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Congressional Corner With Chris Murphy

Senator Chris Murphy
Public Domain

At long last, the election is almost here.

In today’s Congressional Corner, Democratic Connecticut U.S. Senator Chris Murphy speaks with WAMC’s Alan Chartock.

This interview was recorded October 20.

Alan Chartock: Here we are. And we are delighted to be in the Congressional Corner with Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Senator, you've always kept your word. You said after you were elected to the Senate from Congress that you would be doing the show with us and we really admire you and thank you for that. So thanks for being here.

Senator Chris Muphy: So yeah, of course, I always love talking with you. So good to be back.

Okay, so I wanted you remember what the days when you were a young congressman, and I would say to you are you going to run for President of the United States? And you would say, I'm not old enough yet. But now, you're old enough? So you see yourself being president at some point?

I don't think so. You know, I think it's very possible, contrary to conventional wisdom to have a fulfilling career without being President of the United States. I love the job that I have. I get to be, I hope influential on foreign policy, and health care and guns. And I also have young kids, relatively young kids, 12, and 8. And so that's my primary focus right now in a household with two parents that are working. So I just feel like I got the dream job. And people didn't believe me when I said I wasn't gonna run for president in 2020. And hopefully now they believe me that I actually like the work that I'm doing.

Well, I have to say, uh, you know, I'm a little bit worried, losing a little sleep over what happens on Election Day. Because if you ask me, Donald Trump is capable of anything. He's proven that, and I think he's gonna try to rob the election. How do we stop that?

Well, I think you're right. I think that it's very concerning to watch the Russians really ramp up their interference efforts in 2020. They are actively trying to recruit Americans to be assets to help spread propaganda. They're trying to legitimize their lies by getting them pushed onto mainstream media sources. And I think we have to be ready down the homestretch for the Russians to really get desperate. As Trump's poll numbers continue to look bad, the Russians are going to have to take exceptional measures to try to get him over the finish line. And this isn't me concocting some conspiracy. This is what the intelligence agencies say, right? The intelligence agencies have come to the conclusion based on the intelligence that they are collecting out of Russia, that Russia wants Donald Trump elected, and that they are actively working on his behalf. And so how do we be ready for that? Well, we make sure that we don't allow them to penetrate our voting systems. And we've done a lot of good work to beef up our security in our state and local voting systems. And so I think we can be fairly assured that we're going to have a fair and free and safe election. But then the media has to be able to decide what's truth and what's Russian propaganda and just not spread the Russian propaganda. So there's a bunch of it out there right now and responsible mainstream media sources shouldn't be putting it out there on the air, because that's exactly what the Russians want. So a lot of this, unfortunately will lie in the hands of our media.

So you're talking about the Hunter Biden crap, right?

I am, but the problem is, is that we're all talking about it when it is what Russia wants. Russia wants you to be talking about this story right now. And they want me to be on CNN, as I was earlier today, being asked questions about it. So they sort of feel like if they put really salacious stuff out there, no matter how concocted it is that everybody will start talking about it. And we have to guard against that, because that's ultimately playing their games.

So this action plan that you have for Election Day, for Election Day, specifically, what has to happen that day?

Well, a couple things. And I have gotten together with a handful of my colleagues in the Senate to put together a document that I hope people will read. We'll put it on our website that details, what we need to do and what you need to expect on Election Day. First, we need to make sure everybody knows that voter intimidation is already illegal; we don't have to pass any new laws. If you're out there trying to intimidate a voter, trying to stop somebody from voting, you're gonna be arrested. It's a felony in many states. And so we've got to get that word out there, because Trump is talking about building an army, he's telling the proud boys to show up at the polls. And we need to make them understand that if they do that, they do it at their own legal peril. Second, we need to understand that we might not know the result on election night, there are a few states that probably are not going to have their full count, including critical states like Pennsylvania. And so well, Trump may try to pull a fast one and with all the votes not being counted, declare himself the victor on election night. We have to stick to the simple principle we count every vote. Maybe Joe Biden will be able to declare victory on election night. But it also could be possible that we'll have to wait a few days and we have to be patient because we want to make sure that every vote is counted. So having those expectations set right i think is important as well.

Now the states, of course, are the ones who are charged with their own electoral process. Nevertheless, we have an attorney general of the United States who's no more than sycophantic when it comes to the president and what he will do. How do we deal with that? If he's the ultimate law enforcement person?

Well, you know, he is and he isn't. Ultimately, a lot of this will get litigated in court. And much of the decisions around how to count votes are not lodged in the federal government, but in the state governments. So, you know, let's take the issue of Electoral College representation. A lot of people have said, well, you know, what, what happens if state tries to get screwy with that? Well, it is largely up to the governors to certify the results and appoint the electors. And in the states that are likely to be the firewall, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, there are Democratic governors who aren’t going to play games with the counts, who are going to make sure that everybody gets counted and the right electors get sent to the count in Washington. So I think there are limited powers that the attorney general has, given the fact that these Election Day operations and the vote counting exercises are our state functions, not federal functions.

But Chris Murphy, we do have Florida, with a Republican, Governor, Republican Secretary of State, we all remember how that's gone down in the past? How do you make sure that they don't load it?

So you're right there, there are certain states in which you know, you could see something fishy happening? Well, first, you know, we've built up the biggest and boldest legal operation that the presidential election has ever seen. So we're going to be ready, on Election Day and the day after Election Day to fight to make sure that every vote gets counted. Again, I think we have a number of states that could be decisive with Democratic governors who aren't going to play these games. And then we're going to play hardball if we have to. I mean, we'll be out on the streets protesting the right to have every vote counted, if that's what it comes down to. So we're not going to get caught unaware like we did in 2000. We're going to be ready to fight this fight, to have every single vote counted, and have the actual victor of this presidential election end up in the White House.

I keep thinking of Al Gore and how things could have been very, very different had he not played the gentleman instead of fighting the good fight. But what you're saying is you're prepared to fight the good fight.

Yeah, I think we know we're going up against a president who's going to use every dirty trick at his disposal to try to steal this election, and he's potentially conspiring either intentionally or unintentionally with a foreign power. So we're going to have to exhaust every legal remedy in order to make sure that the winner of this election ultimately gets into the White House.

Now, he the President has boasted that he's putting this woman on the court, Judge Barrett, and do you expect her to be able to help if he brings it to the court? Is that is that disgusting or what?

Yeah, I mean it's just amazing how they're ramming Amy Coney Barrett through. This is the fastest nomination in modern history. The hearings were rushed, the vote on the floor is going to be rushed. You know, we barely had time to review a record never mind have a full debate, not just in the Senate, but throughout the country. I mean, you're supposed to take your time with these nominations, in part because you want to let your constituents get educated. You want to let them come to a conclusion so that they can tell you how to vote. Republicans know that if people find out who Amy Coney Barrett is and how radical she is how absolutely radical she is on issues like health care and choice and guns and gay marriage, that they would never allow their senator to vote in favor of her. That's why they're rushing this through. And as you mentioned, part of the reason that McConnell wants her on the bench before Election Day, is because they want her there to be able to rule on election contests. And it is scary to think that three of the five necessary for a majority owe their spot on the Supreme Court, to Donald Trump. You know, I would argue that that should lead them to consider recusal but I imagine that they know why they were put on that court. They were put in that court in part to do Donald Trump's dirty work if the election depends on it.

I love having Chris Murphy, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, on our show on the Congressional Corner. Chris when we when we come back the next time we'll pick it up right where we left it. Thank you.


Dr. Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the University at Albany. He hosts the weekly Capitol Connection series, heard on public radio stations around New York. The program, for almost 12 years, highlighted interviews with Governor Mario Cuomo and now continues with conversations with state political leaders. Dr. Chartock also appears each week on The Media Project and The Roundtable and offers commentary on Morning Edition, weekdays at 7:40 a.m.