Cohen claims Trump knew in advance of 2016 Trump Tower meeting

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Cohen claims Trump knew in advance of 2016 Trump Tower meeting

(CNN)Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, claims that then-candidate Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower in which Russians were expected to offer his campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton, sources with knowledge tell CNN. Cohen is willing to make that assertion to special counsel Robert Mueller, the sources said.

Cohen’s claim would contradict repeated denials by Trump, Donald Trump Jr., their lawyers and other administration officials who have said that the President knew nothing about the Trump Tower meeting until he was approached about it by The New York Times in July 2017.
Cohen alleges that he was present, along with several others, when Trump was informed of the Russians’ offer by Trump Jr. By Cohen’s account, Trump approved going ahead with the meeting with the Russians, according to sources.
To be clear, these sources said Cohen does not have evidence, such as audio recordings, to corroborate his claim, but he is willing to attest to his account.
Cohen privately testified last year to two Congressional committees investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. A source familiar with Cohen’s House testimony said he did not testify that Trump had advance knowledge. Cohen’s claims weren’t mentioned in separate reports issued by Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee.
Contacted by CNN, one of Cohen’s attorneys, Lanny Davis, declined to comment.
“He’s been lying all week, he’s been lying for years,” said Rudy Giuliani, the President’s attorney, to Chris Cuomo on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” on Thursday night.
He added, “I don’t see how he’s got any credibility.”
Giuliani also said Cohen is “the kind of witness that can really destroy your whole case” and called Cohen, who was a top Trump Organization attorney for a decade, a “pathological liar.”
“Donald Trump Jr. has been professional and responsible throughout the Mueller and Congressional investigations,” said Alan Futerfas, an attorney for Donald Trump Jr. “We are very confident of the accuracy and reliability of the information that has been provided by Mr. Trump, Jr., and on his behalf.”
According to people who have discussed the matter with Cohen, he has expressed hope that this claim about the Trump Tower meeting will help him reach out to Mueller and possibly lessen his legal troubles. He’s under scrutiny by federal prosecutors in Manhattan after Mueller referred Cohen’s case to them.
The June 2016 meeting was arranged after a publicist who knew Trump Jr. told him in emails — in no uncertain terms — that a senior Russian official “offered to provide the Trump campaign” with damaging information about Clinton, and that the outreach was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” At the time, the Russian operation to covertly boost Trump’s candidacy wasn’t publicly known. Trump. Jr. responded, “if it’s what you say, I love it,” and started to arrange the meeting.
At the meeting, Trump Jr. was joined by his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman at the time. There were four Russians in the room, including a lawyer with Kremlin ties, a businessman who worked for an oligarch and a lobbyist with old KGB connections.
After news of the meeting broke in July 2017, the Trump team offered misleading explanations and changed their story several times. But one claim stayed consistent: that Trump had no knowledge of the meeting beforehand, wasn’t told about it afterward and first learned about it one year later.
Those denials were repeatedly issued by Trump, his attorney Jay Sekulow, Trump Jr., Futerfas and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. Those people denied that Trump had contemporaneous knowledge of the meeting on more than 15 occasions, according to CNN’s analysis.
Trump said on July 12, 2017, that he “only heard about it two or three days ago.” One week later, Trump repeated that he “didn’t know anything about the meeting” because “nobody told me” about it.
Around that same time, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Sekulow to confirm Trump’s claims that he only recently learned about the controversial meeting. Sekulow’s response: “Yes, I swear.”
But perhaps the highest-stakes denial was given by Trump Jr. in his testimony last year to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“He wasn’t aware of it,” Trump Jr. told lawmakers, referring to his father’s knowledge of the meeting. “And, frankly, by the time anyone was aware of it, which was summer of this year, as I stated earlier, I wouldn’t have wanted to get him involved in it because it had nothing to do with him.”
Trump’s critics have long doubted these denials. They point to a series of phone calls Trump Jr. made to a blocked phone number before and after the meeting. They also note that two days before the meeting, Trump mysteriously announced plans to give a “major speech” about Clinton’s scandals. Trump Jr. says he didn’t get any dirt at the meeting — and the speech never happened.
Even Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist and top Trump campaign official, said the meeting was “treasonous” and speculated that “the chance that Don Jr. did not walk these (Russians) up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero.” Trump Jr. has denied Bannon’s allegation. Bannon’s comments, to author Michael Wolff for his book “Fire and Fury,” triggered the bitter public divorce between Bannon and Trump in early 2018.
Axios reported that Bannon does not have first-hand knowledge about whether Trump Jr. told his father, and Bannon later said his “treasonous” remark was directed at Manafort and not Trump Jr.
Update: This story has been updated with more comments by Rudy Giuliani.

12 Russian Indictments For Hacking Clinton Campaign: How Much Did Trump Know?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGLES TIMES NEWSPAPER)

 

Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein outlines a new indictment Friday against alleged Russian hacks into Hillary Clinton campaign accounts.
Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein outlines a new indictment Friday against alleged Russian hacks into Hillary Clinton campaign accounts. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Then-candidate Donald J. Trump said he was just joking in July 2016 when he called on Russia to “find the 30,000 emails” that Hillary Clinton had not turned over to State Department investigators, ostensibly because they were personal correspondence and not government business.

Now that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has obtained indictments against 12 Russian intelligence officers in connection with hacking into multiple Clinton campaign-related email accounts in the four previous months, it puts Trump’s comments in a different light.

The indictment alleges that the Russian agents broke into accounts for the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and various volunteers and employees at Clinton’s campaign — including the email account of her campaign chairman, John Podesta. It goes into some detail on how it identified the responsible parties, adding weight to the allegations.

The agents are not accused of hacking Clinton’s private email server, which isn’t surprising. Although former FBI director James Comey said in 2016 that the server could have been hacked by a hostile government, FBI investigators later told the agency’s inspector general that they were “fairly confident” the server was not compromised.

Regardless, emails taken from the DNC account started leaking in June 2016 at the site DCLeaks, then the following month from WikiLeaks. A hacker using the moniker Guccifer 2.0 — later linked by security experts to Russia — claimed credit for the leaks, but others did too, leaving the culprits unclear. Bear in mind that much of the discussion of the leaks centered on the DNC’s apparent favoritism for Clinton over her main rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). So while there were suspicions about Russia, the precise motives behind the leaks were hard to divine.

That’s the backdrop for Trump’s remarks. And now one has to wonder, just how much did he know about what Russia was actually doing?

In an editorial The Times ran shortly after Trump’s remarks, we noted the spin applied by Trump’s campaign:

“A spokesman for the Trump campaign later insisted that ‘Mr. Trump did not call on, or invite, Russia or anyone else to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.’ Instead, Jason Miller suggested, Trump was saying the Russians already had the data because Clinton’s server wasn’t secure.”

Or maybe Trump was saying the Russians probably had the data because he knew they’d grabbed so much else from Clinton’s campaign.

The White House responded with a statement from Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters: “Today’s charges include no allegations of knowing involvement by anyone on the campaign and no allegations that the alleged hacking affected the election result. This is consistent with what we have been saying all along.”

Umm, Roger Stone?

CIA: Top Russian Officials Discussed How to Influence Trump Aides Last Summer

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Paul Manafort, then the Trump campaign chairman, at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July. CreditWin McNamee/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers, according to three current and former American officials familiar with the intelligence.

The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael T. Flynn, a retired general who was advising Mr. Trump, the officials said. Both men had indirect ties to Russian officials, who appeared confident that each could be used to help shape Mr. Trump’s opinions on Russia.

Some Russians boasted about how well they knew Mr. Flynn. Others discussed leveraging their ties to Viktor F. Yanukovych, the deposed president of Ukraine living in exile in Russia, who at one time had worked closely with Mr. Manafort.

The intelligence was among the clues — which also included information about direct communications between Mr. Trump’s advisers and Russian officials — that American officials received last year as they began investigating Russian attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of Mr. Trump’s associates were assisting Moscow in the effort. Details of the conversations, some of which have not been previously reported, add to an increasing understanding of the alarm inside the American government last year about the Russian disruption campaign.

The information collected last summer was considered credible enough for intelligence agencies to pass to the F.B.I., which during that period opened a counterintelligence investigation that is continuing. It is unclear, however, whether Russian officials actually tried to directly influence Mr. Manafort and Mr. Flynn. Both have denied any collusion with the Russian government on the campaign to disrupt the election.

John O. Brennan, the former director of the C.I.A., testified Tuesday about a tense period last year when he came to believe that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was trying to steer the outcome of the election. He said he saw intelligence suggesting that Russia wanted to use Trump campaign officials, wittingly or not, to help in that effort. He spoke vaguely about contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials, without giving names, saying they “raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals.”

Whether the Russians worked directly with any Trump advisers is one of the central questions that federal investigators, now led by Robert S. Mueller III, the newly appointed special counsel, are seeking to answer. President Trump, for his part, has dismissed talk of Russian interference in the election as “fake news,” insisting there was no contact between his campaign and Russian officials.

“If there ever was any effort by Russians to influence me, I was unaware, and they would have failed,” Mr. Manafort said in a statement. “I did not collude with the Russians to influence the elections.”

The White House, F.B.I. and C.I.A. declined to comment. Mr. Flynn’s lawyer did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The current and former officials agreed to discuss the intelligence only on the condition of anonymity because much of it remains highly classified, and they could be prosecuted for disclosing it.

Last week, CNN reported about intercepted phone calls during which Russian officials were bragging about ties to Mr. Flynn and discussing ways to wield influence over him.

In his congressional testimony, Mr. Brennan discussed the broad outlines of the intelligence, and his disclosures backed up the accounts of the information provided by the current and former officials.

“I was convinced in the summer that the Russians were trying to interfere in the election. And they were very aggressive,” Mr. Brennan said. Still, he said, even at the end of the Obama administration he had “unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons, involved in the campaign or not, to work on their behalf again either in a witting or unwitting fashion.”

Mr. Brennan’s testimony offered the fullest public account to date of how American intelligence agencies first came to fear that Mr. Trump’s campaign might be aiding Russia’s attack on the election.

By early summer, American intelligence officials already were fairly certain that it was Russian hackers who had stolen tens of thousands of emails from the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. That in itself was not viewed as particularly extraordinary by the Americans — foreign spies had hacked previous campaigns, and the United States does the same in elections around the world, officials said. The view on the inside was that collecting information, even through hacking, is what spies do.

But the concerns began to grow when intelligence began trickling in about Russian officials weighing whether they should release stolen emails and other information to shape American opinion — to, in essence, weaponize the materials stolen by hackers.

An unclassified report by American intelligence agencies released in January stated that Mr. Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election.”

Before taking the helm of the Trump campaign last May, Mr. Manafort worked for more than a decade for Russian-leaning political organizations and people in Ukraine, including Mr. Yanukovych, the former president. Mr. Yanukovych was a close ally of Mr. Putin.

Mr. Manafort’s links to Ukraine led to his departure from the Trump campaign in August, after his name surfaced in secret ledgers showing millions in undisclosed payments from Mr. Yanukovych’s political party.

Russia views Ukraine as a buffer against the eastward expansion of NATO, and has supported separatists in their years long fight against the struggling democratic government in Kiev.

Mr. Flynn’s ties to Russian officials stretch back to his time at the Defense Intelligence Agency, which he led from 2012 to 2014. There, he began pressing for the United States to cultivate Russia as an ally in the fight against Islamist militants, and even spent a day in Moscow at the headquarters of the G.R.U., the Russian military intelligence service, in 2013.

He continued to insist that Russia could be an ally even after Moscow’s seizure of Crimea the following year, and Obama administration officials have said that contributed to their decision to push him out of the D.I.A.

But in private life, Mr. Flynn cultivated even closer ties to Russia. In 2015, he earned more than $65,000 from companies linked to Russia, including a cargo airline implicated in a bribery scheme involving Russian officials at the United Nations, and an American branch of a cybersecurity firm believed to have ties to Russia’s intelligence services.

The biggest payment, though, came from RT, the Kremlin-financed news network. It paid Mr. Flynn $45,000 to give a speech in Moscow, where he also attended the network’s lavish anniversary dinner. There, he was photographed sitting next to Mr. Putin.

A senior lawmaker said on Monday that Mr. Flynn misled Pentagon investigators about how he was paid for the Moscow trip. He also failed to disclose the source of that income on a security form he was required to complete before joining the White House, according to congressional investigators.

American officials have also said there were multiple telephone calls between Mr. Flynn and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, on Dec. 29, beginning shortly after Mr. Kislyak was summoned to the State Department and informed that, in retaliation for Russian election meddling, the United States was expelling 35 people suspected of being Russian intelligence operatives and imposing other sanctions.

American intelligence agencies routinely tap the phones of Russian diplomats, and transcripts of the calls showed that Mr. Flynn urged the Russians not to respond, saying relations would improve once Mr. Trump was in office, officials have said.

But after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of the calls, Mr. Flynn was fired as national security adviser after a tumultuous 25 days in office.

U.S. needs to stop Russian electoral interference, NSA’s top civilian leader says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

U.S. needs to stop Russian electoral interference, NSA’s top civilian leader says

March 25 at 6:48 PM
The U.S. government has not figured out how to deter the Russians from meddling in democratic processes, and stopping their interference in elections, both here and in Europe, is a pressing problem, the top civilian leader of the National Security Agency said.The NSA was among the intelligence agencies that concluded that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin ordered a cyber-enabled influence campaign in 2016 aimed at undermining confidence in the election, harming Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and helping elect GOP nominee Donald Trump.“This is a challenge to the foundations of our democracy,” said NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett, 58, who is retiring at the end of April, in an interview at Fort Meade, Md., the agency’s headquarters. “It’s the sanctity of our process, of evaluating and looking at candidates, and having accurate information about the candidates. So the idea that another nation-state is [interfering with that] is a pretty big deal and something we need to figure out. How do we counter that? How do we identify that it’s happening — in real-time as opposed to after the fact? And what do we do as a nation to make it stop?”The lack of answers, he said, “as an American citizen . . . gives me a lot of heartburn.”

Ledgett, known as a straight-shooting, unflappable intelligence professional, began his NSA career in 1988 teaching cryptanalysis — how to crack codes — and rose to become the agency’s top civilian leader . The NSA, with 35,000 civilian and military employees, gathers intelligence on foreign targets overseas through wiretaps and increasingly by cyberhacking. Its other mission is to secure the government computers that handle classified information and other data critical to military and intelligence activities.

Asked whether the NSA had any inkling that the Kremlin was going to orchestrate the release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails last July, he demurred. “I actually don’t want to talk about that.”

At the same time, he said, what Moscow did was “no strategic surprise.” Rather, “what may have been a tactical surprise was that they would do it the way they did.”

Campaigns of propaganda and disinformation, dating back to the Soviet Union, have long been a staple of the Kremlin’s foreign policy. Now, however, it is making effective use of its hacking prowess to weaponize information and combine it with its influence operations, or what intelligence officials call “active measures.”

“In general, if you’re responding to nation-state actions like that, you have to find out what are the levers that will move the nation-state actors and are you able and willing to pull those levers?” said Ledgett when asked how the United States should respond.

The Obama administration slapped economic sanctions on two Russian spy agencies involved in hacking the DNC, three companies believed to have provided support for government cyber operations, and four Russian cyber officials. The administration also ordered 35 Russian operatives to leave the United States and shut down Russian-owned facilities on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and on Long Island believed to have been used for intelligence purposes.

Yet, intelligence officials including NSA Director Michael S. Rogers and FBI Director James B. Comey said on Monday that they believe Moscow will strike again — in 2020, if not in 2018.

So should the government mull other options, such as hacking Russian officials’ emails or financial records and releasing them in a bid to embarrass or show corruption? “I think every element of national power is something we should consider,” he said. “That would probably fall under something like a covert action. But if that’s the right answer, that’s the right answer.”

Ledgett is probably most well-known for leading the agency task force that handled the fallout from the leaks of classified information by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013. The disclosures prompted a national and global debate about the proper scope of government surveillance and led Congress to pass some reforms, including the outlawing of bulk collection of Americans’ phone metadata.

But the disclosures also caused great upheaval in NSA’s collection efforts, hurt morale, and damaged relations with allies and with tech firms that enable court-ordered surveillance, Ledgett said. “It was a terrible time for the agency,” he said.

He oversaw the probe of the internal breach; relations with Congress, the White House, foreign governments and the press; and the effort to prevent a recurrence. “There was a bit of a narrative on the outside about this evil agency that hoovered up all the communications in the world and rooted through them for things that were interesting, and that wasn’t actually true.”

The operational hit was significant, he said. More than 1,000 foreign targets — whether a person or a group or an organization — altered or attempted to alter their means of communications as a result of the disclosures, he said. They “tried with varying degrees of success to remove themselves from our ability to see what they were doing,” he said.

The agency, which has some 200 stations worldwide, reworked capabilities including virtually all of its hacking tools. “In some cases, we had to do things very differently” to gather the same foreign intelligence as before.

Raj De, a former NSA general counsel, said Ledgett was relied on heavily by both Rogers and Rogers’s predecessor, Keith B. Alexander. “He has really been a source of steadiness for the agency,” said De, now head of the Cybersecurity & Data Privacy practice at Mayer Brown, a global law firm. “What is particularly notable about Rick is his willingness to engage with all types of people, to keep an open mind.”

In December 2013, Alexander, when he was the NSA director, said that Snowden should be given no amnesty. But Ledgett told CBS’s “60 Minutes” then that “my personal view is yes, it’s worth having a conversation about.”

In his interview earlier this week, however, he said what he meant was that by engaging Snowden in conversation, the agency might have been able to learn what material had not been released and where it was.

Today, he said, there is no longer any need to talk to Snowden. “He’s past his usefulness to us.” Snowden, who is living in Moscow under a grant of asylum, has been charged with violating the Espionage Act, and Ledgett said he should not be pardoned. “I’ve always been of the idea that ‘Hey, I think he needs to face the music for what he did.’ ”

Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Monday The 19th: 538 ‘Electors’ Decide Who America’s Next President Is

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

In last-shot bid, thousands urge electoral college to block Trump at Monday vote

December 17 at 6:38 PM
Pressure on members of the country’s electoral college to select someone other than Donald Trump has grown dramatically — and noisily — in recent weeks, causing some to waver, but yielding little evidence Trump will fall short when electors convene in most state capitals Monday to cast their votes.Carole Joyce of Arizona expected her role as a GOP elector to be pretty simple: She would meet the others in Phoenix and carry out a vote for Trump, who won the most votes in her state and whom she personally supported.

But then came the mail and the emails and the phone calls — first hundreds, then thousands of voters worrying Trump’s impulsive nature would lead the country into another war.

“Honestly, it had an impact,” said Joyce, a 72-year-old Republican state committeewoman. “I’ve seen enough funerals. I’m tired of hearing bagpipes. . . . But I signed a loyalty pledge. And that matters.”

Such is the life these days for many of the 538 men and women who are scheduled to meet Monday across the country to carry out what has traditionally been a perfunctory vote after most every presidential election.

The role of elector has intensified this year, in the wake of a bitter election in which Trump lost the popular vote by a margin of nearly 3  million and a secret CIA assessment revealed that Russia interfered to help Trump get elected.

Amid the uncertainty caused by Russian influence, 10 electors — nine Democrats and one Republican — asked for an intelligence briefing to get more information about Moscow’s role. Their request was endorsed by John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager.

“The administration should brief members of the electoral college on the extent and manner of Russia’s interference in our election before they vote on Dec. 19,” Podesta wrote Thursday in a Washington Post op-ed.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said Friday evening that it would not brief the electors, because it is engaged in a presidentially ordered review of the Russian interference. “Once the review is complete in the coming weeks, the intelligence community stands ready to brief Congress” and may release findings, the ODNI said in a statement posted to its website.

Meanwhile, Joyce and the other 305 Republican electors who are supposed to cast their votes for Trump have been subject to intense campaigns orchestrated by anti-Trump forces to convince them that they alone can block the reality television star from the White House.

Others have targeted Democratic electors, who are supposed to cast votes for Hillary Clinton, to persuade them to switch to a more conventional Republican who could also draw enough support from GOP electors to swoop into office.

While there is little sign the efforts will prove successful, the push has unleashed intense pressure on individual electors, who have now been thrust into a sometimes uncomfortable spotlight.

Joyce has received emails from “Benjamin Franklin” and “John Jay” — and a Christmas card that read: “Please, in the name of God, don’t vote for Trump.”

The rancor about the role of electors started early in the campaign. In August, Baoky Vu, a GOP activist in Atlanta, said he planned to resign from the job because he was so morally opposed to Trump. He planned to defer his voting responsibility to someone more willing — an alternate who would be put in place Monday.

After the election, Vu started getting phone calls and emails asking him not to resign. He was asked instead to consider joining a coalition of electors hoping to vote against Trump. He declined.

“I don’t think we should drag this election out any longer,” Vu said. “And can you imagine if the electors overturned the results? If we attempt to change them in anyway, you’ve got these far-right elements that are just going to go haywire.”

Mark Hersch, a 60-year-old Chicago-based marketing strategist, joined a group known as the Hamilton Electors, who have been organizing efforts to contact electors and change their minds. Before the election, Hersch said, the most political activism he had ever undertaken was planting a yard sign.

He said he believes the goal to deny Trump seems reachable if not probable. Rather than persuade an entire country, he and his allies must find 37 Republicans willing to vote for someone else, a tipping point at which the responsibility of picking the president would shift to the U.S. House of Representatives. No one knows for sure how many are considering alternate votes; estimates vary from one to 25.

The GOP-controlled House could vote for Trump anyway, but those trying to flip voters say there is still value in taking a stand. Hersch said he was inspired to continue to flip electors by the movie “300,” which depicts ancient Sparta’s war against a Persian army that outnumbered them 1,000 to one.

“I would like to think we would be successful, but if not, we need to do all we could to prevent this man from being president,” he said. Then he modified a line from the movie: “Prepare your breakfast, and eat hearty, for tonight, we will go to battle. This isn’t 300, but 538.”

That “battle” has intensified as electors draw closer to their convening Monday. Joyce was getting 15 letters a day and 300 emails in the days after Nov. 8, but those numbers quickly increased to 50 and 3,000. Some of them have been form letters, others handwritten.

The letters came from Washington state and from China, stuffed with copies of the U.S. Constitution or Alexander Hamilton’s writing in Federalist Paper No. 68, which states that the meeting of the electoral college “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.”

On Thursday, Joyce received so many letters that the letter carrier just gave her a U.S. Postal Service bucket filled to the brim.

“I’m sorry this is happening to you,” Joyce recalled the letter carrier saying in a phone interview. While some electors have complained of harassment, Joyce shrugged off the mail and placed it all on a sofa decorated with American flag pillows.

“This is America,” she said, adding that most of the messages were thoughtful. “People have a right to say what they want.”

On Friday, she said, her emails became more positive. The messages were from Republicans, thanking her for taking Trump to the finish line of an arduous process.

“How refreshing!” she said.

Although some Democrats (who have in the past five elections lost two in which they won the popular vote) and even Trump himself have questioned the necessity of the electoral college, many opposing Trump have said this election proves just how important it is.

Norman Eisen, a former ambassador to the Czech Republic who served as legal counsel to both the Bush and Obama administrations, began telephoning electors to explain that their job is not necessarily to certify the results, but to have a reasonable discussion over whether the public made the right decision.

For instance, Eisen, who focused on government ethics in Obama’s White House, noted that Trump could be violating a clause in the Constitution that prevents presidents from receiving gifts and funds from foreign governments; it is unclear whether his businesses do because he has not publicly disclosed his tax returns.

In Massachusetts, Republican operative and attorney R.J. Lyman said he didn’t want to harass anyone, so he used his connections to find electors who were willing to chat about the lessons he learned in American history class and at the dinner table. He became one of the few people in America more willing to talk about Hamilton the man than about “Hamilton: An American Musical.”

The electoral college, he said he tells them, was “not intended to be a rubber stamp.” Otherwise, he said, the Founding Fathers would have tasked the responsibility to a clerk or simply used the popular vote as a way of choosing a president.

“I’m reminding them of their duty to think about their choice in a way that’s consistent with their conscience and the Constitution,” Lyman said.

So far, Lyman said, he has identified 20 electors who might be willing to vote “other than their party pledge.” He couldn’t name more than one publicly but insisted that more were out there.

Earlier this month, Chris Suprun of Texas became the first Republican elector in a red state that voted for Trump to declare, in a Dec. 5 New York Times column, that he would not cast his electoral vote for Trump. Suprun voted for Cruz in the primary and said he left behind his wallet on Election Day and thus did not vote in the general.

Nonetheless, Suprun said, he was willing to vote for Trump in the electoral college until the candidate claimed with no evidence that millions of Clinton supporters voted illegally. Suprun’s public stance has elicited death threats and hate mail, he said.

“As of yesterday, people are calling to say, ‘Get your ass together, or we’re coming for you,’ ” said Suprun, who was the sole Republican elector to ask for an intelligence briefing on Russia. “They are doing it with their own phone number, not even blocking the number. That’s not been surprising — look at what Trump says himself.”

Vinz Koller, a Democratic elector from Monterey County, Calif., said he read Suprun’s column and started thinking about his own role in the college. It inspired him to support a new theory: If he could persuade other Democrats to abandon their Clinton votes, perhaps he and Republicans could agree on a more conventional choice — a la Ohio governor and failed candidate John Kasich — to vote for over Trump.

The plan seemed unlikely, he said, but Trump’s candidacy unsettled him so much that he felt he needed to try anything. California is one of 29 states that mandate electors vote for the candidate who won the state, so Koller sued them to continue his plan.

“Frankly, this is hard and not something I do lightly,” he said. “I’ve been working in partisan politics a long time, and I don’t like voting against my candidate, but I never thought that the country might be unstable until now.”

On Thursday evening, he found himself in the Library of Congress. Strolling through its stacks, Koller sought a librarian with one request: Can I see the original Federalist Papers?

He looked to see Federalist No. 68, written by Hamilton to describe the need for the electoral college.

“We have been getting a civic lesson we weren’t prepared to get,” Koller said. “They gave us the fail-safe emergency brake, in case the people got it wrong. And here we are, 200 years later. It’s the last shot we have.”

Ellen Nakashima contributed to this report.

Emma Matthews

Diary of a young conservationist

sonokotchi

Welcome to Sonokotchi World

Táo Jo Travel

#conTáođiên

JenjalanKami

Sharing The Love Of Travel, Food & Movies

Travel with Karla

the teacher who loves to travel

The Kapampangan Traveller

Tips, techniques and hacks in exploring the PHILIPPINES, one province at a time

Writer's Treasure Chest

A blog for authors, about authors, written by an author

Exclusivito

Al-Critic, Al-Connoisseur

%d bloggers like this: