmed to the position Thursday. Ratcliffe was among the president’s chief Fox News defenders during the Russia investigation and has been a sharp critic of the FBI.

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by Anonymousreply 2505/31/2020

“Since 2016, Donald Trump has shown that he is always ready to sacrifice our basic democratic norms for his personal and political interests,” said Bob Bauer, a Biden senior adviser who is the campaign’s chief lawyer. “We assume he may well resort to any kind of trick, ploy or scheme he can in order to hold onto his presidency. We have built a strong program to plan for and address every possibility to ensure that he does not succeed.”

Trump has said he expects the election to be held Nov. 3 as scheduled, and under federal law he does not have the power to unilaterally postpone it. But a recent comment by the president’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner about whether the election would be held as scheduled — “I’m not sure I can commit one way or another,” he said — renewed fears that Trump would try to move the election or discredit the balloting process if he thought he was going to lose.

Trump’s campaign derided the anxiety over the election as irrational hand-wringing driven by Democrats’ inability to accept his victory four years ago.

“Hillary Clinton, Stacey Abrams and the entire Democratic Party refused to accept the results of their elections and pushed the Russia collusion conspiracy theory for years,” said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for Trump’s reelection campaign. “Now Joe Biden’s allies have formed actual conspiracy committees where they’ll work up new hoaxes to further undermine our democracy. They are wasting their time. As President Trump has repeatedly said, the election will happen on Nov. 3.”

The president attacked mail balloting again Sunday morning, with a baseless claim that it would lead to “the greatest Rigged Election in history.”

Some Democrats have been cautious about voicing their warnings about potential electoral calamities too loudly, for fear that even the suggestion of a tainted election would depress turnout.

“You don’t want to set up a perception based on the theory that elections don’t matter,” said Ari Rabin-Havt, who was a deputy campaign manager for Sen. Bernie Sanders. “You don’t want to tell supporters that nothing you do matters because this guy is going to screw it up.”

Brooks’ group at Georgetown is not the only one forecasting doomsday scenarios for the election. Ian Bassin, executive director of Protect Democracy, a nonprofit group dedicated to resisting authoritarian government, last year convened the National Task Force on Election Crises, a bipartisan 51-member group that includes Republicans such as Michael Chertoff, the former homeland security secretary. The group is dedicated to envisioning and presenting plans for scenarios that could wreck the 2020 presidential election.

The task force began with 65 possibilities before narrowing the list early this year to eight potential calamities, including natural disasters, a successful foreign hack of voting machines, a major candidate’s challenging the election and seeking to delegitimize the results, and a president who refuses to participate in a peaceful transfer of power.

Among the scenarios they eliminated when making final cuts in January, ironically, was a killer pandemic that ravaged the country and kept people homebound before Election Day. After the coronavirus struck, the group reconstituted to publish pandemic-related recommendations for state governments to follow.

The group also produced a 200-page document, which has not been made public. Several members said they had worked on specific scenarios but had not seen the complete draft. They said that while many of the possibilities envisioned an incumbent president using the forces of government to his advantage, the report’s authors had been careful not to make the document explicitly about Trump.

“We hope there are safeguards in place,” said Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who participated in the task force. “Let’s face it, those safeguards ought to include the Senate of the United States and the Justice Department. There’s reason to be nervous.”

by Anonymousreply 105/24/2020

Edward Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University who participated in the task force, said the 2020 election could resemble the contest of 1876, which nearly split the country a decade after the Civil War.

That election was not decided until Gov. Samuel Tilden of New York conceded to Gov. Rutherford Hayes of Ohio two days before the inauguration. The outgoing president, Ulysses Grant, had made contingency plans for martial law because he was concerned there would be simultaneous competing inaugurations.

“We’re setting ourselves up for an election where neither side can concede defeat,” Foley said. “That suggests that the desire to dispute the outcome is going to be higher than ever.”

by Anonymousreply 205/24/2020

He’s going to steal the election again! Those with a brain knows what’s about to happen.

by Anonymousreply 305/24/2020

This is not far-fetched at all, and I'm glad that people are anticipating it.

Given his track record, anything is possible with this asshole.

by Anonymousreply 405/24/2020

Can you just imagine the chaos that would ensue, if Trump tried to do this?

I mean, everything he has done in office thus far, has created chaos and confusion.

So why wouldn't he do it with the election?

This country is so fucked (come November), if he tries to stop the election, or prevent Biden from taking office.

by Anonymousreply 505/24/2020

If he refuses to leave, then the military needs to step up and "take care of things", if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

And let Dump's carb-loving minions try to rise up; that "revolution" against a real militia will last 4 hours, tops

by Anonymousreply 605/24/2020

100% believable.

Russia will help

by Anonymousreply 705/24/2020

None of this shit will happen. Or people will rise up for real. That would be the final straw, a step to far (finally) from Trump. He'd then be messing with people's ability to pick their own elected officials.

Besides, Trump is to fucking scared to do some shit like that anyway. He'd loose complete control of the country and lose anyway.

He better be careful about what he chooses to do going into the November election.

by Anonymousreply 805/24/2020

He controls the military, sunshine! R6 😰

by Anonymousreply 905/24/2020

[quote] That would be the final straw, a step to far (finally) from Trump.

Oh, dear.

[quote] Besides, Trump is to fucking scared

Oh, dear.

Okay, now that that's out of the way.

NOTHING is a "step too far" for trump. Everything he has done for the past three years, has been a "step too far." And he keeps getting away with it.

Do not underestimate him.

People did that in 2016, and look what happened.

by Anonymousreply 1005/24/2020

[quote] The bigger threat in his mind is the possibility that the Trump administration could act in October to make it harder for people to vote in urban centers in battleground states — possibilities, he said, that include declaring a state of emergency, deploying the National Guard or forbidding gatherings of more than 10 people.

This is my worry. Rather than make a futile attempt to cancel the election he could do something like this based on literally anything, and it could actually change the outcome.

R10, I agree, there's is nothing Trump won't do to stay in office, because it's the only thing keeping him out of court and prison.

by Anonymousreply 1105/24/2020

No paywall....

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by Anonymousreply 1205/24/2020

Lots of people making assumptions that Biden will come close to winning. He can't even excite more than a third of his own party. Where are all these votes going to come from?

by Anonymousreply 1305/30/2020

Yeah I like Joe Biden but coronavirus alone has taken a huge blow to his and the Democratic party's momentum towards the next election. He is like an afterthought right now with all the trauma the world has gone through over the last couple of months. Unless he is promising everyone a miracle stimulus bill its going to be hard to get people energized about voting.

by Anonymousreply 1405/30/2020

The fate of Mussolini should be the fate of Trump.

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by Anonymousreply 1505/30/2020

Think about what time it is in Russia, folks. Just saying.

by Anonymousreply 1605/30/2020

An even worse scenario: Trump loses the election and accepts the loss. Then for his last two and a half months in office, he takes a scorched earth approach to the loss. He screws up everything (on purpose this time) in hopes of causing problems with will make his successor look bad.

by Anonymousreply 1705/30/2020

Are we done?

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by Anonymousreply 1805/30/2020

That ain't Trump dear. That's Democrats rioting in failed Democrat cities. If you think its not being looked at exactly in that manner by many, then you are naive.

by Anonymousreply 1905/31/2020

[quote]Lots of people making assumptions that Biden will come close to winning. He can't even excite more than a third of his own party. Where are all these votes going to come from?

What is excitement? Was Ronald Reagan exciting? Was Richard Nixon exciting? Or Eisenhower or LBJ or FDR exciting? No, but they represented something the electorate thought was right for the times.

by Anonymousreply 2005/31/2020

Unexcited voters tend to translate into unmotivated voters r20.

by Anonymousreply 2105/31/2020

Anonymous to the rescue.

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by Anonymousreply 2205/31/2020

I’m glad someone is anticipating it, because everything about Trump is a possible worst case scenario.

The voting process is administered by states, and I think the pandemic has given us a good look at what governors think of Trump trying to dictate what happens in their states, so I’m less worried about option 1.

Barr could pull the investigation stunt again, but Biden isn’t HRC, and we’ll have had almost four years of Trump by then. If anything, the impeachment, and GOP trying to throw the fault on Biden, worked in his favor, so there’s no guarantee that tactic would be effective.

Not allowing a peaceful transition of power? Whatever. We don’t need him to be there when a new President is sworn in, and once one is, Trump is out whether he wants to leave or not. (Will he try to sell secrets to our enemies? Probably definitely, so I hope that scenario is on someone’s worst case list.)

Trump will always be a disaster for this nation, President or not, alive or dead. He and the idiots who voted for him, and those who allow him to act unchecked, have fucked us royally. But we probably deserved it, and now we know that evil will truly stop at nothing to retain the last of power, so we best get our shit together come November.

by Anonymousreply 2305/31/2020

I just don't get this concept of exciting. If the fucking mess at hand doesn't "excite" voters they get what they deserve.

I often think around here "exciting" is just code for my candidate didn't get the nomination. So fatalistic. It's like some of you want four more years of Trump so you can moan about how different it would have been if only... that's what you get for conflating politics with American Idol. Pathetic.

by Anonymousreply 2405/31/2020

Oye ! Reichstag Fire all over again!

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by Anonymousreply 2505/31/2020
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