Electors are asking for an intelligence briefing on Russia before the Electoral College votes

Is this really what democracy looks like?
Is this really what democracy looks like?
Image: AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger
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Ten electors—nine Democrats and one Republican—are demanding that James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence brief them and their Electoral College colleagues on the ongoing investigations into Russia’s involvement with the presidential election, including the ties of Trump’s inner circle to the Kremlin.

“We seek an informed and unrestrained opportunity to fulfill our constitutional role leading up to December 19th — that is, the ability to investigate, discuss, and deliberate with our colleagues about whom to vote for in the Electoral College,” they write in an open letter, posted online on Dec. 12.

The electors want to know about all ongoing investigations, their scope and how far they have reached. “We further require a briefing on all investigative findings, as these matters directly impact the core factors in our deliberations of whether Mr. Trump is fit to serve as President of the United States.” The electors include Christine Pelosi of California, the daughter of Democrat Nancy Pelosi, and Michael Baca of Colorado, who is leading a campaign against Trump in the Electoral College.

The letter comes after several news outlets reported that US intelligence agencies concluded in a briefing for lawmakers that Russia worked to help to elect Trump. The electors want to be able to carefully parse these findings. They write that “deliberation is at the heart of democracy itself, not an empty or formalistic task.”

We do not understand our sole function to be to convene in mid-December, several weeks after Election Day, and summarily cast our votes. To the contrary, the Constitution envisions the Electoral College as a deliberative body that plays a critical role in our system of government — ensuring that the American people elect a president who is constitutionally qualified and fit to serve.

We further emphasize Alexander Hamilton’s assertion in Federalist Paper #68 that a core purpose of the Electoral College was to prevent a “desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.”

The Hillary Clinton campaign came out in favor of the letter, which marks the first time they publicly supported an effort to question the results of the presidential election, Politico reported. “Electors have a solemn responsibility under the Constitution and we support their efforts to have their questions addressed,” campaign chairman John Podesta said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell, leader of the Republican majority in the Senate, said the chamber’s intelligence panel will investigate any suspicions of foreign involvement. “The Russians are not our friends,” McConnell said.