With a recount of the Wisconsin presidential results moving forward and another recount possible in Pennsylvania, I reached out to Marc Elias, general counsel for Hillary Clinton's campaign, for some answers. Why was Clinton taking part in a recount pushed for by Green Party candidate Jill Stein? Was there any reasonable hope the results might change? And, if not, wasn't this whole thing the opposite of Clinton's post-election message that the country needed to come together? Our conversation, conducted via email and lightly edited, is below.
FIX: Explain why you at the Clinton campaign decided to participate actively in Jill Stein’s recount in Wisconsin even though you didn’t find any major anomalies in your own post-election research into potential hacking or fraud?
Elias: First, we are going to participate because it’s a recount involving our election. We made clear that we were not planning to initiate any recounts. However, Jill Stein has now filed for a recount in Wisconsin. As one of the candidates in the race we are necessarily involved in the process and will participate. We do not expect to challenge ballots, or delay the electors from being certified by the state. Our role will be to observe the process and ensure that Secretary Clinton and her voters’ interests are protected and that there is an accurate vote count. As a side note, I have been surprised at how much attention my Medium post has received and even more surprised by some of the ways it has been interpreted. Let me be clear: We have not asked for a recount. We have not sought a recount. We have not pushed for a recount. What we have done is say that if there is going to be a recount, we will participate in the ways I have described.
FIX: Did your canvas and research turn up ANY signs of hacking? Widespread fraud?
Elias: We have received lots of information and opinions from many experts -- including data scientists and computer security experts -- that hacking of the system is possible. We did not receive any evidence that it actually happened. Obviously, we know that the Russian state entities hacked into the Democratic Party. And we know that they hacked into several prominent Democrats' emails, including the Clinton campaign chairman’s. We also know that there were pre-election efforts to break into various state voter files. Thus, we believe it was a prudent and necessary step for us to take to see whether they could have also hacked into the voting systems. To date we do not have any actionable evidence to suggest that this happened. With respect to fraud, we have found no evidence of widespread fraud in connect with the elections in these states or any other in 2016.
FIX: How much reasonable hope – if any – should Clinton supporters have in the possibility of the results in Wisconsin (or other states like Michigan and Pennsylvania) being overturned? Is there any historical precedent for that happening given the margins in the states?
Elias: Our participation is not meant to signal to anyone that we believe the results of the election will change. I have been involved in many recounts and there is no precedent for a recount changing the results of an election with the margins present in these states. If the campaign thought that the results could change based on a recount, we would have sought them. We didn’t.
FIX: How surprised were you at Donald Trump’s tweetstorm about vote fraud Sunday night? And in your own research did you find any evidence that backs up his claim about voting irregularities in Virginia, New Hampshire and California?
Elias: I would like to say I was surprised, but I can’t say that I am. Hillary Clinton won at least 2.2 million more popular votes than Trump. Unfortunately for our campaign the popular vote is not how we choose presidents, we do so through the electoral college. But it is clear that Secretary Clinton handily won the most votes from the American people. The fact that Mr. Trump cannot accept that fact is troubling.
We found absolutely no evidence of fraud or irregularities in the states you list, or any other. Of course, he is free to file for his own recounts or contests and if he does I promise we will participate in those as well.
FIX: Finish this sentence: “A recount in Wisconsin is a ____________ decision.” Now, explain.
Elias: "Jill Stein."
Dr. Stein sought this recount, not Secretary Clinton. Indeed, Dr. Stein has also criticized our decision to participate in the recount.