Trump allies pitched Sen. Kevin Cramer on plan to stop Biden from taking office
Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., attended a meeting in which Trump allies outlined a plan to keep President Trump in office, but Cramer said he found the pitch unpersuasive and lacking evidence.
FARGO — Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., attended a meeting two days before demonstrators stormed the Capitol in an effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election in which allies of President Donald Trump outlined a plan to obtain access to voting machines to contest the election results.
Cramer attended the meeting on Jan. 4, 2021 — two days before the Capitol riot — at Trump International Hotel in Washington at the invitation of Michael Lindell, CEO of MyPillow and a staunch Trump ally who has tried to undo the election of President Joe Biden, a meeting first reported by the Washington Post.
After attending the meeting — which Cramer said he found “unpersuasive” and later voted to affirm Biden’s election — a Trump supporter sent Cramer a memo that advocated having Trump use the power of the National Security Agency and Defense Department to scan electronic communications to try to show that foreign powers interfered in the presidential election, allowing Biden to win, the Post reported.
"None of this stuff was very impressive at the time," Cramer said. He said he was joined at the meeting by his wife, Kris, and two or three staff members, including his chief legal counsel.
Backers of the plan hoped proof of foreign intervention would “support next steps to defend the Constitution in a manner superior to civilian-only remedies,” according to a Dec. 18 memo exchanged by Trump supporters that was obtained by the Washington Post.
Cramer said he didn't spend any time considering the arguments presented in the memo, but after digging in his email archive was able to find it and send it to a reporter for the Washington Post, whom Cramer said apparently already had a copy.
The plan, never carried out, called for Trump to appoint a three-member committee to lead the effort. One of those members, a failed Republican candidate for a U.S. House seat in Virginia, Michael del Rosso, sent Cramer the memo.
In an interview with The Forum on Friday, Jan. 4, Cramer said the goal of the Trump allies was to somehow delay by 10 days the proceedings that would affirm Biden's election to give state officials time to find election irregularities that would keep Trump in office.
Before attending the meeting, Cramer said, he told Lindell that he was hoping to hear concrete evidence that would support claims that Biden's election victory wasn't valid.
"I do hope we're going to talk about more than these theories," Cramer told The Forum, and gave as an example unsubstantiated claims that thousands of invalid votes for Biden were cast in states including Nevada.
The meeting lasted about 90 minutes. Sidney Powell, one of Trump's personal lawyers, attended the meeting, but said very little and mostly listened to the presentation by Trump supporters who served in intelligence roles or had intelligence backgrounds, Cramer told The Forum.
"No evidence was presented as to why we shouldn't certify the election two days later," Cramer said. He added: "I couldn't see constitutional authority to vote against the certification."
The proposal to use the extraordinary surveillance powers of the NSA and Defense Department raised legal and ethical concerns, according to the Washington Post, which characterized the allegations of foreign interference, including by China and Venezuela, as “fantastical claims.”
Cramer said he wasn’t convinced by the arguments presented at the meeting. Cramer said he was asked to try to persuade Trump to use the NSA and military intelligence capabilities to search for proof of foreign interference in the election.
"They wanted me to bring this directly to the president," Cramer told The Forum. Because Powell was present at the meeting, Cramer said he was confused why he was asked to speak to Trump to get his support for the plan.
"I was surprised at how little she did say," Cramer said, referring to Powell.
"I did nothing with it," Cramer told The Forum. "Neither did the president, as we know." The plan discussed at the meeting and in the memo was never carried out.
Cramer said he told Trump supporters who were challenging Biden's victory to present proof, such as a list of names of dead voters who voted for Biden, as some Trump supporters were claiming happened.
"Just show me the names of some dead people," he said, recalling his comments at the time.
"There was a lot of effort that went nowhere, quite honestly," Cramer said. He said he remains skeptical that a president or vice president has the legal authority to prevent the certification of the electoral vote in a presidential election.
Specifically, Cramer said he finds nothing in the Constitution that would give that authority to a president or vice president.
Cramer said he is open to proposals to clarify the Electoral College Act to remove any ambiguity. Amendments to the law that dates to the late 1800s have some bipartisan support, including from Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate.
"I like to simplify complicated things," Cramer said of the Electoral College Act. "Why isn't it clear already?"
Although Cramer said he hasn't seen evidence that would alter the outcome of Biden's victory, he said he was concerned about voter accommodations, including allowing voters to cast their ballots by mail, that were made because of the COVID-19 pandemic, sometimes by executive action rather than legislation. Although the purported reason was to enable voters to avoid crowded polling places, it could have resulted in less secure voting, Cramer said.
Echoing remarks by Cramer, Lindell told the Post that the effort was intended to give senators more time to turn determination of the presidential election back to the states in the hope of keeping Trump in office.
Ultimately, the system worked and Biden is president, Cramer said. As a result, he still has faith in the American system, but supports efforts by states including Georgia to change election laws.
"I'm not overly worried about it," Cramer said. "We've had tumultuous times in the past," including the recount dispute over the vote in Florida in the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore in the 2000 election.
"At the end of the day the Constitution prevailed," Cramer said, adding that he attended Biden's presidential inauguration.