What could be the gravest political and constitutional crisis faced by the United States since the Civil War is emerging with the news that the Russian government tampered with the recent U.S. Presidential election for the purpose of aiding the Trump campaign.
The question in my mind is, what happens if evidence is discovered that strongly suggests that Donald Trump was the knowing beneficiary of Russian interference? What if that evidence shows a coordinated effort between Putin and Trump to engage in criminal activity of email hacking in order to rig or influence the election in favor of Trump? The outcome of such a revelation, and the ensuing conflict, is almost unimaginable to me. I am not certain that the United States as we know it today would survive such a scenario.
Sadly, Trump does not seem to be at all concerned about the appearance of impropriety in his ascendency to the presidency. He brushes that entire matter off as ridiculous and instead denigrates the intelligence community as being completely incompetent. His responses raise my level of suspicion and concern even higher.
It is interesting to note that the founding fathers were concerned about other nations meddling in the elections and the political life of the United States. This is one of the reasons the electoral college was created. Consider the writings of Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers 68 where he discusses the need for the electoral college as a protection against a hostile entity orchestrating the election of an incompetent person to the presidency.
“These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?”
Many states have neutered the independence of the electors by passing laws requiring that they vote in accordance with the outcome of the popular vote in the state. My cursory review of the limited case law on these statutes leaves me with the impression that the Supreme Court hasn’t seen this as cause for concern. After all, the electoral college in this day and time is regarded largely as a bizarre artifact whose design and purpose is a mystery to most of us. Never, in our 240-year history, have we needed the electors to examine the soundness of the voters’ choice. However, we are now facing a situation where it is possible that the electors may need to act to prevent the very harm that concerned Hamilton i.e.: a foreign power controlling the American President.
Of course, there is an incentive for many Republicans to wait until after the electors cast their ballots to deal with this crisis. Once Trump is in office the remedy changes to impeachment, such as what happened to Richard Nixon during Watergate (note the interesting parallels of criminal election activity in both the current crisis and the Watergate scandal). Impeachment would remove Trump, but would put Pence into the White House and continue Republican control of the presidency.
The problem is finding a solution that preserves the integrity and confidence in the American presidency. I believe that the electors should refuse to cast their votes until this matter is resolved, and if the evidence continues to show Russian interference with Trump being more than an innocent beneficiary, then they should refuse to cast their votes for him.
This crisis is bigger than political parties, it’s bigger than policy differences, bigger than the differences that have so recently caused a deep divide between so many Americans. All eyes are going to be on us as we try to sort out this mess, separating truth from fiction, and determining a pathway forward. Without great leadership and deep integrity, I fear that the loss of faith in our government will not be survivable for the nation. Let us all hope that I am incorrect in my analysis.