Clinton will join recount in 1 state

Published 24 January 2017
Tae-Gyun Kim

WASHINGTON -- The top lawyer for Hillary Clinton's presidential bid said Saturday that the campaign would join a third-party candidate's effort to seek a full recount in Wisconsin, and potentially two other states, though he said the campaign had seen no "actionable evidence" of vote hacking.

In a post on the online news site Medium, Clinton campaign lawyer Marc Elias wrote that the 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, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where the "combined margin of victory for Donald Trump was merely 107,000 votes."

Elias described in his post an intensive behind-the-scenes effort by the campaign to look for signs of Russian hacker activity or other irregularities in the vote count.

The essay suggested that the campaign was joining the recount effort with little expectation that it would change the result. But many of the campaign's supporters, picking up on its frequent complaints of Russian interference in the election, have enthusiastically backed the recount effort led by Jill Stein, who was the Green Party candidate.

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She has raised more than $5 million for the effort.

Stein filed for a recount in Wisconsin on Friday afternoon, about an hour before the deadline. In Michigan, Stein must wait for a Monday meeting of the state's Board of Canvassers to certify the results of the Nov. 8 balloting before filing for a recount. In Pennsylvania, where paper ballots are used only in some areas, election officials said that the deadline to petition for a recount had passed but that a candidate could challenge the result in court before a Monday deadline.

In his post, Elias sounded less enthusiastic than the recount's supporters.

"Because we had not uncovered any actionable evidence of hacking or outside attempts to alter the voting technology," he wrote, "we had not planned to exercise this option ourselves."

He added, "Now that a recount has been initiated in Wisconsin, we intend to participate in order to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides."

Should Stein pursue additional recounts, "we will take the same approach in those states as well," he wrote. But he noted that the "number of votes separating Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the closest of these states -- Michigan -- well exceeds the largest margin ever overcome in a recount."

The Clinton campaign will not contribute financially to the effort, which has been funded by small contributions. But it will pay to have its own lawyers present at the recount, campaign officials said.

'scam,' trump says

Trump issued a statement Saturday calling the recount push "ridiculous" and "a scam by the Green Party."

"The results of this election should be respected instead of being challenged and abused, which is exactly what Jill Stein is doing," said Trump, who himself suggested in the weeks before the election that the vote could be rigged.

During the campaign, Clinton criticized Trump for refusing to say that he would accept the election results if Clinton won. Asked during an October debate whether he would do so, Trump responded that he would "keep you in suspense." Clinton called that answer "horrifying" and said Trump was "talking down our democracy."

"Donald Trump refused to say that he'd respect the results of this election," her campaign later posted on Twitter. "By doing that, he's threatening our democracy."

President Barack Obama's administration issued a statement to The New York Times on Friday in response to questions about intelligence findings related to Russian interference in the election. In the statement, it said it had concluded that the election had been free of interference.

The administration issued a second statement Saturday saying that "the federal government did not observe any increased level of malicious cyberactivity aimed at disrupting our electoral process on Election Day."

It added: "As we have noted before, we remained confident in the overall integrity of electoral infrastructure, a confidence that was borne out on Election Day. As a result, we believe our elections were free and fair from a cybersecurity perspective."

Clinton conceded the race to Trump early on Nov. 9, when it became clear that he would have a large margin of victory in the Electoral College. But as her lead in the popular vote has grown -- it now exceeds 2 million votes -- her base has increasingly pressured her to challenge the results.

That has been fueled in part by how aggressively the Clinton campaign spread the word of Russian involvement in the theft of emails from the Democratic National Committee and from the personal account of John Podesta, the campaign's chairman. The campaign also claimed that the Russians were behind fake news about Clinton's health, among other stories -- a claim supported to some extent by recent studies.

Some critics saw those accusations as an effort to shift the discussion from mistakes the Clinton campaign had made in taking on Trump.

Now Clinton finds herself in a position of not wanting to lead the charge for a recount that Democrats believe will go nowhere, but also not wanting to abandon supporters who have donated to Stein's last-ditch effort.

secret investigation

Elias' post offered a revealing look at how much time and energy the campaign has spent in the past two weeks looking for evidence of Russian hacking or other irregularities, and how it has tried to keep those efforts secret.

"Since the day after the election, we have had lawyers and data scientists and analysts combing over the results to spot anomalies that would suggest a hacked result," Elias wrote. "These have included analysts both from within the campaign and outside, with backgrounds in politics, technology and academia."

He said those efforts had been followed by "numerous meetings and calls with various outside experts to hear their concerns and to discuss and review their data and findings." The campaign shared its data as well.

"Most of those discussions have remained private, while at least one has unfortunately been the subject of leaks," he wrote, referring to conversations between Podesta and a group of experts that included J. Alex Halderman, a computer scientist with experience in the vulnerabilities of voting systems.

Medium also published a post by Halderman, early Thursday, describing his suspicions and the case for recounts. But even he doubted the election result would change.

Meanwhile, Trump, scrambling to address unfilled administration jobs, planned to return to his New York home today ahead of a series of Monday meetings with prospective hires.

One of those includes Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County, Wis., who is seen as a possible Homeland Security pick. Clarke's vocal opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement has made him popular with many conservatives.

Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence also have Monday meetings scheduled with Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt; Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa.; a former head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Paul Atkins; World Wide Technology Chairman David Steward; and General Growth Properties Chief Executive Officer Sandeep Mathrani.

Trump was spending the Thanksgiving holiday weekend with family at his Palm Beach estate, Mar-a-Lago. He had planned to focus on filling key administration posts over the working vacation.

Also Saturday, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. said Trump offered him the job of secretary of education, but he turned it down for personal reasons.

Falwell said Trump wanted a four- to six-year commitment, but Falwell said he couldn't leave Liberty for more than two years. Trump announced Wednesday that he had selected charter-school advocate Betsy DeVos for the job.

Information for this article was contributed by David E. Sanger, Maggie Haberman and Amy Chozick of The New York Times; by Matt Zapotosky of The Washington Post; and by Steve Peoples of The Associated Press.

A Section on 11/27/2016