President Trump at the UN General Assembly — Making the UN great again?
Donald Trump may stun America with shocking November surprise
Only two months away from the midterm elections, is it farfetched to consider whether President Trump would try to invalidate the results if Democrats win the House? Brace yourselves. Armed with the gavel in one hand and subpoenas in the other, a House Democratic majority represents an existential threat to his presidency. Lawmakers in his opposing party will be able to look at his business dealings, his still secret tax returns, his financial relationships around the world, and whether he is using the White House to generate windfall profits for his private enterprises.
Trump has browbeaten members of his own administration for upholding the rule of law. He can threaten to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but he cannot fire a House Democratic majority. Or can he? Remember the third presidential debate of 2016, when Trump was asked about "absolutely accepting" the results of the election? His answer: "What I'm saying is that I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense."
A day later, with the story of this potential rebuke of the constitutional process spreading, the president clarified his remarks at a rally: "I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters and to all of the people of the United States that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election if I win."
Trump won and we never learned if his words were mere bluster or a foreshadowing of how he would have reacted to an electoral loss. Even in victory, the president asserted that he would have "won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." Despite zero evidence to substantiate this, and a disbanded council that found nothing to support his claim, his base likely considers his word to be gospel.
Already, Trump is setting the stage for a sweeping delegitimization of a House Democratic majority. In July he tweeted, "I'm very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election. Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don't want Trump!" This despite the likelihood that a House Democratic majority with the ability to pass tougher sanctions against Russian meddling in our elections would be a nightmare for Moscow.
Last week, Trump declared to evangelical leaders that if Democrats win the midterm elections, "they will overturn everything that we've done and they'll do it quickly and violently." Apply his rhetoric to the very real possibility that, with so many closely competitive races, election night may be long and uncertain. Remember the special election in the 12th district of Ohio? In what was assumed to be a comfortable Republican district, the outcome was too close to call for nearly three weeks.
Or how about the race last November that decided control of the Virginia House of Delegates? The Democratic candidate initially won by a single vote. Following a recount, the race was determined to be a tie. A court determined that the election would be determined by a drawing, specifically of the names of the candidates out of a bowl. Finally, in January, the name of the Republican candidate was drawn, and the Republicans now maintain a very narrow majority in this chamber.
Even if a blue wave occurs, Republican redistricting advantages have fortified many seats, making them more competitive than they should be in a toxic environment for their party. Imagine if this unimaginable president seeks to muddle the results of close counts in the midterms elections. He could claim that Nancy Pelosi and Vladimir Putin cooked the outcome, encourage defeated Republicans not to accept defeat, and demand that state election officials take their time in determining a winner based on whatever baseless theories Trump advances.
What happens come January, when in the throes of disorganization, the House attempts to organize itself? What if Trump refuses to recognize the election of a House Democratic majority or the selection of a Democratic speaker? There are plenty of "what happens" and "what ifs." But with this administration, what else is new? Trump is a president who is badly in need of a foil in his presumed campaign bid for reelection.
He could respond to every investigation and subpoena of lawmakers as acts of an illegitimate and unelected Congress. Just as Trump refused to accept the number of votes he received in 2016, and just as he refused to accept the number of people who attended his inauguration in 2017, he can refuse to recognize the number of Democratic seats in 2019. Prepare yourselves for two years of tweets about the "Fake Congress."
Steve Israel represented New York in Congress for 16 years. He served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is a novelist whose latest book is "Big Guns." You can follow him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael and on Facebook @RepSteveIsrael.