Donald Trump officially won Michigan on Monday, but recounts in that state as well as in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are still on the horizon. Green Party candidate Jill Stein has indicated that she will contest the results in those states, and the Clinton campaign will participate in at least the Wisconsin recount, though the campaign has made it clear that it would not have initiated the recount had Stein not already done so. On the latest episode of Keepin’ It 1600, Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor, and Jon Lovett explain why the recount shouldn’t be considered a glimmer of hope for Democrats — and what the potential fallout of the decision could be given Trump’s seeming fascination with the popular vote on Twitter.
Click here to listen to the entire episode. This transcript has been edited and condensed.
The Recount Won’t Change Anything
Jon Favreau: For the recount, he won Michigan by 10,000 votes, Wisconsin by about 21,000, and Pennsylvania by now about 70,000. These are not tiny margins. And I think just about every recount in history has only changed votes by like 200 or so votes either way. So the chances of this overturning all three states are infinitesimal, which is why the Clinton campaign did not pursue it in the first place. They did not think anything was rigged. They did not think anything was untoward about the election result. But Stein decides to go ahead and petition for the recount. [And] she gets it.
So the Clinton campaign says, OK, since this is happening, we’re going to have a lawyer in the court proceedings just to monitor this whole thing because we should have a representative there. So that’s basically what happens.
But Trump Seems to Be Taking It Personally
J.F.: Trump decides to go on a tweetstorm multiple times throughout yesterday, finally concluding in one where he said, “I would have won the popular vote,” which he’s now behind by about 2.5 million votes. “I would have won the popular vote were it not for the millions of people who voted illegally.”
So [he’s] just throwing out an accusation of voter fraud. No evidence whatsoever. Just lying. Basically just the information from Alex Jones’s Infowars site, which got the information from a random tweet which the guy [who tweeted it] has since deleted. That’s how far this went.
So PolitiFact found the guy and was like, “What’s the deal? You deleted your tweet.” And he goes, “Uh, I’m doing some research. I’ll get back to you.”
This is it. This is for the allegation that the next president of the United States used that 3 million people voted illegally. I mean, fucking unreal.
Democrats Should Focus Their Efforts Elsewhere
Tommy Vietor: Jill Stein is a charlatan, right, and she’s raising a ton of money and getting a lot of email addresses. But I really hate that she’s leading this thing. I worry about the money being invested [and] the emotional energy being invested in this project. It’s very unlikely to overturn the results and God forbid it did overturn the result. What would come next? I’m not saying we should accept an incorrect election result, but could you even imagine? It does feel like we would be better served focusing our efforts on blocking appointments or protecting Obama’s legacy or whatever the next thing might be.
Jon Lovett: Or winning an election in Louisiana.
T.V.: Yeah. That said, when Donald Trump goes this nuts about it, that’s the first thing that made me wonder whether we should go for it. I wonder if he knows something and is worried.
Making a Big Deal Over This Could Backfire on Trump
J.F.: Yeah, I mean, again. We started talking about this at the beginning, but trying to figure out what has gone on in that adult mind of Donald Trump’s on why he tweeted these things. Was it strategy? Was it not? Was it him being whiny? Did something random set it off? Who the fuck knows? We may never know. I’m totally willing to buy into the fact that it was just impulse, because that’s what he does.
The effect of him tweeting this is certainly that his supporters will be riled up. [Clinton’s] supporters, us, we got riled up, and it will further deepen the divisions that happen after the election. And it also helps him show that the mainstream media is crooked, that everything is biased against him, and that further enrages his supporters. So whether he intended this result or not, the result is here, and it helps him.
T.V.: I am hopeful. I am hopeful … that tweeting things like, you know, “3 million people illegally voted against me and I would have won the popular vote,” is going to strike most of the American people as weird and whiny. And I do think that flaring up over these sorts of things and having these Twitter meltdowns is going to really hurt his approval over time and that might be a net benefit for people who want to block him on more substantive matters.
Voter Rights Could Take the Biggest Hit
J.F.: The more serious thing here on the voting accusations is a rollback of the Voting Rights Act. Like, if he’s out there alleging voter fraud right now and Jeff Sessions, who has been a longtime opponent of voting rights, if he’s the attorney general, we’re going to have some real problems with steps and policies that are going to make it much more difficult for people to vote in the next election. And that [is something] we can really organize around and fight. And we should.
J.L.: When Trump met with [Kansas Secretary of State] Kris Kobach, if you remember, under [Kobach’s] arm was a sheet of paper … but it was this list of agenda items, and some of them related to voter fraud and restricting the right to vote, and it’s very clear that this is a big item.
T.V.: That moment really led me to further believe Elon Musk’s take that we’re in a simulation, because it feel a little too much like the part in the movie where the bad guy tells the good guy his entire plot for no real reason because he thinks he has it all in hand and then they save the day. So you know, fingers crossed.
But All of This Is Impossible to Combat If No One Reads the News
J.F.: I don’t know what people think anymore. I don’t know where they’re getting the news from. I don’t know what they believe. Like, if I woke up today and just decided to consume a conservative news diet and watch Fox all day and check out Infowars and check out Breitbart, I have no idea whether I’d find out that Donald Trump was lying about accusing 3 million people of voting illegally. And we’re all yelling about headlines in the mainstream media, right? But I don’t know if everyone is even consuming the mainstream media. It’s bad, guys, it’s bad.
J.L.: We’re through the looking glass, people.
J.F.: Through the looking glass.
T.V.: And the movie hasn’t even started. It’s still the previews.