Faithless Electors 2016: Electoral College Demands Intelligence Briefings Over Accusations Of Russian Interference

Congress tallies final Electoral College vote

With the Electoral College vote just days away, some electors have now begun to demand intelligence briefings regarding the CIA’s recent allegations of foreign influence in the presidential election.

In an open letter to national intelligence director James Clapper, some electors state that they believe it is their duty to ensure that the president is constitutionally qualified.

“We intend to discharge our duties as Electors by ensuring that we select a candidate for president who, as our Founding Fathers envisioned, would be ‘endowed with the requisite qualifications.’ “

The letter currently holds the signatures of 54 possibly faithless Democratic electors, including some of the faithless Hamilton Electors, and one faithless Republican elector. Citing Alexander Hamilton’s belief that a function of the Electoral College is to serve as a method of preventing foreign influence in the U.S. government, the faithless electors claim that they cannot fully perform their tasks without the requested intelligence briefing.

The timing of this letter corresponds with an article published last Friday by the Washington Post. According to an unnamed official, the CIA has concluded that Russian interference in the presidential election helped Donald Trump win.

“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected. That’s the consensus view.”

However, this claim was refuted on Monday by another official who also declined to be named.

“The overseers of the U.S. intelligence community have not embraced a CIA assessment that Russian cyber attacks were aimed at helping Republican President-elect Donald Trump win the 2016 election.”

In a summary on the Russian hacking controversy, NPR accurately diagnosed an underlying problem, which is that the controversy over an unsubstantiated allegation made by an anonymous official reflects the current political climate.

“The entire country is now enmeshed in a story that seems to perfectly correspond with the state of politics and the national mood: tense, paranoid, zero-sum and subjective. It’s a narrative with too few solid facts to be definitive but just enough that anyone can feel justified in drawing his or her preferred conclusions.”

It should also be pointed out that faithless electors are not exempt from participating in their own subjective narrative. As shown in the open letter, despite inconclusive evidence thus far, the faithless electors do appear to have already reached a conclusion of their own, based on information that fits their own preferred beliefs.

“The United States intelligence community has now concluded with ‘high confidence’ that a foreign power, namely Russia, acted covertly to interfere in the presidential campaign with the intent of promoting Donald Trump’s candidacy. During the campaign Russia actively attempted to influence the election outcome through cyber attacks on our political institutions and a comprehensive propaganda campaign coordinated through Wikileaks and other outlets.”

As many have previously pointed out, faithless electors have failed to ever sway an election in the past. However, the growing divisions in the U.S. do seem to indicate that anything is possible in 2016. In the current political atmosphere, faithless electors just might stand a chance. Yes, it may still be a long shot, but then again, so was Donald Trump’s entire candidacy.

It is worth mentioning that in at least one aspect, the faithless electors are right. They should, along with the rest of the public, be given an intelligence briefing showing how and why the CIA reached their conclusion. With only five days until the Electoral College vote, any definitive evidence that Russian hackers interfered in our election should be released to the public.

As stated in a quote commonly attributed to Thomas Jefferson,”If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed.” Now more than ever, after a presidential election heavily marred by distrust, misinformation, and anti-establishment fury, we must begin to insist on transparency from our leaders. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people demands it.

[Featured Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]