You – the 538 electors of the Electoral College – hold in your hands a responsibility like no other in the life of our republic. You must undertake a process of election, in Alexander Hamilton’s words, that “ affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.” The purpose of the electoral college, as Hamilton goes on to describe, is to preserve the “sense of the people” by those “most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.”
You must now deliberate and decide, with the guidance and top cover of the US Constitution and our founding forefathers, to vote your conscience as to whether Donald J Trump is endowed with the requisite qualifications to be the next President of the United States of America. Your exercise of this weighty responsibility can in this unprecedented situation be no mere formality. It demands of you, careful thought and certainly more courage than that asked by any other election of our lifetime.
We have recognized as a nation, Mr. Trump’s Electoral College majority. This, under normal circumstances, would bid us to press through an orderly transition process. As the nation strives to do this, however, I plea that we pause to consider what it is that we are ‘normalizing.’ I ask that we not pretend that what is in front of us does not exist: Mr. Trump, his campaign, his transition behaviors, and foreign powers assisting him, have left us with critical open questions about this man’s temperament, and to whom or what he may be beholden. Before elevating him to our Presidency, the wellbeing of our Republic demands that we first stop to answer these questions with facts, lest we make a grave error.
Lets first consider temperament. Throughout the campaign, the “sense of the people” – two thirds of all voters – saw Mr. Trump as lacking the right temperament and values to be President. Even many of his supporters – alongside their disenfranchisement and eagerness for a change agent – were disturbed by Mr. Trump’s unprecedented use of fabrication, insult, quick anger, cyber bullying, White Supremacist cultivations, and his mysteriously persistent adulation of Vladimir Putin and his leadership. Mr. Putin is a man who most of the rest of mankind sees as a manipulative thug, oppressing his own people, and bent on gripping and aggrandizing his power at the expense of US and other democracies around the world.
After the election, many hoped that in his ascent to the highest office in the land, Mr. Trump would clear the air, ‘rising’ through his transition to the circumstance and assuming the temperament of a President.
Electors, this has not happened. Mr. Trump’s behaviors as President-elect show no change in temperament from what we all saw during the campaign. In just the past month, Mr. Trump blatantly lied to the public about his having won the popular vote by millions. He claimed that only voting fraud by millions of voters can explain Clinton’s 2.7 million popular vote lead. Yet his lawyers are also suing to stop what Mr. Trump has called “sham” vote verification recounts, as if worried about what recounts would reveal. Since becoming President Elect, he has cyber-bullied Boeing’s leadership based on misinformation about the costs of Air Force One (citing 4 billion vs the Air Force estimate of 2.8 billion over five years). He angrily has publicly defamed United Steel Workers’ Chuck Jones – a man who unlike the President Elect has spent a lifetime to protect American workers. Jones was attempting to tell the truth of Mr. Trump’s exaggerated and misleading claims of saving 1000 Carrier jobs in Indiana. That is, Trump’s deal “saved” 700 jobs on the backs of Indiana citizens who will now fund a $7 million tax incentive for the company – which is still sending far more of its jobs overseas.
Then we have President Elect Trump’s ill-informed tweets about the US constitution, free speech, and flag burners. And we saw his tweets demanding apology from the Hamilton musical’s cast for an appeal about diversity to Mr. Pence. What an opportunity a more mature President Elect might have seized in that instance to send a healing message to a worried, divided electorate. You as electors must ask: how do these angry, impulsive, bullying behaviors, lies, and ill-considered insults no portend not only to further divide the country, but also, to demean the office of the President in the eyes of all Americans, and in the eyes of the world?
Electors, please also consider an emerging pattern in Mr. Trump’s Cabinet and White House appointments. Prominent among the elite billionaires who Populist Candidate Trump has been appointing to his administration are narrow views patently hostile to the core mission of the agencies they would head. For the Dept of Justice, we have Mr. Jeff Sessions, a man who was previously denied a federal judgeship due to his racism. For the Dept of Education, we have the Amway fortune’s Betsy DeVos, whose zeal to devote our taxes to privatized education, despite the failure of her charter school experiments in Michigan, bodes ill for strengthening our nation’s deteriorating public education system. For HUD, we have Dr. Ben Carson, a man who does not believe in the public housing assistance that has kept 1.3 million low- income households off the street. At a time we could not more need Muslim partnerships, Trump has appointed retired Lt. General Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor. He is a rabid anti Muslim crusader. Mr. Flynn was last heard publicly tweeting vicious fake news about Hillary Clinton’s child sex rings. For EPA, we have Myron Ebell – a longtime fossil fuel proponent who has spent decades suing the EPA over its efforts to clean our air and water, and who denies the hard science of man made greenhouse gas emissions. He appears intent on gutting this already weakened agency.
Indeed – even as polls show that the “sense of the people” – 2/3 of those polled – view climate change due to human activity as an important and real issue, we now see Trump’s transition team sending out a 74-question memo which demands the specific names of American scientists, including civil servants at our national labs, who have engaged, in any way, on climate change initiatives. Are we about to see a modern day witch-hunt of our civil servants for their sin of researching what we are doing to the planet? Would his Administration seek “science” that justifies furthering the traditional energy sources we now know to be so harmful? Electors: How does this comport with the “sense of the people” who have said they care about the long-term health of our populace and our planet?
Finally, for your most sober deliberations of this President Elect’s qualifications and temperament, we must learn more facts of Mr. Putin’s hand in influencing the outcome of our election – and the very real possibility that this intrusion had more complicity from Mr. Trump, his campaign, and those acting on his behalf, than we have already seen. Putin, oppressively running a country with a sanctioned, suffering economy, still invested substantial resources on Trump’s win. So we can fairly presume that Putin sees a Trump presidency as benefitting his strategic objectives. This should alarm anyone who has noticed Russia’s foreign policy under Putin’s steerage – from propping Mr. Asad by attacking US supported rebel forces in Syria, instead of ISIS, to infiltrating and annexing the Crimea right after the Sochi games – much as he tried to do with Georgia’s autonomous provinces after the Beijing Olympics.
Before the election, we had a series of events whose aggregation were disturbing:
- Candidate Trump expressed admiration for the leadership style of Putin,a former KGB operative who is widely viewed to be a manipulative thug seeking to secure his power and aggrandizement at the expense of the Russian people and democracy.
- Before working as Trump’s first campaign chairman, Paul Manafort was on a black ledger found in Kiev to receive payment of $12.7 million for his services in the 2012 Presidential campaign of Viktor Yanukovych – a campaign that was later determined to be fraudulent due to vote count tampering. Manafort resigned as campaign chairmanafter that story appeared on the front page of the New York Times but the story was soon lost to the constant swirl of news around Trump. Manafort stayed on with Trump in a less visible position – but it begs asking hard questions about what other services the well-connected Mr. Manafort went on to provide.
- We saw Candidate Trump insist upon Russia-friendly positions on NATO, the Crimea, and on Syria in the GOP campaign platform even as these contradicted longstanding GOP and US policies.
- We heard and saw on TV Trump – shockingly – encourage Russian hackers to find Hillary Clinton’s lost emails saying they would be well rewarded. This was an illegal and possibly treasonous act, yet it dissipated without damaging Trump. What did that wink signal to Putin?
- We learned from the Director of National Intelligence of Mr. Putin’s cyber aggression against the DNC, DCCC, Clinton and Podesta’s emails, citing forensic and other strong intelligence evidence – that Mr. Trump has summarily dismissed even as he reaped the spoils of Putin’s aggression.
- And we learned from Dept of Homeland Security officials – as another development that quickly fell off the news radar with no answers to its highly disturbing implications – that Russia likely was also behind the hacking and probing of at least 20 state voter systems. These probes into voter registration data bases were not done frivolously or without intent. At the time of our voting, we had little awareness of this or what results it might have produced for Russia or Mr. Trump.
Since the election, the public has gained a few more elements to this story:
- Our CIA concluded that Mr. Putin’s hacking and WikiLeaks revelations were intended to increase voter doubts about Mrs. Clinton in a manner that would help secure Mr. Trump’s win.
- Putin’s cyber warriors were identified by Washington Post-cited independent research as also supporting cyber-amplification of the poisonous “fake news” trend – helping to proliferate yet more vicious lies, memes, and propaganda specifically against Mrs. Clinton and to the benefit of Mr. Trump.
- Putin’s spokesman confirmed – right after the election – that the Kremlin had indeed sustained contact and communication with close Trump advisors during the entire campaign. Electors: What earthly reason would explain a US presidential campaign consulting regularly with the Kremlin?
What we have so far from Mr. Trump himself on this critical issue only raises more questions:
- Trump’s continued refusal to release his tax returns. We already know from just a few pages of those returns that for nearly two decades, Trump has paid no federal taxes. It is long past due for seeing those tax returns and determining what else is in them. What outstanding loans might he have from foreign banks? In what countries might he be invested? To whom might Trump be beholden? Why is he so determined to keep this from the American public? Electors: Given what we have learned so far about Mr. Trump and his extensive foreign business obligations – please consider the risk of elevating this man to the Presidency without the chance of seeing his tax returns. Without that, the country remains in the dark about those extensive foreign dealings and their potential impact on Mr. Trump’s political decision-making.
- Refusal to accept the conclusions of the world’s best intelligence establishment that Russia was behind the DNC hacking. To the contrary Mr. Trump has responded by publicly demeaning and ridiculing the intelligence community – to including eschewing as unneeded, getting a regular daily intelligence briefing as Presidents of the last 60 years have done Electors: What and who is Mr. Trump trying to protect in rejecting this assessment? What does this presage about his regard of intelligence support versus acting on his own thin knowledge and impulses?
- Trump’s denial of any sustained relationship or obligation to Mr. Putin or Russia have been proven false against the facts of a thirty year relationship as described by his own sons, investigations by the Washington Post, New York Times and detailed by the Dworkin report. He is known to have had many business dealings with Russian oligarchs, some of whom own space in Trump towers. Electors: What is Trump trying to hide behind his false denials to the public about his dealings with Mr Putin?
- We’ve seen a pattern of Mr. Trump’s Cabinet and Administration appointments having extensive ties and business dealings with Mr. Putin; Steve Bannon, Lt. General Flynn, Rex Tillerson. Aside from the obvious implications regarding a far more Russia friendly US government, one could ask if Trump is also “stacking the deck” of our government to prevent truthful answers to these critical questions from ever seeing the light of day.
Our government’s initiating a Congressionally-bi-partisan supported investigation of Mr. Putin’s cyber aggression against our democratic institutions could not be more important. These investigations certainly must determine whether Putin’s hand went even further beyond proliferating propaganda and leaks to harm Trump’s opponent than we already realized. They must also drill all the way down to determine any Russian hand inside those state precincts which were pivotal to Electoral College totals – states where exit polling – famously accurate – showed solid leads for Clinton, even as Trump won their computerized tallies by “just enough.”
Alongside those questions, we must determine the full measure of Mr. Trump’s dealings with and potential obligations to Mr. Putin. Given his persistent pattern of fabrication, we cannot accept Trump’s summary dismissals. To the contrary, the nation must know Trump’s motives for so bluntly rejecting the CIA’s evidence and forensic-based conclusions, without offering any evidence of his own. Until these questions are answered fully and truthfully, no one should be comfortable casting a vote that would elevate Mr. Trump to the Oval Office.
Electors, we – must – pause the process of normalizing and validating this particular President Elect. Even in the unlikely event that our government’s full ongoing investigations fail to reveal deeper tampering or anything else new, what we already know is damning enough. A fair election cannot be one that has helping hands from a foreign adversary who is bent on weakening our nation that the candidate himself encouraged. And who through intrusive cyber aggression, hacks into our election process with a reach not yet fully determined, and who abetted the winning candidate in propagating divisive propaganda and flagrant lying beyond all bounds of decency. That is not, and cannot become, who we are.
The foundation of our nation – our ‘greatness’ – is rooted in the unifying belief amongst our diverse citizenry and institutions in basic honesty and truth being the basis for informed choices. This is a luxury that we in America have enjoyed over the past 250 years. Our long culture of valuing truth is now under grave attack by cyber-amplified poisons and propaganda that both Putin and Trump have, whether in parallel or collaboration, flooded into the mainstreams of our election cycle and political discourse.
We’ve seen from afar, dictatorships using propaganda, lies and demagoguery as their choice weapons to self-aggrandize and grip their power – something that could “never happen here.” Perhaps our long, heretofore good fortune has left us innocent to the potential of such brazen lies and propaganda to pollute the shared ideals that are the beating heart of our own political system. This election, with its foreign hacking and its cyber-amplified mega doses of all this poison, up close, at home, has shown that it can indeed ‘happen here.’ It is frightening to see the fragility of our ideals against these dark forces; it is terrifying to see how many of our fellow citizens are willing to accept vicious memes and statements proven to be lies, and to see our lofty ideals gasping to survive the worst kind of subversion such propaganda can inflict.
Let us unite in defying such subversion and all its purveyors with a clear eye to how much this matters. Before validating this President Elect, let us learn the full truth about Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin. Valuing and pursuing the truth will always be the sharpest, most potent weapon for keeping us clear that we are diverse citizens of one nation. We are one nation, unified by a grand idea that must prevail over dictators who seek our undoing – and ultimately, over any liars or demagogues who collude with or defend them. Electors: Before validating this man as our next President, please pause for the chance to learn more facts to tell us what really happened in this election, and to help judge whether Donald Trump is truly “endowed to an eminent degree with the requisite qualifications” to lead and heal our Nation as a beacon to the world.