The Michigan Republicans declined to endorse that position and said in a statement after the meeting that they would follow the “normal process regarding Michigan’s electors.” The president is now considering inviting Pennsylvania lawmakers to the White House, according to reports.
In person and on Twitter, Trump has targeted officials in several states, including from his own party, as he seeks to upend, discredit and invalidate the election and spread baseless claims that a victory was stolen from him. These are unprecedented actions for a modern president, but for Trump, they are standard operating procedure.
“I don’t think there’s anything surprising about what we’re seeing right now, but it’s still shocking,” said Susan Hennessey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-author of “Unmaking the Presidency: Donald Trump’s War on the World’s Most Powerful Office.”
“It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Trump is relying on precisely the same tactics that have served his purposes during his presidency,” Hennessey said.
As he mounts what legal experts overwhelmingly describe as a futile effort to remain in office, Trump has reached deeply into that familiar arsenal.
In a move reminiscent of his ill-fated phone call to Ukraine’s president, whom Trump tried to pressure into investigating then-candidate Biden, Trump earlier this week called a GOP official in Wayne County, home to Detroit, who had voted to certify the results there. (Biden won 68 percent of the vote in the county.)
After speaking with Trump, the official and her fellow Republican on the board of canvassers tried to rescind their decision to confirm the vote, which the Michigan secretary of state said was impossible. The official, Monica Palmer, said Trump had called to check on her well-being, after she received threats following her vote.
When state officials haven’t toed Trump’s line about a stolen election, he has gone after them on Twitter, his favorite stalking ground, where he routinely ridicules and harangues officials from his own administration.
Last week, he questioned whether the top elections official in Georgia was really a Republican and asked why the GOP governor hadn’t intervened to investigate groundless allegations of fraud that Trump said rendered the results in a state Biden also won “very unfair and close to meaningless.”
The most prominent administration official to contradict the president met with what Trump appears to consider the ultimate humiliation — firing by tweet. On Tuesday, Trump dismissed Christopher Krebs, the top official in charge of election security, after his agency issued a statement calling 2020’s election “the most secure in American history.”
Trump assailed Kreb’s clean bill of health as “highly inaccurate” and insisted falsely that across the country, dead people had voted, observers were barred from polling places and “glitches” in voting machines had flipped votes from Trump to Biden.
Krebs joined the growing club of government officials who’ve been pushed out for displeasing or defying the president, including FBI Director James B. Comey, from whom Trump demanded “loyalty” in a private dinner at the White House; Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a relentless target of Trump’s attacks — even after he left the administration — for recusing himself from investigations of the 2016 campaign; and former National Security Council official Alexander Vindman, whom Trump dismissed from his White House position after the Army officer raised red flags about Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president.
There’s another common thread running through Trump’s pattern of interventions: They often backfire. Terminating Comey sparked a special counsel investigation that became the bane of Trump’s term. His phone call with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, led to Trump’s impeachment. And now, his attempts to influence the Republican lawmakers from Michigan appear to have fallen flat, potentially foreclosing another avenue in Trump’s post-election gambit.
After meeting with Trump, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield said in a joint statement that they “had not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan,” a strong signal that they would not be a party to Trump’s attempts to invalidate Biden’s win. And they noted: “Michigan’s certification process should be a deliberate process free from threats and intimidation.”
Meanwhile, in Georgia, the targets of Trump’s Twitter rages certified the 12,000-vote win for Biden in that state. “The numbers reflect the verdict of the people, not a decision by the secretary of state’s office or of courts or of either campaign,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, shortly before Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed the certification.
Trump’s actions may prove to have been hopeless from the start, but they could do lasting damage to voters’ confidence in the integrity of the election system. For a president who values winning above all else, it was apparently worth the effort.
“Fundamentally, the difference between Trump and all modern presidents is he has no goals other than his own power, his own fame, his own image as a winner,” said Richard Primus, a constitutional law professor at the University of Michigan.
In the end, Trump may have failed to appreciate the limits of his own powers of persuasion.
“Donald Trump has always thought he could buy his way out of a tight spot,” said Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian and former director of the Richard Nixon presidential library. “He is so used to trading on his celebrity. His problem, time and again, is the Constitution is deaf, dumb and blind to celebrity.”