Wednesday 21 August 2019

Last-minute bids to block Trump election turn nasty

US president-elect Donald Trump with campaign communications director Hope Hicks and campaign manager Kellyanne Conway during a ‘USA Thank You Tour’ event in Mobile, Alabama. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
US president-elect Donald Trump with campaign communications director Hope Hicks and campaign manager Kellyanne Conway during a ‘USA Thank You Tour’ event in Mobile, Alabama. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Ruth Sherlock Washington

Republican electors due to cast the votes that will seal Donald Trump's presidency today have faced death threats and intense campaigns by opponents in a last-ditch bid to avert the outcome of the US election.

Amid concerns about Russian intervention to help elect Mr Trump, members of the Electoral College have been bombarded with calls to postpone this final seal of approval - or choose a different candidate for the presidency.

On Friday, US President Barack Obama suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally authorised the Democratic Party email hacks.
On Friday, US President Barack Obama suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally authorised the Democratic Party email hacks.

Some 79 of the presidential electors, most of them Democrats, also called on James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, to authorise a classified briefing on the Russia hacking allegations before the Electoral College vote.

Even as Mr Clapper rejected the call, a barrage of other organisations have campaigned to stop the electors casting the votes in accordance with the popular election result in their state.

Last week a video was released of celebrities such as Martin Sheen pleading with Republican electors. And on Saturday, Unite for America - the group behind the video - began sending personalised versions to electors in which they are addressed by name.

Mary Barket, an elector and long-time Republican politician in Pennsylvania, a crucial swing state which broke for Mr Trump, said her in-trays were stuffed and she had an "overflowing box" in her office of post from residents desperate to change her mind. Her voicemail has been full for weeks.

"There are some which are concerted efforts by groups, and others are personal letters. They say they are afraid of having Donald Trump as president," she said.

As the deadline nears, some of the appeals to electors have turned threatening. Electors around the country have reported being targeted by death threats, harassing phone calls and hate mail. In Pennsylvania, the situation is so serious that about 20 have reportedly been assigned plainclothes police troopers for protection.

As the hours to the final vote approached, Mr Trump's detractors were being forced to admit defeat. Like most electors Mrs Barket said these efforts would not change her decision: "We are solid in our determination to complete the mission we were charged with."

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign openly questioned yesterday whether Mr Trump's advisers colluded with Russia to hack Democratic Party emails to try to sway the November 8 election.

Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta said there was evidence Trump associates had contact with a Russian intelligence official and the website Wikileaks before US intelligence agencies accused Russia of being behind computer attacks of Democratic emails.

"It's very much unknown whether there was collusion. I think Russian diplomats have said post-election that they were talking to the Trump campaign," Mr Podesta said.

"Not what Mr Trump knew, but what did 'Trump Inc' know and when did they know it? Were they in touch with the Russians? I think those are still open questions."

Mr Trump's incoming White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, yesterday rejected the notion that Mr Trump or his associates were aware of and in touch with the Russians during the hack attack.

"Even this question is insane," Mr Priebus said. "Of course we don't interface with the Russians."

On Friday, US President Barack Obama suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured) personally authorised the Democratic Party email hacks. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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