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Biden Is Building a ‘Superstructure’ to Stop Trump From Stealing the Election

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For years, Donald Trump has made it abundantly clear that if he doesn’t win the 2024 presidential election, he is willing to cheat and steal it. Since President Joe Biden’s inaugural address, according to sources with intimate knowledge of the situation, Biden and his inner circle have been drawing up meticulous plans and creating a large legal network focused on wargaming a close election finish, in which the former president and Republican Party launch a scorched-earth, Big Liefueled crusade.

Long before Trump began leading in battleground-state polling — and years before he was a declared 2024 candidate — the ex-president and many of his influential allies were already busy plotting ways to tilt the election in his favor. These yearslong efforts, conducted both secretly and out in the open, have already yielded tangible results for Trump and the conservative election denier movement. These wide-ranging operations have alarmed the Democratic Party elite, who aren’t just worried about Biden’s sagging poll numbers. Numerous Democratic lawmakers, operatives, Biden campaign advisers, and administration officials tell Rolling Stone that if the president does ultimately beat Trump this November, the election will be exceedingly close.

Over the past year, Team Biden has been conducting war games, crafting complex legal strategies, and devoting extensive resources to prepare for, as one former senior Biden administration official puts it, “all-hell-breaks-loose” scenarios. The preparations include planning for a contingency in which Biden’s margin of victory is so razor-thin that Trump and the GOP launch a tidal wave of legal challenges and political maneuvers to rerun his 2020 election strategy: declare victory anyways, and try to will it into existence.

“President Biden has been worried, for a while now, that Donald Trump is going to try to steal the election, if it’s very close on Election Day,” says a source familiar with Biden’s thinking. “If that ends up being the case, we are… also expecting the Republican Party to go into overdrive to help him steal it. We are continuing to build out the infrastructure to ensure that doesn’t happen — again — if President Biden wins and Trump and MAGA Republicans try to confuse [everyone] and sow chaos.”

After the 2020 race was called for Biden, Trump and much of the GOP embarked on a sprawling campaign — a blitz of lawsuits, rabid conspiracy theories, attempts to block certification, and slates of fake electors — to nullify Biden’s clear win. This culminated in the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, which Trump instigated, and led to years of criminal investigations and various indictments, as well as the mainstreaming of the MAGA election-denial movement. The efforts to overturn the election were unsuccessful, largely because Biden had won too many battleground states — unlike when the 2000 presidential race came down to the single state of Florida, and the Republican Party was able to successfully halt the recount of an extremely close vote.

This time around, the race could be much closer, and Trump’s efforts appear significantly more organized. He also has more of the party’s elite behind him and his anti-democratic election lies than he had during the last presidential election. If the 2024 election margins end up being wafer-thin, that level of institutional backing could, of course, redound to Trump’s benefit.

Top officials in both the Trump and Biden camps are expecting an uncomfortably tight election outcome in November, sources in both campaigns have told Rolling Stone on numerous occasions over the past year. Advisers to both candidates say they expect the race will turn on a margin of just tens of thousands of votes in a handful of key battleground states, if not a single state. One Trump adviser says that they had privately told the ex-president and presumptive 2024 GOP nominee to anticipate an electoral “knife fight to the death” on, and likely in the wake of, Election Day.

Team Biden’s in-house counsels and network of outside lawyers are currently preparing legal strategies for scenarios involving recounts that would make, in the words of one Biden official, “make Florida in 2000 look like child’s play.”

Sources in and around the president’s legal and political operations say the Biden campaign’s current wargaming is informed by questions aides asked themselves in the wake of the 2020 election: What if there’s a rematch in four years with Donald Trump? What do we do if Joe Biden wins and Trump tries to steal the election again? 

Bidenworld spent a lot of time pondering such a scenario even before the 2020 election.

In the months leading up to November 2020, Trump offered repeated, public signals that he would try to delegitimize any outcome in which he lost the election. As the threats mounted, Biden’s campaign brass began preemptively working through different nightmare scenarios.

That prep work accelerated in the final weeks of the campaign as an armada of lawyers, numbering in the hundreds, sketched out various unconventional scenarios in which the then-president tried to cling to power in the face of defeat, according to current and former senior Biden campaign officials.

Democratic aides walked through a range of authoritarian possibilities, including one scenario in which Trump called out the National Guard either as a show of force or in an attempt to enforce his fictitious victory, the sources say. Another scenario involved gameplans for how to handle Trump refusing to leave the White House the day of Biden’s inauguration, even if the swearing-in had already concluded.

“Biden HQ and the lawyers were essentially preparing for every insane scenario that anyone could think of, so that the campaign wouldn’t be stuck in neutral if the worst actually transpired,” says one attorney familiar with the extensive 2020 wargaming. “Even then, I’m not sure everybody was predicting just how crazy it would become and what Trump would actually do.”

Any attempt by Trump to try and undermine the 2024 election would likely look different than 2020, if only because he lacks the legal authority and access to federal resources he enjoyed as president.

Still, Team Biden has been planning for years sketching out what Trump could do as the leader of the GOP, and has partnered with the Democratic National Committee and a vast network of liberal attorneys and legal groups to conduct similar doomsday-style wargaming.

One swing-state Democratic election official involved with these efforts refers to it as a “superstructure” of various legal teams and liberal operatives who “are going to fight [Team Trump and election deniers] on all fronts and let them have it from all sides, if MAGA wants to tear down our democracy.”

According to two Biden campaign officials and two other sources with knowledge of the operation, draft pleadings and legal motions, for all kinds of possible Trump-related emergencies, are already written and at the ready. In critical swing states such as Georgia, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, Team Biden is regularly in contact with an array of outside counsels and local law firms that have been retained to actively monitor what is happening on the ground, including with regards to the activism of election-denying Trump allies. 

Bidenworld’s closely-held list of nightmare scenarios — in which Democratic legal teams would have to battle it out tooth and nail with Republican counterparts before, during, or after Election Day 2024 — has grown “comically long,” says one source with direct knowledge of the matter. Biden campaign officials and other Democrats familiar with the topic tell Rolling Stone that a key concern, for which step-by-step gameplanning has already begun, is how to robustly respond if Trump and other leading Republicans try to engineer another Jan. 6-style power grab.

In these internal wargames among Bidenworld and Democratic attorneys in key states, this kind of Jan. 6 sequel has included scripts in which House Republicans or state officials refuse to certify a Biden victory — an act that prominent GOP politicians, including on Capitol Hill, have publicly dangled as an option.

A spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee tells Rolling Stone that the national party is also setting aside “tens of millions of dollars in a robust voter protection program to safeguard the rights of voters to make their voices heard against relentless attacks from Donald Trump and the GOP.”

“Meanwhile, the Trump campaign and the RNC have invested in an army of conspiratorial, election-denying legal staff to undermine our elections and make it harder for Americans’ ballots to be counted,” says the DNC spokesperson. “We won’t let Republicans get away with these baseless attacks on our democracy, and we will continue to use every tool at our disposal to strengthen our democracy as MAGA extremists attempt to tear it down.”

Of course, if much of the current national and swing-state polling holds, Trump could defeat his successor outright in a 2024 rematch. However, that is almost irrelevant to Trump and his MAGA brain trust’s goals of cementing their “heads I win, tails you lose” philosophy of election administration

Trump, after all, has continued to falsely claim that the 2016 presidential race was somehow “rigged” in Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s favor. And that was the election he won.

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