(Video of celebrities begging Republican members of the Electoral College not to vote for President-elect Donald Trump.)
WASHINGTON – The plan is to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president by denying him a victory in the Electoral College, possibly throwing the election into the House of Representatives.
The plan is actually the brainchild of Democrats who call themselves “The Hamilton Electors.”
With the Electoral College vote looming on Monday, the pressing question is: How plausible is the plan?
Most experts commenting in the media say it is unlikely, but there is at least one bit of news that suggests the plan’s plausibility may be increasing rapidly before the Monday deadline.
That is the possibility that more Republican electors may be leaning toward not voting for Trump.
Only one GOP elector, Chris Suprun of Texas, has publicly announced he will not vote for Trump.
But Fox News is reporting that Harvard constitutional law professor Larry Lessig claims there are now at least 20 GOP electors seriously considering not voting for Trump.
Just 37 Republican electors would need to defect to deny Trump victory.
Trump won 306 Electoral College votes in the election. 270 Electoral College votes are needed to win the presidency.
And Lessig is actively trying to stop Trump from getting those 270 votes on Monday. Fox reported he has set up “a legal group, ‘The Electors Trust’, to offer legal counsel to anti-Trump electors.”
According to Fox, the Hamilton Electors’ plan “seeks to unite Republican and Democratic electors around a compromise Republican candidate and deny Trump 270 votes.”
However, no compromise Republican candidate sufficiently appealing to 270 electors has emerged.
If electors were to deny any candidate the 270 electoral votes needed to win, the presidential election would go to the House of Representatives.
The House would then hold what is called a “contingent election.”
And, according to Fox, “The Hamilton Electors hope that House Republicans would then pick the alternative Republican over Trump.”
However, the rules for a contingent election of the president in the House, outlined in the 12th Amendment, stipulate that only the three candidates who received the most electoral votes are eligible, when no one candidate reaches 270.
That means House members would have to choose between the Republican Trump (who won 306 electoral votes) and Democrat Hillary Clinton (who won 232), because no electoral votes were won by runners-up Libertarian Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein. And, the GOP has a majority in the House, where each state would receive one vote in a contingent election for president.
Lessig told Fox he believes GOP electors will vote against Trump only if they are sure they have at least 37 defectors.
“There are some who will do it as a matter of principle; one has already said he will. But most will be in the situation where they won’t make that sacrifice unless there a reason to sacrifice,” said the Harvard professor.
Although Fox downplayed the likelihood of enough electors defecting, a Republican heavyweight cautioned that Lessig should not be underestimated.
Gary Bauer, the former under secretary of education and chief domestic policy adviser to President Reagan, said “Professor Lessig is not just any Harvard leftist professor” and warned of the potential for “a political earthquake” when electors gather to vote for president on Monday.
Bauer described Lessig as both “far left” and “well connected,” and warned he “has been providing free legal help to electors from states Trump won.”
“At the same time as he is providing ‘counsel,’ Republican electors are reportedly being harassed 24 hours a day by left wing fanatics,” continued Bauer.
“The harassment includes death threats that has left some of them fearful for themselves and their families. Sounds like hate crimes to me. Where is the Justice Department?”
And, in fact, the New York Post reported Wednesday evening, “Electors around the country are being harassed with a barrage of emails, phone calls and letters — and even death threats — in an effort to block Donald Trump from being voted in as president by the Electoral College on Monday.”
The paper said harassment of electors has been reported in many states, including Georgia, Idaho, Tennessee, Arizona, Utah and Michigan.
One elector in Arizona said she has received more than 50,000 emails, including 1,500 just Wednesday morning, demanding she not vote for Trump. An elector in Tennessee said she’s received 2,000 emails, 120 letters and five phone calls urging her not to vote for Trump.
An elector in Michigan said he’s received death threats through the mail, email, Twitter and Facebook.
Despite the assault on electors, Bauer said he is somewhat reassured that the Republican National Committee is monitoring the situation and regularly talking to them.
The Hamilton Electors have been trying to use the courts to free up enough anti-Trump electoral votes, filing a lawsuit to overturn Colorado’s law requiring the state’s nine electors to vote for the winner in that state.
Even though Clinton won in their state, Democratic electors Polly Baca and Robert Nemanich, who are part of the Hamilton Electors movement, filed the suit in the hope it would set a precedent, freeing electors in states that Trump won to vote against the president-elect.
But a federal judge in Denver ruled on Tuesday that Colorado’s nine electors must vote for Clinton, the winner of the state’s popular vote.
On Wednesday, the same federal judge ruled that if the Democratic electors refuse to vote for Clinton, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams may replace them with electors who will follow the law, if he so chooses.
And now, Williams, a Republican, has told Politico that any Colorado elector who does not vote for Clinton could face a perjury charge, because he intends to make them take an oath to uphold the law.
Baca and Nemanich have filed an emergency appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Lawsuits similar to the one filed in Colorado seeking to overturn laws requiring electors to vote for the winner in their states have been filed in California and Washington state.
Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring their electors to cast ballots for the winner of the popular vote.
Having apparently lost in the court of law, the movement to block Trump appears to be focusing efforts on the court of public opinion.
And targeting electors directly.
A number of Hollywood celebrities have released a video, shown at the top of this page, begging GOP electors not to vote for Trump.
Anchored by actor Martin Sheen, who played the president on television’s “West Wing”, the celebrities plead for 37 “conscientious Republican electors” to deny Trump the presidency by not voting for him. The actors say they would “respect” those electors as “heroes.”
Sheen warns, “As you know, our Founding Fathers built the Electoral College to safeguard the American people from the dangers of a demagogue and to ensure that the presidency only goes to someone who is to an ’eminent degree and down with the requisite qualifications.'”
The actors repeatedly insist they are not asking electors to vote for Clinton, just not to vote for Trump.
Their message claims, “What is evident is that Donald Trump lacks more than the qualifications to be president. He lacks the necessary stability and clearly the respect for the Constitution of our great nation.”
The video, released on Youtube by a group called Unite for America, does not have any superstar Democrats such as George Clooney or Barbara Streisand, but it does include such recognizable actors as Debra Messing, Noah Wyle, Mike Farrell and Loretta Swit.
Additionally, Democratic Party activist Daniel Brezenoff ran full-page newspaper ads across the country on Wednesday urging Electoral College members to “vote their conscience” as part of what Politico called “a pressure campaign intended to block the election of Donald Trump.”
The ads ran in the Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Austin American-Statesman, Salt Lake City Tribune and Tampa Bay Times, and are set to appear in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Wisconsin State Journal on Thursday.
The ads said Trump’s “inauguration would present a grave and continual threat to the Constitution, to domestic tranquility and to international stability.”
Brezenoff recently gained notoriety by launching a Change.org petition asking the Electoral College to pick Clinton instead of Trump.
According to Politico, “The petition went viral and is approaching 5 million signatures, the largest in Change.org’s history. He leveraged that list to raise about $250,000 through a GoFundMe page to support the ads. He said the newspaper campaign has exhausted virtually all of the funds raised.”
Brezenoff told Politico he still wants electors to vote for Clinton, but also implied the real goal is to stop Trump.
The website reported, “Brezenoff said the ad campaign is designed to reach electors but also raise public pressure on them in states with large Democratic populations or widespread anti-Trump sentiment.”
The strategy seemed to be, if Trump’s election could be delegitimized in the minds of enough members of the public, perhaps enough electors would feel free to not vote for Trump.
Many Democrats have already claimed Trump’s victory was not legitimate because he did not win the popular vote, even though he won enough Electoral College votes to win the presidency.
Commentators such as Rush Limbaugh say Democrats and the media are attempting to use the so-called Russian hacking scandal to further delegitimize Trump’s victory.
On his national radio show Wednesday, Limbaugh said the massive efforts of the mainstream media to make the Russian hacking story stick were unlikely to ultimately succeed because the facts do not favor the Democrats.
“So where did the Russians cheat?” the talk-show king asked his listeners rhetorically. “What did the Russian hack affect when it comes to ballots? Is anybody alleging anything? They aren’t.”
He continued, “The whole point of the Russian hack is the Podesta emails were made public and it’s not fair because the Republican emails and whatever the Russians discovered in the hack of the Republicans, even though (Republican National Committee Chairman Reince) Priebus says that they weren’t hacked, that doesn’t matter.”
But, the fact no one is alleging the actual vote was hacked hasn’t stopped the daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., from leading an effort to demand an intelligence briefing for electors on what Democrats claim was Russian interference in the November election.
Christine Pelosi is leading a group of electors demanding the briefing before Monday’s vote by the Electoral College, although it is unclear how that could happen, as electors do not have the security clearances needed to see intelligence reports or receive intelligence briefings.
The Hamilton Electors are also blaming Russia.
“We now know that the Russian Government actively worked to elect Donald Trump. The Electoral College is our defense against this attack on our sovereignty,” said the rebel electors in an online post, adding, “The Electoral College must be our defense against Russia.”
Tying together the various strands of opposition to Trump, Limbaugh said of Lessig, “He is predicting at least 20 will abandon Trump. And we have come to find out that it is the White House and a Clinton PR firm that are behind the effort to convince Trump electors to abandon him.”
That was a reference to an article in the Daily Caller on Tuesday that “the public relations firm working behind the scenes with the ‘faithless electors’ is rife with ties to prominent Democrats,” including Clinton and President Obama.
The website said the firm Megaphone Strategies was co-founded by Obama’s former green jobs czar Van Jones, and has a “stated mission is to ‘use PR as a tool to diversify progressive movements.’”
The firm’s president and other co-founder, Molly Haigh, worked for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. She has blamed Trump’s victory on “racist, misogynist, xenophobic fear mongering.”
If the courts were to free enough electoral college members to vote for whomever they want, Republicans seeking to deny both Trump and Clinton would still have to find an alternative candidate able to attract the 270 votes needed to win.
After the name of establishment Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio was floated in the media, he tweeted, “The election is over.”
Editor’s note: The original version of this story has been revised to reflect the 12 Amendment requirement that only the top three winners of votes in the Electoral College would be eligible for a contingent election in the House of Representatives.