By Joseph Ax
(Reuters) – President Donald Trump will meet with Republican leaders from Michigan at the White House on Friday as his campaign pursues a bid to overturn the Nov. 3 election following a series of courtroom defeats.
The Trump campaign’s latest strategy, as described by three people familiar with the plan, is to convince Republican-controlled legislatures in battleground states won by President-elect Joe Biden, such as Michigan, to set aside the results and determine Trump the winner.
“The entire election frankly in all the swing states should be overturned and the legislatures should make sure that the electors are selected for Trump,” Sidney Powell, one of Trump’s lawyers, told Fox Business Network on Thursday.
Biden, a Democrat, won the election and is preparing to take office on Jan. 20, but Trump, a Republican, has refused to concede and is searching for a way to invalidate the results, claiming widespread voter fraud.
The Trump team is focusing on Michigan and Pennsylvania for now, but even if both those states flipped to the president he would need another state to overturn its vote to surpass Biden in the Electoral College.
Such an extraordinary event would be unprecedented in modern U.S. history. Trump not only would need three state legislatures to intervene against vote counts as they stand now, but then also have those actions upheld by Congress and, almost certainly, the Supreme Court.
Michigan’s state legislative leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, both Republicans, will visit the White House at Trump’s request, according to a source in Michigan.
The two lawmakers will listen to what the president has to say, the source said. Shirkey told a Michigan news outlet earlier this week that the legislature would not appoint a second slate of electors.
“It’s incredibly dangerous that they are even entertaining the conversation,” Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, told MSNBC. “This is an embarrassment to the state.”
SOUNDING THE ALARM
Biden, meanwhile, is due on Friday to meet Democratic leaders in Congress, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer after spending most of the week with advisers planning his administration.
Nationally, Biden won nearly 6 million more votes than Trump, a difference of 3.8 percentage points. But the outcome of the election is determined in the Electoral College, where each state’s electoral votes, based largely on population, are typically awarded to the winner of a state’s popular vote.
Biden leads by 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232 as states work to certify their results at least six days before the Electoral College convenes on Dec. 14.
Legal experts have sounded the alarm at the notion of a sitting president seeking to undermine the will of the voters, though they have expressed skepticism that a state legislature could lawfully substitute its own electors.
Trump’s lawyers are seeking to take the power of appointing electors away from state governors and secretaries of state, and give it to friendly state lawmakers from his party, saying the U.S. Constitution gives legislatures the ultimate authority.
ROMNEY CRITICIZES TRUMP
Even though election officials have not reported any major irregularities, most prominent Republicans have remained devoted to their leader or quietly acceded. But a few Republicans, including senator and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have spoken out.
“Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the president has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election,” Romney said in a statement on Thursday. “It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American president.”
Other Republican senators including Ben Sasse and Joni Ernst called on Trump to offer proof.
Trump’s attempts to reverse the outcome via lawsuits and recounts have met with little success.
The Georgia Secretary of State on Friday confirmed that Biden won the state after a manual recount and an audit were conducted.
“The numbers reflect the verdict of the people, not a decision by the secretary of state’s office or courts, or of either campaigns,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican and Trump supporter, told reporters.
Despite the setbacks, the Trump campaign has not abandoned its legal efforts.
Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, said on Thursday he planned to file more lawsuits, accusing Democrats of masterminding a “national conspiracy” to steal the election, though he offered no evidence to support the claim.
Biden called Trump’s attempts “totally irresponsible” on Thursday, though he has expressed little concern they will succeed in preventing him from taking office on Jan. 20.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax in Princeton, New Jersey; Additional reporting by Michael Martina in Detroit, Jarrett Renshaw in Wilmington, Delaware, Karen Freifeld in New York and Jan Wolfe and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Daniel Trotta, David Clarke and Chizu Nomiyama)