Barton Gellman Goes to the Very Dark Place in Contemplating Election Meltdowns

His Atlantic piece is called “How Trump Could Attempt a Coup”:

In public, Biden and his senior advisers profess full confidence in the electoral system to work as it always has. Every vote will be counted, they say, and the winner will be sworn in on January 20—end of story.

Behind the scenes, they are preparing for the worst. A special working group of high-powered lawyers led by three former solicitors general—Walter Dellinger; Donald B. Verrilli Jr.; and a recent addition, Seth Waxman—has overseen a massive planning exercise for rapid responses to dozens of scenarios in which Trump tries to interfere with the normal functioning of the election. Thousands of pages of legal analysis, according to an authoritative campaign source, have been boiled down into “template pleadings” for at least 49 predrafted emergency motions in state or federal court. The campaign will be ready on an hour’s notice to file for a temporary restraining order in any case it has thus far been able to anticipate.

“There’s no question that the Biden campaign has worked through every imaginable scenario and is certainly prepared—legally, at least—for any of these possibilities,” says Richard H. Pildes, a constitutional-law professor at NYU. Nothing Trump might do “would surprise the enormous legal team they’ve created to deal with twists and turns in the election. I assure you they’ve thought of more scenarios than the media would ever get to.”

The Biden team says it is ready even for scenarios it is sure will “never happen, and we’re not worried about it,” a Biden-campaign lawyer told me. “There have been a couple of lawsuits challenging Kamala Harris’s eligibility to be vice president,” he said. “Do we have stuff on that? Yeah. Do I think we have to worry about it? Absolutely not.”…

Most election-law experts I talked with expressed deep skepticism of this scenario.

“The kinds of things you’re talking about are the kinds of things that would lead to rioting in the streets,” said Richard L. Hasen, a professor at the UC Irvine School of Law. “Now we’ve truly crossed into banana-republic territory.”

Maybe rioting is just what Trump would want in order to validate the deployment, I observed.

“You’re one of the few people I know who’s darker than I am,” Hasen replied.

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