Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is playing with fire by allowing her unsuccessful Democratic presidential campaign organization to participate in an election recount in Wisconsin initiated by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.
Marc Elias, the Clinton organization’s general counsel, said over the weekend that the campaign would take part in the Wisconsin recount without financially contributing to the operation. He also raised the possibility of joining the Third Party in recounts in two other closely contested states, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Republican President-elect Donald Trump, seething over what he and his top advisers perceive as Clinton’s reneging on her pledge to abide by the outcome of the Nov. 8 election, predicted that a recount in Wisconsin and the other states would not alter the results of the election.
“Hillary Clinton conceded the election when she called me just prior to the victory speech and after the results were in,” Trump said in one of a flurry of angry tweets early Sunday. “Nothing will change.”
The Trump team bitterly complained that the recount would be a colossal waste of time and money and serve as a distraction from the president-elect’s efforts to assemble a new cabinet and administration that would carry out his agenda and help reunite a sorely divided country.
More ominously, Trump’s campaign manager and senior adviser, Kellyanne Conway, hinted that Trump might be having second thoughts about abandoning a campaign pledge to call for a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton’s mishandling of State Department emails and the questionable fundraising activities of her family’s global foundation.
Trump told the New York Times last Tuesday that he had no intention of pressing for an investigation of Clinton and her family, saying that “I don’t want to hurt the Clintons, I really don’t.” During an appearance today on the ABC News “This Week” program, Conway noted repeatedly that Trump “is being very magnanimous” towards Clinton.” At the same time, she declined to totally rule out the possibility that the Justice Department would eventually seek such an investigation after Trump takes office.
Conway suggested that Trump’s generosity was being met by a slap in the face from Clinton, who ordered Elias, her counsel, to “join this ridiculously fantastical recount that Jill Stein is engaging in in Wisconsin and perhaps elsewhere.”
Conway didn’t say specifically that Trump would retaliate against Clinton for allowing her organization to take part in the recount, but she left it to viewers to connect the dots.
“I guess the real question is, why in the world can’t the Democrats accept the election results: after Clinton and the news media made a big issue of Trump’s refusal to definitively promise to abide by the results if he lost the election,” she said.
Clinton and her advisers sharply criticized Trump during the campaign for refusing to say definitively whether he would abide by the election results if he lost. Trump warned his supporters that he could only lose to Clinton if the election was somehow “rigged” against him, and he even called on his backers to be vigilant at the polls for possible fraud.
Elias wrote in a post on Medium that Clinton’s campaign had received “hundreds of messages, emails, and calls urging us to do something, anything, to investigate claims that the election results were hacked and altered in a way to disadvantage Secretary Clinton,” especially in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin where Trump’s combined margin of victory was only 107,000 votes.
Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chair and newly appointed chief of staff to Trump, fumed during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” that the recount was a “ridiculous” fund-raising fraud” perpetrated by a Green Party nominee. He noted that Stein won only 33,000 votes in Wisconsin, compared to Trump’s 1.4 million votes in the state.
“So here we have a person perpetrating a fundraising scheme that has lost by over 1.35 million votes in Wisconsin, attempting to undo [Trump’s] 28,000 vote lead [over Clinton]. It’s never going to happen. It’s a total waste of everybody’s time.”
Stein on Friday filed for a recount in Wisconsin and said she had raised more than $5 million for the effort. She indicated she would be raising more money for similar efforts in Michigan and Pennsylvania, and disputed Trump’s claim that this is a scam.
“The point to drive home here is that having a secure elections process benefits us all,” Stein told CNN’s “Newsroom.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who challenged Clinton for the Democratic nomination, said the Green Party has a legal right to seek a recount, regardless of how unlikely it was to change the election results. “No one expects there to be a profound change, but there’s nothing wrong with going through the process.,” he told Dana Bash of CNN today.
Sanders, who is taking a prominent role in trying to rebuild and reshape the Democratic party, said the more important question is whether Trump would keep many of his campaign promises that Democrats actually agree with -- such as lowering prescription drug prices and protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from cuts.
“Let’s see if he keeps his word,” Sanders said.