Will Electors Get Briefings On Russian Hacking Allegations? Unlikely But So Was This Entire Election
With growing concern and attention over how Russian interfered with the U.S. election and a Washington Post report last week saying the CIA had concluded Russia actively tried to help Donald Trump win, many members of the Electoral College are pushing to receive an elector intelligence briefing containing more information about the Russian hacking. If the briefing is created, its contents could have a significant impact on the Electoral College vote. If 37 Republican electors flip their support to Clinton or vote for another person, Trump would fail to pass the 270-vote threshold and could possibly lose the presidency, though of course such an outcome is unlikely. The group of electors — which includes many Democratic electors and one Republican — published an open letter to National Intelligence Director James Clapper, saying:
The Electors require to know from the intelligence community whether there are ongoing investigations into ties between Donald Trump, his campaign or associates, and Russian government interference in the election, the scope of those investigations, how far those investigations may have reached, and who was involved in those investigations. We further require a briefing on all investigative findings, as these matters directly impact the core factors in our deliberations of whether Mr. Trump is fit to serve as President of the United States.
The group includes Christine Pelosi, the daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and recently received explicit support from the Clinton campaign. Since the letter's publication, even more electors have signed on to the request, though the number of Republicans remains unchanged.
Whether the group's efforts to get a briefing can succeed remains to be seen.
Ultimately, though, the clock is ticking. With electors set to vote on December 19, it is unclear whether a briefing could be assembled in time or whether the electors could be given the necessary security clearance so quickly.
Law blogger Chris White of Law News indicated that the electors could get security clearance if the Director of National Intelligence and the White House were both on board with the plan; however, even this process would take a long time. The scenario that appears to be most feasible, according to White, would be if President Obama used his constitutional authority to declassify relevant information so that electors and the public alike would be able to view a summary report.
Obama has not indicated whether he will involve himself in the electors' attempts to get more information. However, he has ordered a full review of alleged Kremlin involvement which is supposed to be completed before the Jan. 20 inauguration, though not before the electors vote.
The truth, which may be disappointing for #NeverTrump advocates, is that getting an elector intelligence briefing in such a short period of time is a long shot. Moreover, even if such a briefing is released, there is a very large number of as-of-yet unconvinced Republican electors who would have to be persuaded to vote against Trump. It still seems most likely, then, that briefing or not, Trump will surpass the 270 votes he needs in the Electoral College.