Louis Caldera: “There are possibilities of violence, because Donald Trump put gasoline on the fire”

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This was stated in an interview with Clarín by this law professor at the American University and an expert in electoral legislation. The president does not contemplate that he could lose, he said.

Louis Caldera, a professor of law at the American University, an expert in electoral law, told Clarion that President Donald Trump “does not contemplate that he could lose,” that his campaign seeks to complicate the results by trying to prevent people from voting and intimidating with weapons. The expert adds that the results could be extended by the counting of votes by mail, which he considers to be safe, and by a possible legal battle that is being prepared with “hundreds of lawyers.” Caldera, who was also Secretary of the Army under the presidency of Bill Clinton and director of the Office of the Military House in the White House in 2009, points out that in the face of great tension, “Certainly there is a possibility of violence” because Trump “pours gasoline” to protest marches and encourages white supremacism.

-President Donald Trump has suggested that he might not hand over power in the event of losing this election. What does the United States constitution establish in a case like that? What are the mechanisms that are applied for him to hand over power?

-Trump is a president like we have never had before in the United States. Even many things he has said take away his legitimacy, acting in a way that in many cases is undemocratic. Generally, all presidents say “I want everyone to vote and vote conscientiously” and if he wins he thanks him and if he does not win help the opponent so that he can start his position as president with all the support he needs and that he had from the town. Trump is not like that, he is not that kind of person who acts with that kind of dignity. He has said that the only way you can lose is by fraud. He does not contemplate that he could lose because voters are tired of his chaos or the terrible way he has treated the issue of Covid, where we are on our way to having 400,000 dead. It has always been said that democracy in the United States is a system in which parties can be peacefully changed, but today he is setting a very bad example.

-What are the resources that Trump has to declare these elections as illegitimate?

-Here are several questions. It seems that it will be a historic vote, more than half of those who could vote by mail have already voted. But this half is still missing to vote and what Trump has been trying to do is suppress the vote. This he does through intimidation and influence from Russia and other countries like Iran. One of the mechanisms is through misinformation on social networks so that people do not vote because they are displeased or that they vote for Trump because they are telling lies like “the Democrats are a demon who eat children.” For the day of the voting there is a lot of fear about intimidation, people with automatic rifles who are taking the license plates of the cars so that the citizens think that it is better not to go out because there will be problems. They do this especially in places where the majority of Democrats vote. Then the day after the election, there are a lot of votes to count, the ones that came in the mail. There will be efforts through lawyers to try to qualify the votes that come from the Democratic areas and say that those should not be counted because a date is missing or the names are not exactly correct or any pretext they may have to disqualify votes. Trump has also said that he is going to declare himself president on the day of the vote and that all those votes should not be counted. Then it is possible that they will go to court to count those votes at the state level, because they are under state law, and under this law they must continue to be counted until election officials can certify that all qualified votes have been counted.

-So the results could be known in a while.

– Something important is that President Trump continues to ask people to give millions of dollars to his campaign because he argues that they will need lawyers until the end of December. It is legitimate to have people from the parties watching the voting and counting the votes, but it is not legitimate for them to get involved in the process and intimidate the voters. They are ready with hundreds of lawyers and people who will see the accounts. News has even come out that they are going to pay people with guns to be at the polls, carrying guns as used here in the United States in some states. In some states there are laws that stipulate that you cannot bring them to the polling places, but there are others that do not prevent it and that is a form of intimidation.

-Trump stated on several occasions the possibility of fraud in the vote by mail. How is postal voting controlled and how is its transparency demonstrated?

There is a lot of security in all ways of voting, including voting by mail. You must first be a registered voter. Second, you have to ask for the vote by mail and sign it with your home address and they will not send it to you if you are not registered in that home, at that address. When that form arrives at your house, it has a unique code, that is, it is unique for that person. If that vote is returned, it is counted as that person has already voted and if the next day for example you are going to vote in person, they do not give you another ballot because it is already registered in the system that that person cast their vote by mail. But if the ballot never arrives in the mail or for example someone steals it or there is another circumstance, whatever it is, the person will vote. It is registered that they had sent you the vote by mail but, if it is registered that you had never cast the vote then in that case you do have the right to vote. If someone does that and makes 20 copies it is impossible because each person has a unique code that records their vote. All signatures and dates are checked, there are security requirements. It is impossible that these situations of fraud exist, the penalty for this is ten years in jail. There has been fraud in the case of voting by mail, but we are talking about 10 or 20 votes and it was in the case of Republicans who were changing the votes that they had received from people who had done it by mail. In that case it was so clear that a person was doing all that and it was so obvious that they found out. This is a kind of crime that is always discovered, there are security people who specialize in this.

– What concrete possibilities does Trump have of legitimately questioning this result and enabling a recount?

-Voting is at the state and county level. When the elections for example are in a difference of 1% between the one who won and the one who lost, in some states the recount is automatically made and in others the one who lost has to ask for the recount. The Supreme Court has already been deciding many cases, it has been deciding them since now and they generally have to do with the pandemic. The pandemic created a situation in which many voters could be at risk for voting in person, especially older adults, and that is why the United States and other countries thought about applying voting by mail to a greater extent, so as not to put at risk of health to the most vulnerable. Some states mailed ballots to all voters so they can vote this way, but other states made it more difficult. This is the case in Texas, for example, this is a state controlled by Republicans, and they didn’t want everyone to receive their ballot in the mail. Another issue of vote by mail is what day the vote that has been cast should arrive, that is, the ballot. In some states it is two weeks before the election, in others one week, and in others three or four days before the election for those votes to come through. We have had a lot of problems with correspondence here in the United States and it was even said that Trump had put a man in the correspondence system specifically to make him arrive later and those votes did not arrive on time. The Court is hearing many cases of people saying why I am going to send that vote by correspondence if it is not known if it is going to be counted or governed by state law, that they are state operations or there is going to be a pretext for establish it as a federal case that has the possibility of even reaching the Supreme Court.

-And what can happen if the case goes to the Supreme Court. now that it has a large conservative majority?

-Many people believe that the new judge appointed in the court should not make a trial, should not be involved in these cases because she has a tremendous interest, Trump appointed her. Trump has said that he hopes she will be the one to decide these cases. This is a conflict of interest that, under principles of the Court, a judge cannot make decisions about cases if they have or are perceived to have personal interests.

-If Trump loses, what do you think will be the impact on his bases, especially the most radicalized? Do you think there may be violence or perhaps a civil war, as some suggest?

-There is certainly the possibility of violence and we have seen violence in the way that Trump has poured gasoline on the protests, encouraging white supremacists who are against the Black Lives Matters movement. We have seen how there are people killing, hitting pipes, pointing rifles and right now there are troops with the Trump flag on the side of the roads trying to hurt people who go in trucks with flags that say they are going to vote for Joe Biden . Trump has already been sending signals that his supporters should consider it fraud if he loses. There are already many who have said that if Trump loses there will be violence and there may be a war. Violence can start from both parties if they feel that the election was not free and fair. That is the chaos of Trump, which has caused many people, including independents and Republicans, to have thought about voting the other way, a president who unites and not divides like Joe Biden.

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