While former Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon called this a shoddy coup attempt, it appears as if the Hillary team was in contact with the Electoral College effort to block Donald Trump, though they fell short of endorsing this Hail Mary attempt to stop Trump from succeeding President Barack Obama. It had no chance of succeeding and it failed on Monday, as Trump nabbed 304 of his projected 306 electoral votes to Clinton’s 227. Two Republican electors jumped ship, but five defected from Clinton offering another stinging reminder that the former secretary just couldn’t hold her base of support together, even something as ironclad as Democratic electors. There was radio silence on the subject among the Clinton camp, but Politico has obtained emails that show top aides Jake Sullivan and Jennifer Palmieri in contact with those who called themselves Hamilton Electors.
As we’ve written here before, the goal of this group was to persuade enough Republican electors to defect and vote for someone more palatable, like Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who very publicly discouraged electors from doing this. This group filed 527 papers in order to raise legal funds since 29 states have election laws that bind the Electoral College vote to the statewide winner. Two Colorado electors brought a lawsuit and two judges, one of whom was a federal judge nominated by Bill Clinton, who called the legal challenge a political stunt, shot it down. That pretty much killed the effort. Christine Pelosi, daughter of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), lobbied hard to get a briefing on Russia’s activities during the election, writing a letter to outgoing Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. That wasn’t going to happen either, but Politico noted that it did bring her into contact with the Hamilton Electors group, though she insists that she wasn’t ordered to do anything by the Clinton camp—and that she stayed in a “separate lane,” never endorsing their effort. At the same time, both lanes had the same goals in mind, which was to either block Trump or discredit the legitimacy of his win. Keep in mind that no one serious has questioned Trump’s upset win over Clinton. Politico added that the Team Clinton's radio silence seemed to have broken when the allegations about Russian interference were made:
…a batch of correspondence obtained by POLITICO shows members of Clinton’s inner circle — including senior aides Jake Sullivan and Jennifer Palmieri — were in touch for weeks with one of the effort’s organizers as they mounted their ill-fated strategy. And despite repeated requests for guidance, Clinton’s team did not wave them off.
Call logs, emails and text messages reveal a Clinton campaign walking a tightrope — never fully endorsing the effort, but intentionally declining to stamp it out. The approach was comparable, one former campaign official said, to the campaign’s passive-but-not-dismissive response to long-shot recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
The first conversation appears to have occurred on Nov. 29, when Sullivan and other aides joined a conference call that included Colorado elector Micheal Baca, a member of a group working to persuade Republicans in the Electoral College to abandon Trump. Baca relayed the group’s long-shot strategy: to persuade Democratic and Republican electors to unite behind an alternative candidate to Trump.
In an email after the call, Baca apologized to Sullivan for his urgent tone.
“Not at all! We all share a sense of urgency,” Sullivan replied. “Look forward to being in touch.”
For more than a month after Election Day, Clinton aides were publicly silent about their view of the budding anti-Trump efforts and whether they would order their electors to remain steadfast in support of Clinton.
But the dam appeared to break on Dec. 12. Following reports that Russia intervened in the presidential election in support of Donald Trump, Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta issued an urgent statement supporting a call by Democratic members of the Electoral College to receive an intelligence briefing before their vote.
“Electors have a solemn responsibility under the Constitution and we support their efforts to have their questions addressed,” Podesta said in the statement.
This plan was never going to work. The GOP was united behind Trump (90 percent of Republicans voted for him). It was the same in the Electoral College. Second, the Associated Press was able to survey 330 of the 538 electors and found that there was certainly enough of them to make Trump’s win official—and that virtually none of them had any appetite to thrust the nation into a constitutional crisis. Let’s say neither Trump nor Clinton got the necessary 270 to win. The decision then rests with the House of Representatives. You think they’re not going to vote for Trump? If you do, you’re on bath salts. Love him or hate him—Trump won the nomination. To negate that would only bolster the most conservative forces in the party, cast doubt on the entire nominating process, and create more divisions within the party. It’s a headache not worth having. Even the most ardent anti-Trump Republicans would probably see this as gross overreach since, going by the Kasich protocol, we’re going to put someone in the White House who wasn’t on the official ballot and who won less than 100 delegates in the primaries. It’s nonsense. Trump won. Period. For the House to pick someone else would certainly imperil their re-election bids in two years, and if there’s one thing that scares these folks on the Hill—it’s failing to be re-elected.
Yet, there are some, like Elura Nanos, who feel that Clinton missed an opportunity to block Trump through the Hamilton Electors (via LawNewz):
The plan really could have been perfect. Baca, a former Marine, and Bernie Sanders supporter, became an elector bound (but unwilling) to vote for Hillary Clinton. With Baca as non-Clinton-supporting emissary to the Republican electors, the two groups might have come together to vote their individual consciences on December 19th; even if the vote resulted in no candidate receiving the necessary 270 electoral votes, the House of Representatives might choose a mainstream Republican candidate. Baca’s plan needed some powerhouse backing – the kind of backing only Hillary Clinton could really provide. Pantsuit Nation may be ready to march on Washington, but it’s not going to do anything that Hillary opposes. She told us to accept the results of the election, and we were listening. Redirecting passions toward changing the election results would have required a nicely-packaged plea from Clinton, spelling out why faithless electing is really the right thing to do.
In retrospect, December 12th may have been the date on which Hillary Clinton missed her last shot at the 2017 White House. She had one perfect opportunity to use the momentum of the Hamilton Electors without appearing a simple sore loser. The allegations of Russian involvement with the election were stunning. A credible argument could have been made that no elector should be forced to cast a vote based on potentially fraudulent election results. Framed that way, the argument would focused on the integrity of the election process, and not about the undesirable conflict between a popular versus electoral winner. Such an argument would be consistent with Clinton’s brand, and would still have allowed her to unite Trump-haters. But neither Clinton, nor Podesta, nor anyone else in the Clinton camp ever made that argument. The window closed, and December 19th happened. On that day, Michael Baca and seven other Democratic electors voted against Clinton. But only two Republican electors defected.
First, the Russians didn’t cost Hillary Clinton the election, and a majority of voters don’t believe that hacking tilted the election towards Trump. That shortfall rests with one woman: Hillary Rodham Clinton. If she weren’t such a moron with her email arrangement, like not setting it up in the first place because the State Department would have never signed off on it, then the FBI and Director James Comey wouldn’t have been such a focal point this cycle. There would have been no criminal investigation, and maybe her numbers on character (trust, honesty, etc.) wouldn’t have sunk faster than the Titanic. The ethical questions surrounding the Clinton Foundation were not leaked by Russia, those were discovered through the work of The Associated Press, The New York Times, and others. Wikileaks has said that their sources regarding the release of Clinton-related documents are not Russian, though founder Julian Assange said that he couldn’t rule out Russia from the information that was picked up by the hacker Guccifer 2.0. Clinton lost a winnable election. And yes, her diving headlong into this effort would still make her look like a sore loser. If she couldn’t convince enough voters to get her a majority in the Electoral College outright on November 8, it’s time to call it a night.