Just when you thought it was over, the acrimonious presidential race is back.
Nearly three weeks after Election Day, the Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump campaigns went back into battle mode Saturday in the wake of Wisconsin’s pending recount.
After a period of public silence about the results of the 2016 election, Clinton’s top campaign lawyer said the campaign will play a role in the recount initiated Friday by Green Party candidate Jill Stein. It will follow the same approach in Michigan and Pennsylvania if the third-party hopeful pursues recounts in those states as she has indicated.
“Because we had not uncovered any actionable evidence of hacking or outside attempts to alter the voting technology, we had not planned to exercise this option ourselves, but now that a recount has been initiated in Wisconsin, we intend to participate in order to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides,” Marc Elias, Clinton’s general counsel, wrote Saturday on Medium.
Trump delivered a measured response — measured by his standards — attacking Stein directly but refraining from criticizing Clinton.
“This recount is just a way for Jill Stein, who received less than one percent of the vote overall and wasn’t even on the ballot in many states, to fill her coffers with money, most of which she will never even spend on this ridiculous recount,” Trump said in a statement released by his transition team. “This is a scam by the Green Party for an election that has already been conceded, and the results of this election should be respected instead of being challenged and abused, which is exactly what Jill Stein is doing.”
In his only mention of Clinton, the president-elect — who frequently raised questions during the campaign about voter fraud and the prospect that the election process would be rigged against him — reminded that the Democratic nominee had already conceded.
“The people have spoken and the election is over, and as Hillary Clinton herself said on election night, in addition to her conceding by congratulating me, ‘We must accept this result and then look to the future,’” he said.
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, had a sharper edge to her response to the news that the Clinton campaign would join in the Wisconsin recount process.
“What a pack of sore losers. After asking Mr. Trump and his team a million times on the trail, ‘Will HE accept the election results?’ it turns out Team Hillary and her new BFF Jill Stein can’t accept reality,” Conway said in a statement to Bloomberg. “Rather than adhere to the tradition of graciously conceding and wishing the winner well, they’ve opted to waste millions of dollars and dismiss the democratic process. The people have spoken. Time to listen up. #YesYourPresident.”
Stein filed for a recount just before Wisconsin’s 5 p.m. deadline on Friday. She originally promised supporters that if she raised $2.5 million, then the campaign would also file for similar action in Michigan and Pennsylvania.
But based on Donald Trump’s current standing in the Electoral College, Clinton would have to win all three states to overturn the election results.
Elias, the Clinton campaign lawyer, said that participating in the recount was the right step to ensure a fair outcome for all sides but was careful not to get Clinton supporters’ hopes up too high.
Acknowledging “the heartbreak felt by so many who worked so hard to elect Hillary Clinton,” Elias emphasized that Clinton allies had combed through data and queried experts since President-elect Donald Trump’s upset victory. But it had not found evidence of any hacking of actual votes, and Elias — a veteran of many recount fights — conceded that Clinton’s deficit even in the closest state, Michigan, “exceeds the largest margin ever overcome in a recount.”
“Regardless of the potential to change the outcome in any of the states, we feel it is important, on principle, to ensure our campaign is legally represented in any court proceedings and represented on the ground in order to monitor the recount process itself,” wrote Elias.
Stein used the opportunity to needle Clinton.
“Why would Hillary Clinton—who conceded the election to Donald Trump—want #Recount2016? You cannot be on-again, off-again about democracy,” she said in a tweet.
Speculation about potential hacking of several states’ results reached a fever pitch before the holiday weekend, after a New York magazine cited an effort by cyber security experts to convince the Clinton camp that they had found “persuasive evidence” that results in the three states may have been “manipulated or hacked.”
On Wednesday, however, J. Alex Halderman of the University of Michigan — one of the experts — clarified in a Medium post that he was not claiming to have evidence of a hack, but that he still recommends a full audit beyond the partial ones that are likely to occur anyway.
Other accounts also knocked down the idea that electronic voting machines had been tampered with.
The Obama administration said it has seen no evidence of hackers tampering with the presidential election results.
“We stand behind our election results, which accurately reflect the will of the American people,” a senior administration official told POLITICO late Friday.
“The federal government did not observe any increased level of malicious cyber activity aimed at disrupting our electoral process on election day,” the official added. “We believe our elections were free and fair from a cybersecurity perspective.”
In Wisconsin, Trump’s margin of victory is just over 22,000 votes.
According to a Friday statement from Michael Haas, an administrator for Wisconsin Election Commission, the recount will begin late next week after the Stein campaign has paid the recount fee. “The state is working under a federal deadline of December 13 to complete the recount,” said the statement. “As a result, county boards of canvassers may need to work evenings and weekends to meet the deadlines.”
Official results from Wisconsin’s 72 counties indicate that 2.975 million votes were cast in the state — Trump won 1.404 million votes to Clinton’s 1.382 million.
Clinton leads the president-elect by 2.2 million votes in the popular vote, as of Saturday morning. The former secretary of state has garnered 64,637,140 votes nationally, compared to Trump’s 62,408,908, according to a count curated by Dave Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
Some Democrats have argued that Clinton’s large lead in the popular vote should serve as the impetus for reforming — or eliminating — the Electoral College system. Several anti-Trump electors have led a longshot effort to convince GOP electors to defect from the president-elect, and an attorney working with them said he’s preparing to file suit within two weeks on behalf of Micheal Baca, a Democratic elector from Colorado.
That effort would be part of a coordinated legal fight to dismantle the 29 state laws that force electors to support their party’s nominees — one of the greatest impediments facing so-called “faithless electors.”
Powered by WPeMatico