As Donald Trump promises to wage his war against the 2020 election results to the bitter end, a small handful of his most ardent backers in Congress has formulated a far-fetched plan to help him cling to power.
That plan, which runs through officially legal channels vis-à-vis the US Constitution, involves forcing federal lawmakers to vote on scrapping Monday’s Electoral College vote in five states when the new 117th Congress convenes to ratify the election results on 6 January.
Conservatives have been arguing for weeks that there was widespread election fraud in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia, and Wisconsin, although the paucity of evidence they have presented so far has led to a string of humiliations in the state and federal court systems.
Leading the effort to overturn the electoral vote is Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks, who has been prowling around the US Capitol in recent weeks trying to drum up support for the scheme among conservative House members and senators.
He needs just one senator to support his and other House Republicans’ challenge to the electoral results to force a two-hour debate period and then a vote series on scrapping a state’s Electoral College submission.
So far, the New York Times reported when it first broke the news of this scheme, no senator has stepped up to the plate, although GOP Senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Rand Paul of Kentucky have shown some interest.
If Congress were to scrap the electoral results in the five states in question, neither Mr Trump nor Democratic President-elect Joe Biden would have the necessary 270 votes to claim the presidency. The House of Representatives would then vote for president by state congressional delegation. Republicans will control more state delegations than Democrats in the next Congress even though Democrats will have a slight overall majority in the chamber.
It would be likely Mr Trump would receive a second term in that scenario.
Mr Brooks, a member of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus that has included the likes of Congressman Jim Jordan and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, told the Times his primary aim is “[fixing] a badly flawed American election system that too easily permits voter fraud and election theft.”
He added: “A possible bonus from achieving that goal is that Donald Trump would win the Electoral College officially, as I believe he in fact did if you only count lawful votes by eligible American citizens and exclude all illegal votes.”
But while Mr Brooks may be able to cajole a senator into forcing a vote on the Electoral College’s integrity, his master plan is doomed to ultimately fall short. Mr Biden will become the 46th US president.
The motion to toss into the fire the Electoral College vote in the five states is certain to fail since majorities in both the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-held Senate are needed to pass it.
Democrats and even several Republicans in both chambers have roundly rejected the GOP’s legal challenges to the election results. Actually overturning the will of the Electoral College — whose composition is determined by the American people’s vote on 3 November — would represent an even more momentous step away from democracy.
“Madness,” Utah GOP Senator Mitt Romney told reporters last Tuesday. “This is madness. We have a process. Recounts are appropriate. Going to the court is appropriate. Pursuing every legal avenue is appropriate. But trying to get electors not to do what the people voted to do is madness.”
If Mr Brooks and a GOP senator force such a vote in Congress, it would present Republicans with a final, crucial litmus test on their loyalty to an outgoing president whose cult of personality has subsumed their party’s identity over the last four years.
It would also put Republicans on the permanent record about Mr Trump’s allegations of election fraud that they have been abetting over the last several weeks.
Longtime GOP back-benchers like Mr Brooks — who has never chaired a congressional committee in his nearly 10 years in the House, does not contribute to the party as a prolific fundraiser, and placed a distant third in a 2017 run for Senate in Alabama — are relishing the opportunity to promote Mr Trump in such a high-profile fashion.
Mr Brooks, cited as one of the most partisan members of Congress since riding the Tea Party wave into the chamber, has been a reliable party-line voter for years. This is his chance to curry favour with the president whom many within the GOP believe will continue to dominate the party’s brand moving forward.
As Mr Brooks told the Times, Congress holds the fate of the election in its hands.
“We have a superior role under the Constitution than the Supreme Court does, than any federal court judge does, than any state court judge does,” Mr Brooks told the paper.
“What we say, goes. That’s the final verdict.”