In a discussion at Harvard’s Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics, Kellyanne Conway told CNN’s Jake Tapper "I think the biggest piece of fake news in the election was that Donald Trump couldn't win." Conway was Trump’s campaign manager, who referenced the many predictions prior to November 8 that Trump faced no possibility of winning enough Electoral College votes to secure the election.
For his part, Robbie Mook -- Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager -- said that false and misleading stories were a “huge problem,” as well as rumors that a foreign power was meddling with the election in addition to a “headwind” that his establishment candidate faced among voters seeking change. "Look, Jake, I think there's a lot of things we need to examine coming out of this election ... I still think we have to investigate what happened with Russia here. We cannot have foreign, and I would say foreign aggressors here, intervening in our elections." Repeating a narrative that has been used to question the results of the election, Mook said, "The Russian were propagating fake news through Facebook and other outlets, but look, we also had, and this is with all due respect to Kellyanne and her colleagues, look Steve Bannon ran Breitbart News, which was notorious for peddling stories like this."
Democrats appear to be suggesting that Trump’s electoral victory was somehow illegitimate or that he has no mandate from the voters, due to his win in the Electoral College but not in the popular vote. Clinton won at the ballot box by 2.5 million votes, according to media sources.
In the roundtable discussion, Clinton’s spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri suggested that Trump’s campaign staff had provided a “platform for white supremacists,” and cited as evidence the fact that former Breitbart chief, Steve Bannon, was on the team. “I would rather lose than win the way you guys did,” said Palmieri. Bannon has denied being a racist, as has Trump. In response to Palmieri, Conway said, “No you wouldn’t, respectfully.” She said that the Clinton campaign staff had ignored the flaws in their candidate and their operations. “How about, it’s Hillary Clinton – she doesn’t connect with people,” Conway said.
When Conway and other Trump aides touted Trump’s aggressive campaign travel schedule, Mook retorted, “I would just say, Hillary did win the popular vote.”
The Permanent Campaign
Conway, while understanding the current Democratic strategy afoot, made an appeal for comity. She said, "I know that people are still trying to fight this last war of three weeks ago, who seem immersed in a permanent campaign, who certainly are in the stages, instead of acceptance, are now trying to besmirch Donald Trump through one of his top advisors and, again like I said earlier, when I think about some of the issues, the country will see through that and they will give this guy, who said in the wee hours of Wednesday November 9, that he will be the president of all Americans and not just those who supported him, and I think they will give him a chance to form his government."
The media and Democrats are also disputing contentions issued by Trump that the number of popular votes for Clinton may stem from illegal voting. On November 27, Trump alleged that "millions of people" voted illegally for Clinton and otherwise he would have won the popular vote. He said in a tweet, "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." When Jake Tapper asked Conway whether this amounted to presidential behavior, she answered, "Well he's President-elect so that's presidential behavior yes." She added, "The fact is that this man is now President of the United States and he's tackling very big issues ... he is committed to making good on the promises on, frankly, the plans, and he's going to be focused on that. Not everybody trying to nitpick what he does."
The conference at Harvard came at the same time that the Clinton campaign is joining with Green Party nominee Jill Stein in demanding costly recounts in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. So far, Stein has raised more than $6.7 million, but the actual cost may be much higher and will be borne by taxpayers. The Clinton campaign is seeking volunteers to aid in the recount. In Michigan, the recount is scheduled to start on December 3. In Macomb County, near Detroit, the cost to local authorities is estimated to be at least $6000 per day. The recount is expected to continue through the weekends every day until December 12, which is the deadline in Michigan for the recount. In Wisconsin, that deadline is December 19, and in Pennsylvania that date is December 13.
The most important date is December 19, when the country’s electors will meet to cast their Electoral College votes. Experts say that the date is a hard deadline and, if a state were to miss that deadline, there is a potential that its electoral votes would not be counted because Congress is not required to accept those votes.
If, for some reason, all three states in the recount fail to meet the deadline, there is a possibility that there will not be enough electoral votes to form a majority. Should either Clinton nor Trump obtain a 270-vote majority in the Electoral College, the election would then go to Congress for a vote. With a Republican majority in both chambers, a win for Trump is almost a certainty. It is therefore that Democrats, emboldened by a reanimated leftist wing (e.g. Sen. Bernie Sanders) could claim that Trump’s election is illegitimate and cast an enduring shadow on his administration and legislative proposals. Change.org -- a progressive website -- has a petition available for signing that is urging Electoral College members to "Make Hillary Clinton president on December 19." As of December 2, more than 4.6 million supporters had signed.
Democrat Michael Baca, who is an elector in Colorado’s Electoral College delegation, is calling on fellow delegates to vote against Trump despite being bound to him because of the election results in their home states. He wants these "faithless" electors to vote for someone else, presumably Hillary Clinton. Baca said last week that he is aware that success is improbable: “This is a longshot; it’s a pipe dream.” The Clinton campaign has said much the same. But should the results of the general election go to Congress, and Democrats denounce the results, the damage would be done.
Here follow highlights of the exchange at Harvard: