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Stephen Miller eyes 'alternate' electors, distinct from real ones

It seems oddly fitting that a presidency that began with a reference to "alternative facts" is ending with references to "alternate" electors.
Image: Stephen Miller
White House senior advisor Stephen Miller listens as President Donald Trump hosts a law enforcement briefing in the Oval Office at the White House on July 15, 2020.Carlos Barria / Reuters file

Reality has painted an unfortunate picture for Donald Trump. The vote counts proved Joe Biden won, as did the recounts and the certification process. Republican lawsuits have failed, and members of the electoral college will make Biden's victory official today.

It was against this backdrop that Stephen Miller, an influential White House official, appeared on Fox News this morning and assured the hosts, "[W]e have more than enough time to right the wrong of this fraudulent election result and certify Donald Trump as the winner of the election."

I'll confess, seeing Miller say there's "more than enough time" immediately brought to mind Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and the scene in which the Black Knight keeps insisting he can prevail against King Arthur, even as he's slowly dismembered.

But that's not all Miller said.

"As we speak, today, an alternate slate of electors in the contested states is going to vote and we're going to send those results up to Congress," he continued. "This will ensure that all of our legal remedies remain open. That means that if we win these cases in the courts, that we can direct that the alternate state of electors be certified."

It seems oddly fitting that a presidency that began with a reference to "alternative facts" is ending with references to "alternate" electors.

The problem, of course, is that Miller is pointing to a made-up political mechanism. There is nothing in the American electoral system that allows for both real electors and "alternate" electors that the defeated president likes better. One will arrive at Congress with states' legal backing; the other will be utterly meaningless.

As Rick Hasen, an expert in election law, explained this morning, "These [Miller-backed alternate] electors have neither been certified by state executives nor purportedly appointed by state legislators. They don't have legal authority and so this does not affect the counting of Electoral College votes. But it does show that the Trump campaign will continue to try to delegitimize the Biden presidency and the American election system."

Of course, it's an open question as to how many congressional Republicans will try to recognize the fake electors instead of the real ones in states where voters had the audacity to elect someone other than Donald Trump.

This is, of course, part of a larger and unsettling pattern. There are actual facts, and then there are Trump-approved "alternative" facts. There are real news organizations, and then there are Trump-approved conservative news organizations. There are reality-based election results, and then there are Trump-approved imaginary election results.

Slate's Dahlia Lithwick wrote last week, "Eventually, we'll have to deal with our lack of shared reality." I agree. As Stephen Miller made clear this morning, however, today is not that day.