Skip to main content

Finley: Here's Trump's game plan for invalidating election, holding presidency


Nolan Finley   | The Detroit News

Beneath the frivolous lawsuits, the distorted claims of voter fraud and the desperate denials of reality, there's a calculated strategy the Trump camp is pursuing to steal the presidential election from Joe Biden.

There's a method to the madness we've been living through since Election Day, and it's as convoluted as it is dastardly.

The goal is not, as Democrats suspect, to convert the Electoral College electors in Michigan and other states to switch their votes from Biden to Donald Trump.

That theory was supercharged with the summoning to the White House of Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey for a meeting today with the president.

No matter how hard Trump twists their arms, the opening for the Legislature they lead to meddle with the Electoral College is very narrow, and possibly non-existent. Michigan law demands the electors cast their votes for the certified winner of the statewide popular vote. And a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last spring forbids electors from going rogue.

I've no idea what Trump's specific agenda is for the meeting with the Michigan lawmakers.

But it must somehow fit into the elaborate path the president has charted toward a victory he didn't win at the ballot box. Here's the plan, according to those familiar with the strategizing:

The president hopes to create enough chaos and cast so much doubt on the integrity of the balloting to convince states like Michigan, where it is vigorously contesting the results, not to certify the election.

Michigan's Board of Canvassers meets Monday to vote on certification. The board is made up of two Democrats and two Republicans. It's charge is to certify the election once the state's 83 counties have placed their individual stamp on the local results. 

In Wayne County last week, the two Republicans on the county canvassing board initially withheld their votes, but ultimately agreed to certify. That makes it harder for Trump to carry out his plan here, since all the counties have now submitted certified totals, and Biden is up by roughly 150,000 votes.

But should the GOP state canvassers refuse to certify and thus deadlock the board, Michigan's Electoral College delegates would be unable to cast their votes as required on Dec. 14.

That would deny Biden Michigan's 16 Electoral College votes. If enough other states join Michigan to bring Biden's total below the 270 votes required for an Electoral College majority, it would toss the presidential election to the House of Representatives.

The House, of course, is controlled by Democrats. But that wouldn't matter in this case, because all 435 members won't get a vote. 

Each state delegation will have one vote. Trump would need to win the votes of 26 state delegations to win reelection. Republicans hold a 26-22 advantage among state delegations in the incoming Congress. (Michigan's House members are split 7-7 between Republicans and Democrats, and Pennsylvania is also tied.)

That's the strategy. Here's why it won't work:

The Board of Canvassers has a constitutional duty to certify the election. This is not a matter of individual choice.

If the state board on Monday doesn't fulfill that duty, the Biden campaign and/or other interested parties will make a beeline to the state Court of Appeals in request of writ ordering the canvassers to certify the election. 

(That happened in 2013 when the Wayne County Board of Canvassers refused to certify Mike Duggan's write-in votes for Detroit mayor.)

There's no conceivable scenario in which that order won't be granted by the court, given the clarity of the law and the fact that all of the counties have certified their results.

That's the game Trump is playing. He won't win. 

But he may succeed in tearing up the playing field.

Twitter: @NolanFinleyDN

Sign up for the Nolan Out Loud morning report at detroitnews.com/newsletters.

Watch Finley on DPTV’s “One Detroit” at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays.