According to the New York Times, members of the select congressional committee investigating the Capitol attacks of the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6 are looking into an overhaul a little-known law that former President Donald J. Trump and some of his allies in his administration and in congress tried to use to overturn his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden, claiming that the statute and its lack of clarity puts American democracy at risk.
Rewriting the Electoral Count Act of 1887 — enacted during another bitterly disputed presidential election — is taking on new importance in recent weeks as details have emerged about the extent of Trump’s and his allies’ plots to hold on to power in spite of losing the election.
Trump and allies used a “warped interpretation of the law,” to try and persuade Vice President Mike Pence to throw out the electoral results when Congress met in a on Jan. 6 for its official count of the votes.
Pence’s refusal to comply led to a mob of Trump supporters chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” as they attacked the Capitol and delayed the congressional proceedings. The count was eventually completed, rejecting any claims and challenges that Trump had actually won the election and formalizing President Biden’s victory over Trump.
If Vice-President Pence had done as Trump wanted, there could’ve been a very different outcome. Zach Wamp, a former Republican member of Congress, explains:
“We know that we came precariously close to a constitutional crisis, because of the confusion in many people’s minds that was obviously planted by the former president as to what the Congress’s role actually was.”
The committee has revealed many communications between Trump and allies in the last several weeks that point to blatant plotting to overthrow the election results.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, read a message from an unnamed GOP lawmaker, revealing that members of Congress were conspiring with the White House to prevent Trump from losing before the results were known:
“HERE’s an AGGRESSIVE STRATEGY: Why can’t [sic] the states of GA NC PENN and other R controlled state houses declare this is BS (where conflicts and election not called that night) and just send their own electors to vote and have it go to the SCOTUS.”
Election officials were still counting legal votes when that message was sent. Joe Biden’s win was officially projected on Nov. 7 and then confirmed by the Electoral College five weeks later on Dec. 14, despite what appears to be Trump and his allies exhausting nearly every possibility they could think of to discredit the vote.