With Trump’s Margins of Victory Shrinking, Lawsuits Filed to Block Recount in Two States

Lawyer Robert Fitrakis says Jill Stein is planning to give a press conference in front of Trump Towers on Monday demanding why the president-elect is obstructing the recount efforts

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Story Transcript

KIM BROWN: Welcome to The Real News Network, and welcome to everyone watching us on Facebook Live. In Baltimore, I’m Kim Brown.

Friday has been flush with lawsuits seeking to halt the presidential vote recount in three states: Michigan, Wisconsin and in Pennsylvania, each of which had preliminarily awarded their electoral votes to Republican Donald Trump. Now, Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein has initiated this recount and to bring us up to speed on these breaking developments, we’re joined by Bob Fitrakis. He is a civil rights and election lawyer. He’s also a Political Science Professor at Columbus State Community College, and he is also the attorney representing the Jill Stein Recount Campaign. If you have any questions regarding this really, really important news story, feel free to hit us up on Facebook. Bob, thank you so much for joining us again.

BOB FITRAKIS: Glad to be here.

KIM BROWN: Okay, Bob, let’s go state by state here. Let’s start with Michigan, because we’re getting some conflicting reports here. The latest is that Michigan’s Secretary of State Ruth Johnson announced today that the State Board of Canvassers will indeed continue with the recount in spite of a lawsuit filed by the Republican Attorney General from Michigan to stop the recount, which he filed even after a team of Trump attorneys filed their own lawsuit to stop the recount. But a report from CNBC this afternoon says that the Michigan Board of Elections deadlocked along party lines about whether to let the recount proceed and that the matter might head to the courts. So, tell us what is the latest now.

BOB FITRAKIS: Well, Mr. Trump and his representatives are doing everything possible to keep the people in Michigan from doing a recount and finding out who really won. So, you’re right, his attorneys filed a complaint with the Board of Canvassers to stop the recount and, of course, as you pointed out, Bill Schuette, the Attorney General, has sued to stop the recount, as well. This is the reason, and I don’t even know if this has gone out public yet, why Jill Stein is going to go to Trump Towers in New York City, 10 o’clock on Monday, and ask Mr. Trump, have a press conference there, why he doesn’t want a recount. If he won, and he seems confident of it, why can’t we look at the ballots?

KIM BROWN: Bob, is there a recount taking place in Michigan right now to your knowledge?

BOB FITRAKIS: As of right now, no. It will be decided by the courts.

KIM BROWN: Indeed. It must be noted that Donald Trump seemingly won the State of Michigan by a super-slim margin of just over 10,000 votes per this week from the Detroit Free Press from November 23rd. Bob, let’s move along to Wisconsin where the recount is already under way. However, two pro-Trump groups, the Great America PAC and the Stop Hillary PAC, filed suit in Federal Court on Friday alleging two things: one, that the votes are not treated equally in all cases — I definitely want you to explain what that means — and, two, that the recount of 3 million votes won’t be complete before the federal deadline of December 13th. What do you have to say about the reasons why these pro-Trump groups have said that this recount in Wisconsin should not go forward?

BOB FITRAKIS: Well, because they’re pro-Trump groups. Again, these are Super PACs that, we’re the only so-called democracy in the world where you can anonymously tip into a corporate till and hand out money without any accountability, and these are simply the Super PACs that have destroyed our democracy who favor Mr. Trump, no doubt for business reasons, and they’re making arguments. For example, we wanted every ballot counted by hand, for us to look at it, and tally it. Some of the counties, because of a Republican judge, won the right not to do a hand recount.

And, from the Stein perspective, the Stein campaign, it’s not a recount; it’s illegitimate unless you can see the ballot. If they’re going to take the ballots and run it through the machine again without letting us look at it, that is not a recount. That’s a machine test. There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding among these Board of Canvassers, these counties — 25 of them in Wisconsin. So, we demand a universal recount by hand. We’re turned down because of Trump’s Republican friends in 25 counties, and then they sue us because some will be run through a machine and some will be counted by hand. It’s the ultimate hypocrisy. It’s stalling. What is Mr. Trump hiding?

KIM BROWN: Bob, are you saying that the Stein campaign is being sued right now in the State of Wisconsin?

BOB FITRAKIS: Well, there are complaints that have gone forward through the Super PACs to stop the vote count. But think about the logic of what they’re doing. We asked for a universal hand count. The judge that turned us down recommended it as the gold standard. So, in 25 counties, most of them that went for Mr. Trump, they’re refusing to do the hand count. So, then Mr. Trump’s supporters and Super PACs come in and go, “Look, the ballots aren’t equal. Some will be hand-counted, some will be counted by a machine.” Thus, this unequal nature of counting is illegal. But it’s all being done by Trump supporters. Mr. Trump should simply ask the counties to recount the ballots and show his victory.

KIM BROWN: Well, Bob, you raise a very valid point. Also, these are concerns that Donald Trump himself raised while on the campaign trail. So, let’s hear a clip from Donald Trump from earlier this year, I guess, pre-warning his electorate about the potential for voter fraud and election rigging.

(video clip)

DONALD TRUMP: They even want to try to rig the election at the polling booths, and believe me, there’s a lot going on. Do you ever hear these people? They say there’s nothing going on. People that have died 10 years ago are still voting. Illegal immigrants are voting. I mean, where are the street smarts of some of these politicians?

AUDIENCE: (indistinct)

DONALD TRUMP: They don’t have any, is right. So many cities are corrupt and voter fraud is very, very common.

(end video clip)

KIM BROWN: So, sort of has been his modus operandi, Donald Trump has seemingly changed his position on how he feels about maintaining or upholding the integrity of the presidential election. So, Bob, Candidate Trump seemingly was concerned about the potential for the election being rigged not in his favor and of voter fraud, so it’s very interesting that he is taking all of these extraordinary legal steps, at minimum, to prevent the recount to go forward in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

BOB FITRAKIS: Well, I mean, part of the reason is there’s only the little more than 10,000 votes separating Trump and Ms. Clinton in Michigan. The other thing, they’re still in some areas of Pennsylvania counting votes, and Mr. Trump lost 25,000 votes, leading to a huge decline in his total, which is around 45,000 now. He was at 70,000. So, the more votes that are counted, and particularly votes in urban areas that had been missed or thrown out or considered spoiled, the closer the election gets. And it looks similar to the exit polls.

Now, the official numbers make no sense. That’s why Jill Stein picked those three states. The exit polls, the international gold standard, is telling us that there’s a huge statistically impossible discrepancy between how people said they voted coming out of the polls and what the actual vote count is — and the more we count, the more votes Clinton picks up and Trump loses. And I think that’s the nature of a mass voting system.

So, Jill Stein and the Green Party, our core value being grassroots democracy, decided that we would do what Ms. Clinton should’ve done and no one seems to know why she didn’t, what John Kerry should’ve done in 2004, what Al Gore should’ve done for the entire State of Florida in 2000, and he would’ve been President — we should count every American citizen’s vote. Anyone who’s cast a vote, a US citizen, we should count their vote. That’s all we’re trying to do. So why is Trump trying to obstruct this by any means necessary? Calling in filthy rich Super PACs to file lawsuits? What is he hiding?

KIM BROWN: I want to get back to Pennsylvania, because Jill Stein’s campaign issued a press release this afternoon, and I’m going to read it in part here. It’s a statement in response to Donald Trump’s lawyer’s motion to dismiss the Pennsylvania recount. This press release from Dr. Stein says, “With his margin of victory in the state nearly halved as of last night, and now within 0.2% of triggering an automatic state-wide recount, Donald Trump is desperately fighting to stop the recount in Pennsylvania.” Talk to us about what could potentially happen in Pennsylvania, which this provision in their laws that would automatically trigger a state-wide recount as this margin of victory from Donald Trump seems to be ever-shrinking.

BOB FITRAKIS: Well, what’s really going on is Trump and his highly-paid lawyers and his Super PACs are trying to run the clock out. December 13th is Safe Harbor Day. That’s when the states need to certify which electoral college slate is going to vote in the state capitols on December 19th. So, they know the more they can prolong this by suing, the more it becomes impossible to actually recount it. And as you see what’s happening, as the recounts go forward in the three states and Trump votes disappear, state laws … in Pennsylvania will automatically trigger a recount. And, again, a lot of this would not happen had it not been the filing of the states by the Jill Stein Campaign, is that a lot of these Boards of Canvassers that were finishing up their duty are giving us a much better count now.

One of the reasons we got involved in Wisconsin, when we initially looked at it, there were five cities that voted over 100%. Now they’ve taken some of those votes away with the excuse, “Oh, we double-ran them. We accidentally, you know…” and these are Trump areas — so they ran the vote twice where Trump was winning. Once we went in and demanded a recount, they discovered that they had made these mistakes. Somebody was pumping up the vote for Trump, and it wasn’t being done legally.

KIM BROWN: We are streaming this live right now on Facebook. We want to thank everyone that’s watching us, watching the stream. Send us your questions. We have one coming in from Jim Calista(?). Bob, Jim wants to know, why are they saying that this will cost taxpayers? Meaning the recount. Jill Stein raised the funds. That was brought up by the Michigan Attorney General saying that this lawsuit to keep the recount proceeding is frivolous in that it is costing taxpayers money. Explain to us how these recounts are being paid for.

BOB FITRAKIS: Well, in Wisconsin — we’ll start there, and then we’ll move to Michigan — the last recount in Wisconsin in 2011 cost half a million dollars. When we contacted the Wisconsin election officials and asked them how much would it be to recount, we were told $1.1 million. Then we went into the State and they delayed us, and when the check was due, the day before they told us it was $3.5 million. How does a recount cost $500,000 in 2011, because it’s based on the salaries and the hourly wages of the public officials doing the recounting? Why is it $3.5 million now? You know that under the conservative Governor Scott Walker that the wages of public servants did not go up seven times in five years. So, what is happening is the Republican allies in the State of Wisconsin are vastly inflating the price of the recount to make sure that Stein runs out of money and can’t go into Michigan.

So, Michigan gave us a similar estimate: $800,000 to a million dollars, and now, oh, what people like Attorney General Bill Schuette want to do is they want to point to the highly inflated, ridiculous numbers of a corrupt Wisconsin Election Board and tell us, “Well, look how much Wisconsin cost. It must be costing Michigan much, much more since we have more voters than Wisconsin,” Michigan about 4.8, Wisconsin about 2.9 million. So, all of this is based on highly inflated, unrealistic numbers that are set up to obstruct the actual count, the hand-count, the only real count in a democracy of the votes cast.

KIM BROWN: Bob, Jeffrey Holsen(?) on Facebook wants to know, have they stopped counting the votes? But as we understand, votes are being counted in two out of the three states being contested, is that right?

BOB FITRAKIS: Yes.

KIM BROWN: So, votes are being counted in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin; not in Michigan?

BOB FITRAKIS: Not in Michigan at this point. Again, it’s my contention all of these suits and forcing it back into court, are designed to make sure the clock runs down as in a football game, and that way they can claim, as Wisconsin has set a deadline for December 12th at 8:00 p.m., you know, right before the Safe Harbor Day. And they’re already arguing it’s too late to start counting, but there are certain counties that have already completed the recount. If they would just count, there’d be no problem.

KIM BROWN: Bob, even after this recount is said and done, Dr. Stein won’t be President of the United States, so what is her motivation for doing this?

BOB FITRAKIS: Well, you know, when your country is rated the worst democracy on the planet out of the 47 long-standing democracies, when you’re number 47 because of non-transparency because you allow private, partisan, for-profit companies and corporations to secretly program your computers, with no open source, and nothing can be verified, and you’ve got a system that purges voters — and the so-called battleground states wouldn’t even be battleground states if we had universal voting in this country instead of a corrupt Jim Crow states’ rights system — what we’ll get out of this is a movement towards democracy. And I hope the end game is to drive these private, secretive, partisan companies, these corporations, with proprietary software that no one can look at out of the counting business, out of the voting business and restore hand-counted paper ballots or open source computers to the American people.

So, I think the end game and her goal is to make America a better democracy, and I would hope Donald Trump and Clinton and all Americans would share that, instead of being obsessed on counting on corrupted, old, insecure computer voting machines. Push and pray machine. Faith-based voting that can’t be documented. We have a non-verifiable system. We want it to be verifiable and, again, I think people, if you’re in Wisconsin and you’re hearing this, you need to go to the 25 counties, look them up that are hand-counting, and let them know that under the First Amendment, you have a right to demonstrate and protest, and you want the ballots counted.

KIM BROWN: Well, Bob, the person with the most to gain should this recount allow to proceed in all three states where the recount is attempting to proceed, would be Hillary Clinton if these… if the outcome, the election outcomes were somehow to be decided that she actually won these states and not Donald Trump. So, is the Jill Stein campaign working with Hillary Clinton’s people in any way? Have you guys been in communication?

BOB FITRAKIS: Well, I’ve never run into the woman. And, you know, I regard Hillary Clinton as gutless and soulless. If the Green Party was this close, you know, we would have done everything possible to get the vote count, which we’re trying to do now. This is about the under-vote in Wayne County, where thousands of people went out and voted for every office except the President. We don’t believe that to be true. This is about provisional ballots cast by blacks and Hispanics and poor people that aren’t going to be counted and are going to be thrown in dumpsters.

This has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton, who I can’t believe doesn’t have enough guts to stand up for herself. We’re standing up for democracy. We’re attacking these machines that are non-transparent in this dysfunctional democracy, and I really don’t care who it benefits. I just want every vote counted, as does Jill Stein. What kind of society accepts over a million votes that are so-called spoiled? The poorest areas, just like they have the worst education, the poorest transportation system, have the oldest machines that count the least, why can’t we count all of the votes in this country? Why can’t we be a better democracy? Other countries do it. We’re capable of it. We’ve designed a system that alienates voters based on their skin color, based on their ethnicity and based on the fact that they’re poor.

KIM BROWN: Bob, we have another question here. If a state is in litigation for opposition to this recount and they miss out on the December deadline — the person here has the 19th, but I think the deadline is actually December 13th deadline –does that state just go with the current disputed vote count, or lose its electoral votes? How does this process work if the recount is not completed by the deadline?

BOB FITRAKIS: Well, the 13th is the Safe Harbor Day. That is for the state to name the electoral slate based on the candidate with the most votes. The person who wrote in is right, that the day the Electoral College meets and actually votes is December 19th. It’s not likely that the US Congress is going to reject the Electoral College of Wisconsin, Michigan or Pennsylvania if they miss the Safe Harbor day. That’s a guarantee. That’s why they call it Safe Harbor. If they vote on December 19th and send that vote to Congress, historically Congress has counted it.

So, I think it’s just an attempt to try to run out the clock, to be in a situation where they can go to the court and say, “We don’t have the time.” If they’d simply sit down and count it — I mean, Donald Trump is doing everything possible in state after state in all three states, Trump forces or allies have complained or filed suit. If he really believed in democracy, he’d simply let the votes be counted and he would, in all probability, win and create credibility. There’s a low probability that all three of these states are going to be reversed. These states are there because the numbers in the exit polls, how people said they voted, don’t match the official vote tally, and there’s a problem with a lot of votes not being counted.

KIM BROWN: So, Bob, Friday — today — has been extremely busy for yourself and for Jill Stein’s campaign, so what can we expect next week?

BOB FITRAKIS: Well, on Monday morning, you can expect a press conference at the Trump Towers. And, here’s what I think or here’s what I hope for: that American citizens will stand up, will put pressure, will exercise their voices and demand a hand-counted recount. And whoever got the most votes will win. That’s how a democracy is supposed to work. Just because Clinton conceding, you know, has no legal standing, the fact that the media wants to find out what politician Trump is putting in what position and what their pet names are, whether they’re called “Mad Dog” or not, that shouldn’t be our obsession. Our obsession should be with counting everyone’s vote who was eligible to vote.

And I also think people ought to take a look at the press conference by Dr. Alex Halderman, the University of Michigan computer scientist and security expert, who spelled out directly how easy it is to hack these voting machines. These machines were not included as part of our critical infrastructure to be protected. They’re easily hackable. We have private companies that can program them with secret software. Let’s just count the vote and get on with democracy. And I think next week, if it doesn’t happen, I think you’re going to see people demonstrating and demanding that the vote be counted.

KIM BROWN: All right. We’ve been joined by Bob Fitrakis. He is the attorney for Dr. Jill Stein’s Campaign for a Vote Recount in the states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Bob, we appreciate you coming on and explaining to us exactly what is going on from your candidate’s position. So, thank you very much.

BOB FITRAKIS: Thank you.

KIM BROWN: All right. And if you like what you just saw, and if you are tired of the fake news — everyone on Facebook right now, you see Facebook throughout your timeline, and all on your news feed every day. But if you like what we just did here, consider dropping The Real News Network a few dollars for our Winter Fundraiser. Head on over to TheRealNews.com and click on the banner at the top of the home page. We thank you for your support and we thank you for watching The Real News.

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