Egremont — The Nov. 3 presidential election attracted record numbers of voters, a fact that Americans should be proud of. But it has also devolved into something Americans should not be proud of: a contested election in which the loser not only refuses to concede but has filed multiple lawsuits making baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, all in an effort to change the results of the election.
If this kind of chicanery had happened anywhere else in the world, Americans would have rightly condemned that nation as a “banana republic” or worse. But here we are. The legal team of President-elect Joe Biden is fighting back with its own army of lawyers. And the squadron of attorneys has a local connection.
Stephen L. Cohen lives in Egremont and is the elected town moderator. Cohen is an attorney who specializes in complex litigation and corporate governance for clients in the United States and overseas.
Cohen recently sent an email to friends and supporters in the Berkshires updating them on his progress since joining the ad hoc group of lawyers helping to thwart the bizarre and erratic efforts of the campaign of outgoing President Donald Trump to challenge the election results in multiple states.
Cohen told The Edge he has focused his energies of late in Michigan, where the Trump campaign tried to pressure the state Board of Canvassers to delay certification of Biden as the winner by more than 155,000 votes. The Trump campaign sought the delay in order to investigate alleged vote-counting “irregularities” in Detroit, which is majority Black. Cohen and his group of attorneys recently wrote a letter of concern to Michigan election officials.
Trump also met on Friday at the White House with Michigan’s speaker of the House of Representatives and the state Senate president, both Republicans. The meeting was widely viewed as an effort, albeit unsuccessful, to interfere with the election in advance of the certification expected Monday in Michigan. Cohen described Trump’s meeting with Michigan lawmakers as “probably a crime” and “a conspiracy to subvert an election.”
“We are all concerned about it because it’s clearly subverting the will of the voters,” Cohen said in an interview. “They’re trying to disenfranchise all the people, especially Black voters.”
Cohen said his team of lawyers is working loosely with Biden campaign legal strategist Robert Bauer, but there are roughly 1,000 attorneys in all 50 states who are volunteering their time to the effort.
Indeed, news broke late today that the Michigan Board of Canvassers dealt Trump a blow when it voted to certify the state’s election results, effectively awarding the Michigan’s 16 electoral votes to Biden.
See video below of Biden campaign legal adviser Bob Bauer at a virtual news conference on Nov. 20, outlining legal strategies and challenges to action of the Trump campaign:[embedded content]
“Bob Bauer put together a group of lawyers that are incredibly good,” Cohen said.
Cohen is convinced that Trump might be employing a two-pronged approach to contesting the election. Even if he is unsuccessful at overturning the results and serving a second term, Trump can keep his core group of supporters energized, especially those in Georgia, where a pair of run-off elections will determine the control of the U.S. Senate. This could be why Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been reluctant to criticize Trump’s efforts.
Here is more from Cohen’s emailed update:
“Trump’s blatant attempt to illegally influence state election officials is clearly criminal. We (attorneys who have been involved in the Biden election effort), intend to refer this matter to the Justice Department after the Biden administration takes office.
“We will begin collecting evidence and determining what was said at the White House meeting, as well as all contacts between Trump and his surrogates concerning the administration’s attempts to improperly influence the election and any other misprisions of a felony, bribery, or threats relating thereto. This evidence collection will begin once the new Biden administration takes office.”
Of the president’s fantasies about overturning the election, Cohen added, “Mr. Trump is not in Oz anymore.”
One big fan of Cohen’s efforts locally is fellow Egremonter George McGurn, who chairs the select board. McGurn is not a lawyer but he is the former dean of the Boston University School of Management and spent decades teaching business and economics in Russia.
“It’s a cause I do support,” McGurn told The Edge. “It actually gives me great comfort to know that it is going on.”
Of Trump’s effort to sow doubt about the election and overturn the results, McGurn said: “After me going around the world preaching about democracy, not only is it embarrassing, I’m just kind of flabbergasted. It’s hard to surprise me anymore but Trump’s pulling it off.”
McGurn agreed that we would be castigating any other nation whose elections resulted in such chaos. Once while visiting St. Petersburg, McGurn had arranged to meet with the mayor. When he arrived at the man’s office, he was told that the mayor was unavailable but that McGurn could meet with the deputy mayor. His name: Vladimir Putin. Yes, that Vladimir Putin — now the Russian president.
McGurn recalled another trip he made to an oil patch region in Siberia in 1993 when Boris Yeltsin was the Russian leader. Residents in the town were voting on a new constitution.
“They asked me if I wanted to vote and I said, ‘I’m not a citizen,’” McGurn recalled. “They said, ‘Well, that doesn’t make any difference.’ They were just being polite.”
On what Putin and his team are likely thinking about the recent U.S. elections, McGurn said: “They’re probably thinking, ‘Boy, Trump must have really studied our methods. It’s pretty much the same stuff that goes on over here.’”
McGurn agrees with Cohen’s assessment of Trump’s motives in trying to energize his base in Georgia to increase turnout in the Jan. 5, 2021, Senate run-off elections. He is glad Biden will prevail and take the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2021.
“Biden is appointing a team that obviously is going to try to rebuild what Trump has spent four years destroying,” McGurn said. “It’s a helluva lot easier to destroy than it is to rebuild.”