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Opinion Inside the Lincoln Project’s new campaign targeting Trump’s law firm

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Nov. 9 threw his support behind President Trump’s legal challenges in the wake of his election loss. (Video: Reuters)

President Trump is trying to steal the election, but he couldn’t get far if it weren’t for his enablers. There’s Attorney General William P. Barr, who has granted prosecutors approval to pursue fake voter fraud cases to make them appear real. There’s Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is lending validity to Trump’s big lie that the outcome remains unknown.

And then there’s Jones Day, the big law firm that is representing Trump as his campaign prepares to unleash a legal war designed to overturn the election results. The firm’s role is drawing new scrutiny, and it’s making lawyers at the firm mighty uncomfortable.

The Lincoln Project is set to launch a multiplatform campaign hammering Jones Day and other firms for their role in facilitating Trump’s efforts, I’m told. It includes TV and digital ads and social media highlighting the damage that enabling Trump threatens to our democracy and to the success of the presidential transition.

“These people have now decided that attempting to undermine the outcome of a just and fair election is perfectly acceptable for their legal practices,” Rick Wilson, a GOP strategist and co-founder of the Lincoln Project, told me, in a reference to Jones Day and other firms representing Trump and the GOP.

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Wilson said the Lincoln Project will “bring a light on that,” noting that such efforts help Trump in “waging lawfare against the American people.” Jones Day represents The Washington Post on labor and employment law matters.

This new campaign is a reminder that Trump’s efforts to overturn the results rely heavily on the complicity of many other actors — and that aggressive efforts will be needed to hold them accountable for it.

The campaign also raises interesting possibilities involving the future of Never-Trump Republicans, about whether they’ll keep battling against GOP voter suppression and for revitalized democracy once Trump is gone.

The New York Times reports that Jones Day and a second firm, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, are expected to play a central role in representing Trump and Republicans in lawsuits challenging the votes in numerous states.

Concerns inside Jones Day are “taking on new urgency as the president seeks to raise doubts about the election results,” the Times says. Senior lawyers worry they’re helping Trump and his allies “undermine the integrity of American elections.”

Meanwhile, at Porter Wright — which just filed a lawsuit alleging irregularities in Pennsylvania — lawyers have internally voiced similar concerns, with one quitting in protest, the Times reports.

Trump wants to overturn the election

The Trump campaign’s lawsuits are not designed to seriously contest any actual large-scale cases of voter fraud that could have impacted the results, since no such thing has happened. Instead, the goal at best is to feed the falsehood that the outcome remains in doubt.

At worst, this legal war is about sustaining the lie that Trump won the election and that the ballots of millions of Americans were all fraudulent, constituting a scheme to steal it from him. Republicans think this notion will keep the base energized for two Senate runoffs in Georgia.

And so, lawyers at Jones Day appear worried that participation will enable Trump’s efforts to undermine the validity of the election’s outcome and contribute to the lie that Trump won.

In reality, it’s worse than this: Trump and his allies are working to invalidate as many lawfully cast ballots as they can, as part of a broader effort to overturn the legitimate results. While campaigns obviously have the right to pursue legal options after losing, in this case the levels of bad faith and destructive intent toward free and fair elections are truly extraordinary.

The Lincoln Project’s new campaign hopes to shine an intense light on this idea. Part of the rationale is that the longer Trump refuses to concede, the more bumpy the transition could prove.

“It’s important to amplify quickly those messages, because Joe Biden can’t afford a single day where he doesn’t have the ability to put his transition team and his government together,” Wilson told me. “We’re in a national crisis. He needs to get his people in place. We need to get this election behind us.”

The campaign against Jones Day

Wilson said the campaign against Jones Day includes TV ads already in production, and will include a large social media push against the firm and its partners. He said the effort would also target some of Jones Day’s largest clients.

“I’d like to know how General Motors justifies working with a company that’s aggressively seeking to undermine the validity of a free and fair democratic election,” Wilson told me.

While Wilson says the expenditure on this campaign will be around half a million dollars at the outset, the Lincoln Project has also proved skilled at directing a great deal of free media attention and social media fire at its chosen targets.

All this raises broader questions. It’s often argued that Never-Trump Republicans simply want to cleanse the GOP of the taint of Trump; that once he’s gone they will revert to supporting Republican ideological goals and the counter-majoritarian tactics that Republicans wield to hold power.

But the Lincoln Project’s co-founders have insisted that they will continue to advocate for expanded voting rights and against voter suppression, as a precondition for the GOP’s legitimacy. This raises at least the possibility for a space in which Never Trumpers can be seen as advocates for stronger democracy and fair rules of political competition, even if they disagree with progressive policy aims.

The new campaign against Jones Day seems to hint at this. And it also suggests that as Trump tries to wreck as much of our democracy as possible on the way out, we all have more work to do in holding his enablers accountable for their role in it.

Read more:

Lincoln Project co-founders: Republicans, it’s time to choose between autocracy and a republic

The Post’s View: Trump is the problem when it comes to disinformation. So what now?

Jennifer Rubin: Trump’s narcissism has become the GOP’s Achilles’ heel

Michael Gerson: The election is over, but there’s no end to Republican bad faith

Dana Milbank: Trump is now sabotaging national security to soothe his bruised ego

Matt Bai: Republicans: Unshackle yourselves from the Trump craziness