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rigged election

If Trump Refuses To Leave (The John Roberts Conundrum)

by Kevin Kelton

Should the results of the 2020 presidential election be contested, Chief Justice John Roberts may determine who becomes the next president. But not because he might be the swing vote in a Supreme Court ruling on the matter. Instead, Roberts might find himself in the awkward position of choosing who to swear in.

Let’s back up a moment to find out how one man might end up deciding a presidential election. For months now, people have been asking, what happens if President Trump loses but refuses to leave? There are several scenarios that could get us to that point. Let’s look at them one by one.

First off, we need to put an end to the silly meme Democrats are spreading that Joe Biden has to “win big” to become president. No, he doesn’t! He just needs to win in the electoral college, even if the popular vote is close – just as Kennedy did in ’60, Nixon in ’68, Bush in 2000, and Trump in 2016. Please don’t create an artificial higher standard for Joe that Trump can then exploit to question the legitimacy of a tight race.

But if there is no clear winner and the matter is still in the courts, with Trump refusing to leave the White House, the Constitution is pretty clear on that point. Per the 20th Amendment, the sitting president’s four year term ends at noon on January 20th. If no one is sworn in as the next president, Trump doesn’t just continue in the job. It’s up to the Congress to determine who would become the 46th president, which opens a whole panoply of scenarios. As of today the GOP controls the 26 state delegations needed to win in the House. But the vote would happen in the next Congress, not this one, and since an overwhelming Biden popular vote win would likely have strong enough coattails to flip a few more state delegations blue, they would surely elect the Democrat.

And if no one is certified by congress as the new president by January 20th, that void in the line of presidential succession would be filled by… wait for it… Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Yes, if Trump tries to hole up in the White House while chaos reins, Republicans might end up having to swallow a Nancy Pelosi presidency! (At least until the election results were fully resolved.) Wouldn’t that be a delicious plot twist?!

But let’s say we don’t get there. Let’s assume the electoral process works as it’s designed. The votes are counted, and Joe Biden has at least 270 electoral votes, but Trump claims that mail-in ballots were tainted or illegal voters tipped the outcome in one or more pivotal swing states. Each state would still have to certify its outcome, and we can presume that key swing states run by Democratic governors and secretaries of state (Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, and Nevada) would defend the legitimacy of all the votes counted and certify the winner of their state. The right combination of those would give Biden 270 EC votes, even if there were certification shenanigans in the GOP led states of Florida, Georgia, New Hampshire, or Arizona.

So for the purposes of this hypothetical, let’s say 270 or more electoral votes are certified in Biden’s favor, but Trump still claims the vote was rigged.

The next step happens regardless of Trump’s public pronouncements of a fake election. The Electoral College votes (bound by the new SCOTUS ruling to honor the state outcomes) and Congress ratifies Biden as the winner. 

That brings us to January 20th. Let’s say Biden is the certified winner but Trump is still holding out in the White House, claiming the election was a sham. Biden will still show up at the Capitol Building to be sworn in, with the Chief Justice there to perform the oath. At that moment, boom! Joe Biden becomes the 46th president. It doesn’t matter who is living in the White House or who is sitting in the Oval Office. Neither of those locations are mentioned in the Constitution, and neither of them convey the power of the presidency. Trump would simply be an interloper on government property, and he would soon be escorted out by the Secret Service, whether he likes it or not.

Even if Chief Justice Roberts, for some reason, weren’t to show up, the inauguration would still go forward. Because the President does not have to be sworn in by the Chief Justice; any federal judge can perform the presidential oath of office. As has happened at least seven times in history. So Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg or another willing associate justice could swear him in, or any judge on the DC Circuit. That oath would make Joe Biden the official President of the United States, and he would assume the powers of the presidency and set up a government, while Trump was illegally barricading himself in the White House like a Branch Davidian.

Which brings us to the thorniest of possibilities: the Roberts conundrum.

Suppose both Biden and Trump claim victory, and each shows up to take the oath on January 20th. At that point, the country would be looking for some form of official validation as to whose inauguration counts. That would put the chief justice in the awkward position of having to decide who to swear in. If Roberts follows the Constitution, he will administer the oath to the congressionally certified winner, Biden.

However, if Roberts, for whatever reason – politics, loyalty, fear – decides to swear in Trump, leaving Biden to be sworn in by a less senior federal judge, an argument would be made that the Roberts inauguration was the more valid one, based on his top position on the federal bench.

Would Roberts really create that type of existential constitution crisis just to protect a Trump presidency? This author highly doubts so. But in the hyper-partisan world of today, it is a hypothetical that cannot be ignored.

So if Trump tries to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and he is able to get the public support of Senate and House Republicans, it could come down to John Roberts to decide who will get the imprimatur of the chief justice and, with it, the perceive legitimacy of the oath. Lawsuits would certainly continue for years. But in the meantime Donald Trump might still serve as president, allowing him to pick Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement. Which would all but certainly ensure he would prevail when the matter of the contested election eventually reaches the Supreme Court.

And the question of him voluntarily leaving at the end of a second term becomes ever more in doubt.

Kevin Kelton is a cohost of The More Perfect Union podcast and founder of Open Fire Politics.


Why We Believe Election Results

There’s been a slew of news articles in the last few weeks about the possibility that the presidential election vote was somehow rigged, yet most Americans still accept the election night results as fact. There’s a reason for that. The problem with proving that votes were tampered with is that our entire news information system is built to implicitly trust an election outcome, not question it. And it starts the night of the election while the returns are still coming in.

First, the results are reported by our most trusted news institutions. AP, Reuters, major newspapers and the TV networks all report the results as fact as they come in. This imbues those results with legitimacy before they can be questioned or challenged. We know that these institutions report objective facts elsewhere — baseball scores, yesterday’s stock closings — so we instinctively give their election reporting the same faith we have in those objective numerical realities. Authoritative white men with gray hair tell us something, and we believe it.

Second, because the results come gradually — a Chinese water torture drip of counties and then individual states that are turning out contrary to what we believed would happen — we slowly absorb the shock and allow each one to become our new reality before questioning the overall senselessness of it. “Hillary lost North Carolina.” That outcome was plausible and therefore not questioned. “Trump is over-performing in Florida.” Again, an individual outcome that was considered possible so we don’t challenge it. Then slowly other slightly more unlikely outcomes begin to spill in, and with each new one we adjust our belief systems accordingly, letting our earlier doubts be gradually revised to accept the new reality. “It’s tighter than expected in Pennsylvanian… Clinton’s losing in Wisconsin… AP calls Ohio for Trump… Michigan is slipping away… She’s trailing in Pennsylvania… CNN calls Wisconsin for Trump… NBC calls Pennsylvania.” At each step, we adjust our belief system so that the cognitive dissonance of the totality of the outcome — that an election Clinton was destined to win somehow turned out differently — is made believable and acceptable. 

Third, as all this is happening, a slew of alleged “experts” come on TV and explain WHY the unexpected outcome happened, further infusing the reported results with legitimacy. Instead of CNN’s John King or NBC’s Steve Schmidt saying, “Hey, these results make no sense. Something is seriously wrong here,” they immediately come on screen to explain a result that is counter-intuitive to everything we knew before. These credible authority figures give us a wide variety of plausible reasons to believe what we doubt:

  • rural voters turned out in bigger numbers than anticipated
  • young and minority voters did not turn out in the expected numbers
  • polling methodology was off
  • third party votes shifted the expected results
  • the Comey letters created a last-minute wave
  • Hillary didn’t campaign in the lost states
  • turnout was down significantly
  • turnout was up significantly
  • turnout by white working-class men was up significantly
  • turnout by white married women was down significantly
  • women suddenly returned to Trump
  • men suddenly abandoned Clinton
  • Hillary didn’t have an economic message
  • strong GOP Senate race coattails carried Trump
  • weak Democratic Senate race coattails let Clinton down
  • Millennials voted for Stein
  • Millennials voted for Trump (in greater numbers than anticipated)
  • Millennials didn’t vote
  • Millennials voted, but not for president
  • Latinos voted for Trump (in greater numbers than anticipated)
  • Latinos didn’t show up in the numbers anticipated
  • Latinos only showed up in the numbers anticipated in the states Hillary won
  • the Latino vote was suppressed
  • the black vote was suppressed
  • Cubans voted differently than Mexicans
  • voters hate Mexicans
  • voters hate Muslims
  • voters hate blacks
  • voters hate NAFTA
  • voters hate Hillary
  • voters hate the establishment
  • voters hate third terms by one party
  • voters hate gridlock
  • voters hate ticket-splitting
  • voters hate themselves

And that’s only a partial list!

So Americans have a dozen theories competing with the one that is not even being said: that the true election returns have been adversely manipulated by humans.

It goes to the heart of how we all process information. Take for example, the JFK assassination. If you begin with the assumption that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman, you can work backward to cobble together a slew of unlikely theories and explanations that lead to that conclusion. But if you begin with no assumption about who shot Kennedy, virtually none of the evidence points to Oswald acting alone. (Some doesn’t even point to him firing a single shot.) Yet when our national authorities back a specific conclusion and “prove” it with twisted logic and partial evidence that defy the laws of time and physics, we still accept it because we trust the source. Especially when it’s repeatedly reported on television – the ultimate validator of information (true or false).

This type of counter-intuitive thinking is not exclusive to elections or government reports. Boxing matches and Olympic gymnastic competitions routinely end in judges’ decisions that do not conform to the match that every other spectator witnessed. Millions of Americans believe that professional wrestling is real. And talking heads on TV regularly convince people that cars will change their sex lives, processed cereal will make their kids healthier, a dollar a day will save a third world child’s life (or, even crazier, that the money donated will actually get to a third-world nation), and that if they don’t like their new magic frypan or miracle treadmill they’ll get a “money-back guaranteed” refund with no questions or hassle. Yet none of that is true.

Hell, TV even convinced people that Donald Trump can teach Dennis Rodman to be a businessman.

I can’t prove that the election was rigged, though I believe it. Maybe that’s because my bias and thought process are pre-disposed not to believe Americans would elect Donald Trump. So I start from a place of questioning the results, not blindly accepting them. That’s how I approach it.

But if 62 million Americans can be tricked into believing that a nasty, unethical, misogynistic, philandering, duplicitous, deceitful, self-aggrandizing, uninformed, tax evading, proven con man is worthy of the presidency, they can be convinced that the numbers coming out of a few dozen low populated, predominantly white counties in three states changed the outcome of a national election toward the guy who received two-and-a-half million less votes.


Kevin Kelton is co-host of the More Perfect Union podcast and founder of the Facebook political debate group, Open Fire.

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Rigged Election?

On this week’s “A More Perfect Union” podcast, the gang looks at what it takes to rig an election, claims of media bias, Trump’s “first hundred days” speech, and song titles that sum up this year’s election.

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