President Colin Powell?
One of the most underappreciated aspects of the Electoral College vote on Monday, Dec. 19 was the fact that the third highest number of Presidential votes went to Colin Powell, who received the votes of three Washington Hamilton Electors that were committed to finding a moderate Republican unity candidate.
The 12th amendment clearly states that, in the event that the Electoral College does not declare a decisive winner with 270 votes, the selection of the President goes to the House of Representatives. If that happens, a majority of state delegations must select a President from among the three highest vote-getters.
The reason that this is important is that there is now a pathway, even if it is a long shot, to end up with a President Colin Powell instead of a President Trump. Below explains how.
On January 6th, when the joint session of Congress meets to ratify the Electoral College, it is Constitutionally permitted to have objections, provided they are in writing and are backed by one Representative and one Senator. These written objections must be to challenge specific electors. These objections are addressed, debated and finally voted upon.
So let's imagine a scenario in which there are more dramatic stories that break between now and January 6th in one or more of the following areas:
Evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the FBI around the Comey memo, which had a big effect on the final stage of the race. Here's an article that summarizes current evidence in a compelling way: Bigger than Watergate?
Evidence of election vulnerabilities that were not previously discovered before the Electoral College vote and could account for some of the statistically improbable "red shift" (difference between unadjusted exit polling and final votes, towards the Republican candidates), which was 3% nationally and higher in some key swing states. See a statistical analysis here.
Public debate and/or legal challenges to the Crosscheck system that disenfranchised millions of voters this year, primarily in minority populations. Greg Palast's research in this area is compelling. He claims, for example, that one in every eight Asian voters in swing states were disenfranchised.
More evidence for Russian interference, including on election day itself and/or in direct collusion with the Trump campaign. For example, there is a story from before the election about Russian hacks of two voter databases that hasn't gotten as much air time but is suggestive of a broader hacking effort than just the DNC.
Disclosure of information on Russia's role that is currently being compiled by intelligence agencies to be completed before Obama leaves office.
Information on conflicts of interest, such as business relationships with the Russians, that could compromise Trump's ability to execute the office of the President with integrity.
If these or similar stories do break and get widespread attention by January 6th, 2017, a number of very valid challenges could be made to the Electoral College results.
Currently, Donald Trump has 304 Electors and would need to lose thirty-five through the objection process in order to effectively have the Electoral College results be inconclusive.
Looking through some of the key states, it is plausible that, with additional evidence, there could be sufficient grounds to challenge the validity of results from multiple states. Included below are the "red shift" stats (difference from exit polls to final tallies in the direction of Trump) on several states where that is far beyond what we could envision from random statistical noise:
Michigan (16 electoral college votes, winning vote margin of 10,704). Watch this Greg Palast video on the 73,335 votes that weren't counted, mostly in heavily African-American Detroit and Flint.
Florida (29 votes). Pundits said it was almost "mathematically impossible" that Trump could catch up on election day after the strong Clinton lead in early voting, which raises suspicions of manipulation. (2.6% red shift).
Wisconsin (10 votes). There is evidence from Stein's recount regarding many anomalies as well as new evidence that voting machines were actually connected to the Internet, despite Comey's assurances that they were not. (4.7% red shift)
Pennsylvania (20 votes). There was a very narrow margin here (a bit over .5% of vote), which is only ten percent of the unexplained 5.6% red shift from exit polls.
North Carolina (15 votes). It is a bit suspicious to have the split between the top of the ticket and the governor's race, which also combines with a large (5.9%) red shift.
So we could have a situation where new evidence emerges that the election's integrity has been compromised or that there has been direct collusion between the Trump campaign and the FBI or Russia. Such major stories could bring into legitimate question the results in a few states and keep him below 270 electoral votes.
If that were to happen, then the election of the President would fall to the House of Representatives, voting based on their state delegations. If this scenario occurs, Trump's credibility would have already become damaged and the consideration of a third candidate could be tenable for a critical mass of Republicans.
According to analysts, it would require only about twenty Republican Representatives in key states to break ranks and join with the Democrats in order to create a majority of state delegations supporting a non-Trump candidate.
It would be far less likely for this to swing to Hillary Clinton, for obvious partisan reasons. Colin Powell, however, is a Republican who is a respected leader on both sides of the aisle and has all the relevant experience for the job. He would be unlikely to signal his willingness to take the job in advance of such a scenario unfolding but, if the country is roiled by revelations and needs a steady, trustworthy leader with broad bi-partisan respect, he could likely be convinced to do it.
While few people would assign a high probability to the above pathway, it is important for us to be aware that there IS a pathway in which we could end up with a President Colin Powell instead of President Trump. Even if it does not prove successful, it will build additional capacity, alliances, and strength for the resistance to Trump's agenda that would follow his inauguration, as well as weakened Trump's standing. If you would like to increase the chances for the above scenario, you can do two things: amplify stories that could lead to the result and reach out to your Representatives and Senators and ask them to step forward with formal objections on January 6th. Many dominoes will have to fall for the President Powell scenario to emerge but such a result would be desirable to a majority of the voting public. It is thus worth exploring, understanding, and supporting.