NEW YORK – Members of the Electoral College should have the right to consider the alleged impact of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election when they cast their votes on December 19, a Democratic congressman has asserted.
“To the extent that foreign interference in the United States presidential elections may have influenced the final result, I believe the electors have the right to consider that,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) told POLITICO in a statement on Saturday.
Politico further reported:
Cicilline appears to be the first member of Congress and the highest-ranking elected official in the country to endorse the notion that electors aren’t simply rubber stamps for their states’ popular vote. Earlier Saturday, he retweeted a Rhode Island-based national security expert who argued that the intelligence community “must brief electoral college about Russia before vote.”
Cicilline was referring to reports in the Washington Post and New York Times claiming Moscow interfered in the presidential election to help Donald Trump win — a contention the President-elect called “ridiculous” in an interview on Sunday.
Cicilline’s comments come after a Democratic presidential elector from California filed a lawsuit aiming to overturn a California statute that requires him and the states’ other electors to support the winner of the popular vote in the state with the aim of voting for someone else. The lawsuit, the second of its kind nationwide, is clearly part of an effort to set a legal precedent to free any rogue Republican electors in other states to cast their ballots for someone other than Trump.
The lawsuits join a larger effort to try to turn electors against voting for Trump. Last week, Breitbart News reported Harvard law professor and progressive activist Larry Lessig announced that he is teaming up with a California-based law firm to offer “free and confidential” legal services to any members of the Electoral College who will vote against President-elect Donald Trump in violation of state law.
Lessig, a one-time presidential candidate, has served on the boards of numerous groups financed by billionaire George Soros.
Lessig’s Electoral College scheme, which is being called the Electors Trust, is a last-ditch effort to stop Trump from becoming president.
It comes after a petition drive by the Soros-funded MoveOn.org activist organization sought to abolish the Electoral College altogether.
Lessig’s project also follows the largely failed recount efforts of Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who was aided by Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Breitbart News reported that the lawyer representing Clinton’s recount efforts, Marc Elias, recently led legal battles against state voting laws with an infusion of funding from Soros.
Lessig’s effort to help electors vote against Trump was first reported on Monday by Politico:
Lessig says his new effort, which he calls “The Electors Trust,” will provide free counsel to electors, provided by the midsize firm, Durie Tangri, whose partner Mark Lemley is a longtime associate of Lessig’s.
More significantly, Lessig said, the Trust will offer a platform – with guaranteed anonymity – for electors to strategize about stopping Trump from taking the White House. It’s a platform, he said, that could help electors coordinate to determine whether they’ve gathered enough support to stop Trump from winning the presidency.
“It makes no sense to be elector number five who comes out against Trump. But it might make sense to be elector 38,” Lessig said in a phone interview.
Writing at Medium.com, Lessig elaborated on his electors plot:
With their permission, the electors can allow others to know that they are considering a vote of conscience. But that information will not include either their identity or their state. Our primary objective is to provide a safe and confidential legal context in which electors can seek advice and support, and depending on the facts, an opportunity to litigate to defend their freedom.
Reached for comment, Lessig last week refused to provide Breitbart News with the specific numbers of electors who are allegedly considering switching their votes from Trump.
“”I’m not in the information flow for that. We’re being very careful to assure anonymity,” Lessig said.
Politico reported advocates of the bid to turn the votes of electors against Trump have briefed allies close to Hillary Clinton.
Clinton’s team and the Democratic National Committee have steadfastly refused to endorse the efforts spearheaded by a group of electors in Colorado and Washington state. But, as with the ongoing recounts initiated by Green Party nominee Jill Stein, the Clinton team has not categorically rejected them, leaving the collection of mainly Democratic electors to push forward with no explicit public support from the failed Democratic nominee or any other prominent party leaders.
Lessig launched his project after one Republican elector, Chris Suprun of Texas, published a news-making op-ed in the New York Times announcing his intentions not to vote for Trump when the Electoral College meets on Dec. 19 to formally elect the president.
Lessig’s movement seems to be gaining some momentum, even if it is a long shot. On Tuesday, the New York Times published an opinion piece by Elizabeth Williamson citing Republican insiders saying there are other quiet “faithless electors” like Suprun plotting to vote against Trump. Still, Williamson, a Times editorial writer who specializes in national politics, admitted the chances of the effort succeeding amount to a “moon shot.”
Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker also advocated for the scheme in a piece titled, “The electoral college should be unfaithful.”
Parker claimed renegade electors would write a new history of “heroism”:
Electors are scheduled to meet Dec. 19 in their respective states to cast their final ballots. If there are 37 Republicans among them with the courage to perform their moral duty and protect the nation from a talented but dangerous president-elect, a new history of heroism will have to be written.
Lessig has been a national leader in the movement for so-called net neutrality, a concept highlighted in its infancy in his 1999 book, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace.
A study by the Media Research Center found that Soros’s foundations and the Ford Foundation donated a combined total of $196 million to groups supporting “net neutrality.”
Asked about his associations with those groups, Lessig told Breitbart News, “I’ve served on the board of Public Knowledge, the advisory board of Sunlight, and I’ve been a fan of Free Fress. I’ve received no compensation from any of them, ever.”
Asked whether he served on the board of Free Press, where he was listed on the board, he subsequently replied that he did, from 2007-2009.
Despite its namesake, Free Press is a well-known advocate for government intervention in the Internet and news media.
Lessig has been a close associate of Free Press founder Robert W. McChesney, a communications professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who has called for the U.S. capitalist system to be dismantled and replaced with a socialist-style system.
“In the end, there is no real answer but to remove brick by brick the capitalist system itself, rebuilding the entire society on socialist principles,” McChesney wrote in a 2009 essay.
This reporter previously documented Free Press has advocated for the development of a “world class” government-run media system in the U.S.
“The need has never been greater for a world-class public media system in America,” begins a 48-page Free Press policy paper titled, “New Public Media: A Plan for Action.”
“Commercial media’s economic tailspin has pushed public media to the center of the debate over the future of journalism and the media, presenting the greatest opportunity yet to reinvigorate and re-envision the modern U.S. public media system,” argued the Free Press document.
I further reported at the time:
The Free Press study urges the creation of a trust fund – largely supported by new fees and taxes on advertising and the private media – to jump start the founding of a massive government-run public media system that will ultimately become self-sufficient.
“We believe local news reporting should become one of public media’s top priorities,” said Free Press Managing Director Craig Aaron, one of the paper’s co-authors.
“We should redeploy and redouble our resources to keep a watchful eye on the powerful and to reliably examine the vital issues that most Americans can’t follow closely on their own,” Aaron stated.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.
With research by Joshua Klein and Brenda J. Elliott.