Bluff And Bluster

Donald Trump has a plan to steal the election. Can it succeed?

Lawyers for Donald Trump will be in court after the polls close tonight in a bold attempt to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The legal offensive is just one part of Trump’s allies’ multi-front effort to ensure he remains in power.

Trump denied earlier reports that he intends to declare victory tonight based on only partial data, but he quickly added: “I don’t think it’s fair that we have to wait for a long period of time after the election… We’re going in the night of — as soon as the election is over — we’re going in with our lawyers.”

Public opinion polls have been offering Trump little comfort. His opponent Joe Biden has pulled ahead in most swing states, limiting the number of paths to victory. For courts to hear any claim from Trump, he needs to be within striking distance of Biden. For Trump or to get that close or declare victory, Trump would have to fake, manipulate or disqualify ballots. How would he do that?

  • Russia has reportedly embedded malware in election servers with an extraordinary capability to alter votes.
  • Trump’s Proud Boys and Boogaloo Movement were at polling stations and intimidating voters.
  • Bill Barr could use the cover of Trump’s late-night court filings to seize ballot boxes.
  • Trump’s postmaster general is already engaged in mass ballot manipulation.

FAKE DATA

Despite assurances, the president will approach his ouster with typical bluff and bluster. The first act of this final chapter could look something like this. After widespread disruption on election day, Trump will challenge some ballot’s validity and accuse Democrats of widespread fraud.

Lawyers may not be the only people “going in” on the night of the election. The Trump campaign has demanded details of where ballot boxes are stored and tabulated on election night.

The campaign demanded the security details in an email sent to local elections officials in North Carolina. The Sentinel obtained a copy of that e-mail; a portion is reprinted below

BALLOTS AND BARR

The campaign acknowledges they sent the e-mail and say it’s a standard operating procedure. Still, only people involved in the actual chain of custody would need this type of information. Local county officials describe the e-mail as “chilling” and say they’ve never seen anything like it before. 

Trump falsely accused Democrats of widespread voter fraud for months. Now he’s confirmed a major legal effort to contest the elections beginning tonight. It’s possible the campaign is gathering ballot box locations, should Bill Barr’s Justice Department need to seize them. 

Barr has recently deployed federal agents in mid- and large-sized cities as a part of Operation LeGend – targeting violent criminals. Barr extended the operation indefinitely. 

FAUX news

Over at Fox News, they are building a false narrative. It includes the only pollster in the country to predict a Trump victory. He did the same in 2016.

As with many of Fox’s narratives, there’s an element of accusing the other side of what you’re guilty of doing. Robert Cahaly’s predictions of widespread voter fraud by Democrats could be poisoning the well before the real news breaks. 

TRUMP’S PRIVATE ARMY

Notably, the Proud Boys – an organization of illegal militias beholden to Trump – intimidated voters at polling stations. The Proud Boys are Roger Stone’s project. 

Last weekend, Trump supporters in pick-up trucks swarmed Joe Biden’s campaign bus. The incident kept the Democratic nominee from reaching a rally in Austin. The type of aggressive and illegal act that has many worried about the Proud Boys tonight.

SNAIL MAIL 

Meanwhile, Trump’s postmaster general Louis DeJoy has received a taxpayer-funded salary while weaponizing the USPS against the American people. DeJoy has deliberately slowing mail deliveries in specific districts across swing states. 

The delays have mostly affected traditional Democratic areas but include some GOP strongholds.

Trump wants the winner declared on election night, but that never actually happens. TV networks usually project provisional winners when their decision desks have enough actual data to extrapolate the final results. Still, the real winner is only ever declared days or weeks later. By delaying ballots, DeJoy may be deliberately making some counties too close to call.

RUSSIA, RUSSIA, RUSSIA

In 2016, an ABC News producer leaked exit poll results to David Bossie, a Trump campaign lawyer. The poll results were leaked while some polling stations were still open. This is precisely the type of influence attack that is most likely to upset results significantly.

Russia has spent the last four years perfecting its cyber-hacking tools. The raw exit numbers the ABC News producer provided the campaign are critical for any GRU hack. If Russian agents could obtain comparable exit poll data, Russia would have a roadmap to manipulate some voter totals.

We found out in Bob Woodward’s book which Florida counties Russia breached with its vote-rigging malware. In 2018 “[The] Russians had successfully installed malware in the election voting systems of two counties in Florida – St Lucie and Washington.” 

Woodward reports the malware was sophisticated and could manipulate results in counties with particular demographics. “For instance, in areas with a higher percentage of black residents, the malware could erase every tenth voter, almost certainly erasing the total vote count for Democrats.” 

The granular level of manipulation was alarming to FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel. She told Trump that Russia was duplicating and intensifying its 2016 effort in 2020.

In late October, the Justice Department launched a broadside warning targeted at the Russians. Six GRU hackers were indicted for sophisticated computer intrusions, the Skripal poisoning and an attempted hack of the French elections.

It’s unclear if this hacking group is still operational, but the intelligence community suspects Russia launched similar malware attacks on U.S. hospitals recently. As in 2016, Russia remains the single biggest threat to American democracy.

ELECTION STEAL

Trump and his allies appear to have a playbook to rig the elections but they face significant hurdles. Federal courts have repeatedly rebuked Trump’s lawyers for their frivolous cases, Republicans face a major defeat, and U.S. intelligence agencies are far more focused on Russia’s cyber capability in 2020 than they were in 2016.

These realities should make it prudent for Trump to step down gracefully, but grace is no more a Trump trait than these times are ordinary. Like many of Trump’s schemes, the one to steal a U.S. election may be self-defeating, but that doesn’t mean Trump won’t attempt it.

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