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Trevor Potter Appears on PBS NewsHour Speaking About Electoral College Vote
Caplin & Drysdale

Trevor Potter Appears on PBS NewsHour Speaking About Electoral College Vote

Date: 12/8/2020

Trevor Potter appeared on PBS NewsHour and spoke with William Brangham concerning the electoral college. Trevor Potter is a Member of the Political Law Group at Caplin & Drysdale, Chartered.

To listen to the full interview, please visit PBS NewsHour's website.

To look at where we are in the transition right now, as well as the president's continued resistance to it, I'm joined by Trevor Potter. He is the president of the Campaign Legal Center. He served as general counsel for John McCain's presidential campaign. And he was also the chair of the Federal Election Commission.

Trevor Potter, great to have you back on the "NewsHour."

Before we get to these calendar issues that I was describing before, we still are seeing continued legal efforts by the Trump campaign to stop different states from certifying their votes. We saw one. The Supreme Court knocked one down just today from Pennsylvania. There was a new one filed also by the attorney general in Texas.

What do you make of these remaining lawsuits?

Trevor Potter:

Well, truthfully, they're increasingly bizarre, in the sense that they have no chance of stopping the Electoral College from voting, and I think from Congress accepting those results.

So, they're best described as P.R. messages, maybe heartfelt by the filing them, but I don't expect them to have any legal effect.

William Brangham:

So, as I mentioned, today is the safe harbor deadline.

Again, just remind us what that means in the process of moving from the election to a new president being sworn in.

Trevor Potter:

It's a date set by Congress that says, if states get their electors in by that date, if they certify them by that date, then, presumptively, Congress will accept them. It is not a guarantee, but it is part of the timeline leading up to the voting by the electors on the 14th, next Monday.

William Brangham:

So, is it your sense that there is anything that could legitimately interrupt this process from this week to next week to January?

Trevor Potter:

In terms of the outcome, no, there is nothing that would legitimately interrupt that process.

The states have already certified their electors. And the electors will meet next Monday, the 14th, and vote, and Congress will receive those votes on January 6.

Now, having said that, that doesn't mean there won't be noise in the process. I just mean the end result is now very clear. Some of the noise is the filing of these lawsuits, trying to get the Supreme Court to intervene and tell states not to designate electors, or telling Congress somehow not to count them, which is something the courts can't do, but what this is trying to do.

William Brangham:

Pulling back a little bit and looking more broadly, what do you make of this effort that the president is undertaking to declare that the election was a fraud, that votes were stolen from him, that he, in fact, won, not Joe Biden winning this pretty decisive electoral victory?

Is it your sense that this is just a man who doesn't want to concede, and we're seeing the sort of tail end of that spasm, or is this something more substantive going on?

Trevor Potter:

Well, I think what's going on has changed over the course of the last month since the election.

Originally, it was a question of, are the votes being counted correctly, are the votes that are being counted legitimate, have they been examined, are the machines reporting the right tally? That was then followed by a series of lawsuits that were, I think, increasingly farfetched, alleging that somehow the system the states had used was wrong and that a court ought to step in and say that, for instance, absentee ballots shouldn't be counted in Pennsylvania.

But all of that is now resolved. Those court cases are almost all over. The Trump campaign lost in every case.

So, the question becomes, what is President Trump doing still saying that the election was somehow being stolen, that it was fraudulent? And I think, at that stage, you have to say either he's being incredibly reckless in terms of refusing to accept that this is how people voted, this is what the Electoral College vote is, or something more dangerous, which is, he's refusing to accept the result of the election personally and politically because it helps him to be seen to keep fighting, to raise money for his new political committee.

At some stage, it becomes just an attempt to undermine the president-elect and to make Americans think that the result of this election is somehow not legitimate. And that's really dangerous for our democracy.

This year, it's not particularly close. There's a big Biden lead in the Electoral College and the popular vote. But, next time, it might be really close and come down to one state. And in those circumstances, the idea that state legislatures should step in and ignore what the voters did and decide they're going to produce a different result because they don't like what the voters did is incredibly anti-democratic.

It is not how a democracy elects its leaders.

William Brangham:

All right, Trevor Potter of the Campaign Legal Center, thanks very much for being here.

Trevor Potter:

Thank you. I appreciate it.

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