The Guardian

The Republican heroes and villains of Trump’s attempt to steal the election

As Donald Trump peddled baseless claims of vote fraud after 3 November, democracy found out who its friends wereIn November, Donald Trump became the first president in American history to try to hold on to power that voters had given to someone else in the course of a national election.The plot did not unfold in one dramatic scene. Instead, Trump lured Republicans to commit a series of coercive acts on his behalf under a false banner of non-existent election “fraud” – the attempted steal masquerading as a security measure.It might have worked. Many Republicans went along actively or silently. These included well-known national figures such as Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Lindsey Graham and most other Republican senators.But to succeed, Trump’s plot depended not only on the top Republicans he dominates but also on the cooperation of hundreds of state and local officials. Over three crucial weeks in November, some of those officials made individual decisions that could have seen the plot through, while others thwarted it.Here is an incomplete list of some of the lesser-known Republican friends and foes of US democracy who emerged in the historic November 2020 battle over its fate. FoesTo stay in power, Trump needed to prevent states from certifying the results of their 3 November votes, or to convince Republican legislators to try to throw out state results. Trump’s key targets included officials in Michigan and Pennsylvania. He found some ready accomplices.Norman ShinkleA former state senator in Michigan who refused to certify the state’s result despite independent certifications by all 83 Michigan counties and no evidence of fraud to cast doubt on Biden’s 154,000-vote win in the state. Shinkle said he thought the result in majority-Black Detroit “needs to be looked at”. One county clerk called Shinkle’s abstention “shocking and disgusting”.Monica Palmer and William HartmannRepublican canvassers in Wayne county, Michigan, who sought to reverse their certification of the election result after Trump made a phone call to Palmer. She demanded an audit of the Detroit vote before the certification of its result, in defiance of law. She later said she was unaware of the law.Mike Shirkey and Lee ChatfieldRepublican leaders of the Michigan state senate and house who accepted an invitation to visit Trump at the White House as the president tried to prevent the state from certifying Biden’s 82,000-vote win. In the Oval Office, Shirkey and Chatfield received a telephone briefing by Rudy Giuliani about fake election fraud. They later lied and said the meeting with Trump was about Covid-19 economic relief. They were photographed drinking Dom Pérignon at Trump’s hotel in Washington DC after their meeting.> Shirkey, opts to sing a hymn to the press instead of answering questions here. When asked if he had anything to say to MI voters he responded, “I love Michigan” @Local4News pic.twitter.com/YFycvj9tRp> > — Grant Hermes (@GrantHermes) November 21, 2020Joe GaleA Republican board of elections member in the Philadelphia suburbs who refused to certify a 27-point Biden win in his county. “I believe the US supreme court should review the travesty that has happened in Pennsylvania,” Gale said. Trump’s campaign never presented any evidence of voter fraud to Pennsylvania courts, which threw out almost every Trump case.Keith Gould and Joyce Dombroski-GebhardtRepublican members of the board of elections in Luzerne county, Pennsylvania, were so committed to Trump’s election fraud fairytale that they refused to certify the vote in a county Trump won by 14 points. Three Democrats on the board outvoted them to certify Trump’s win in the county.Kayleigh McEnanyAfter an almost two-month absence from the White House briefing room, the press secretary appeared 17 days after the election to spread Trump’s lie about election fraud. “There are very real claims out there that the campaign is pursuing,” she said. Separately she lied about Trump’s meeting with Michigan legislators saying it was “not an advocacy meeting, there will be no one from the campaign there – he routinely meets with lawmakers from all across the country”.> .@PressSec says meeting with leaders of Michigan legislature today at the White House not “advocacy”, not about the election. pic.twitter.com/c5q6Ckgx2s> > — Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) November 20, 2020Ronna McDanielThe chair of the Republican national committee and Michigan native appeared at a news conference two days after the election and spread lies about “discrepancies” and “irregularities”, demanding an audit of the Michigan vote before certification in defiance of state election law. Under her leadership, the Republican national party spread wild and conspiratorial claims that Trump had actually won in a “landslide”. A majority of Republican voters now tell pollsters they believe the election was fraudulent.> “We will not be intimidated…We are going to clean this mess up now. President Trump won by a landslide. We are going to prove it. And we are going to reclaim the United States of America for the people who vote for freedom.”—Sidney Powell pic.twitter.com/8KCEOGuL7w> > — GOP (@GOP) November 19, 2020 FriendsOpposite those state and local officials who refused to certify election results were Republican officials who certified Biden’s win.Never in American history has such an action been interpreted as the stuff of heroism – with election results always routinely certified no matter who won, as the constitution would have it.But in 2020 these officials had to withstand a pressure campaign by Trump, who named many of them in tweets, leading to death threats against them and their families.Al SchmidtA Republican election commissioner in Philadelphia who stood up to Trump. The weekend after the election, Schmidt went on 60 Minutes and said Trump’s claims about fraud in Philadelphia were bogus.“At the end of the day, we are counting eligible votes cast by voters. The controversy surrounding it is something I don’t understand,” Schmidt said. “Counting votes cast on or before election day by eligible voters is not corruption. It is not cheating. It is democracy.“From the inside looking out, it all feels very deranged.”> Republican Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt says his office, which runs the vote count, has received death threats. https://t.co/LNXfXwJrbk pic.twitter.com/ouxX0xGhKX> > — 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) November 9, 2020Aaron Van LangeveldeRepublican vice-chair of a state canvassing board who voted to certify Biden’s win in Michigan. Langevelde broke what would have been a deadlock caused by Shinkle’s perfidy. “We have a duty to certify this election based on these returns, that is very clear,” he said.“We must not attempt to exercise power we simply don’t have,” Langevelde continued. “As John Adams once said, ‘we are a government of laws, not men’. This board needs to adhere to that principle here today. This board must do its part to uphold the rule of law and comply with our legal duty to certify this election.”> After earlier stalling, here’s the moment Republican Aaron Van Langevelde of Michigan’s State Board of Canvassers said he will vote to certify Michigan’s election results. > > This is it: Michigan’s 16 electoral votes officially go to Joe Biden.pic.twitter.com/EZemjFxaSD> > — The Recount (@therecount) November 23, 2020Christopher KrebsThe former director of the cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency, fired by Trump for defying the president’s vote fraud lies. Nine days after the election, Krebs’s agency issued a statement beginning, “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.” Krebs was fired a week later, but he continued speaking out about election integrity. After a Trump campaign lawyer said Krebs should be “taken out at dawn and shot”, Krebs said he would sue.> .@SavannahGuthrie speaks with Christopher Krebs in his first live interview since being fired as the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Krebs points to the record of paper ballots as proof that the 2020 election was secure. pic.twitter.com/R9tdsTNBgZ> > — TODAY (@TODAYshow) December 1, 2020Gabriel SterlingA Republican official who oversaw the implementation of the state of Georgia’s new voting system, Sterling delivered an impassioned speech warning about death threats against election workers and saying Trump is “inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence”.Addressing Trump, Sterling said:> We’re investigating, there’s always a possibility, I get it. You have the rights to go to the courts. What you don’t have the ability to do – and you need to step up and say this – is stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone is going to get hurt, someone is going to get shot, someone is going to get killed, and it’s not right. It’s not right.Brad RaffenspergerThe Republican secretary of state in Georgia who stood up to Trump and insisted that Biden’s upset victory in the state was legit. “I’m a conservative Republican. Yes, I wanted President Trump to win. But as secretary of state we have to do our job,” Raffensperger said in an interview with the Guardian. “I’m gonna walk that fine, straight, line with integrity. I think that integrity still matters.”In reply, Trump said of Raffensperger: “He’s an enemy of the people.”





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