UPDATE (10:44 am): 9News political reporter Marshall Zelinger has already had enough:
I’m going to stop live tweeting the Colorado Legislative Audit Committee until there is proof provided of election fraud. Testifying that we should find something if it exists, without providing proof of what you think exists is not news. #coleg #copolitics
— Marshall Zelinger (@Marshall9News) December 15, 2020
UPDATE (10:15 am): The first witness is Trump legal adviser Jenna Ellis, who is testifying remotely. Ellis says she is here to encourage legislators “to take election integrity seriously.” She concludes her statement without offering any sort of evidence of election impropriety in Colorado. Great start!
UPDATE (10:07 am): The Legislative Audit Committee has already called a recess because of technical problems with its remote participation software. This seems like an appropriate sign.
You’ve seen this movie before.
Republicans who will trudge through the snow today to attend a special meeting of the Legislative Audit Committee, called by Chair and outgoing Rep. Lori Saine (R-Firestone), are every minor character in any horror movie you’ve ever seen. They are the group of mismatched friends who reach a literal fork in the road and say to each other, “let’s split up,” while every person in the movie theater says to themselves, No, don’t do it!
Saine and Republican lawmakers have invited conspiracy theorists and self-appointed election experts to the State Capitol for the purpose of “investigating” nonexistent election fraud in Colorado. There is a 100% chance that this silly spectacle will accomplish precisely nothing other than making Republicans look like fools, but they’re doing it anyway.
As Marianne Goodland wrote last week for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:
The Dec. 15 committee hearing is expected to look into election voting systems — Saine told Colorado Politics she has invited Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems to send a representative — as well as other allegations around election irregularities, contained in a press release Wednesday, that have already been thoroughly debunked. [Pols emphasis]
A number of fairly well-known Republicans are scheduled to appear today, including disgraced former Secretary of State Scott Gessler and President Trump’s legal mastermind Jenna Ellis, who loses election fraud lawsuits more often than most of us drink a cup of coffee. Some lesser-known names will also appear to blather on about algorithms related to Dominion Voting Systems, the Denver-based election technology company that conspiracists allege is somehow connected to a former President of Venezuela who has been dead for seven years.
Oh, and all of this will take place after the Electoral College on Monday voted without incident to confirm that Democrat Joe Biden is the President-elect. The same Joe Biden who carried Colorado by a whopping 13 points in November.
The only tangible impact of continuing to question an election that the Department of Homeland Security called “the most secure in American history” is to ensure that local election officials continue to receive threats of violence for doing their jobs effectively; in Michigan, election offices and the state capitol were both closed on Monday in response to credible threats of violence. There is nothing else that can be accomplished, despite Saine’s ridiculous claims that “It is our duty as elected representatives of the people to put to rest any doubt the public may have concerning the integrity of our elections.”
But let’s play along for a moment and pretend that Saine called this hearing for reasons other than spreading discredited disinformation. What’s the best-case scenario here for Republicans? Is Saine hoping to call into question an election in which she won her own race for a seat on the Weld County Board of Commissioners?
Perhaps Republicans think they will uncover something that could somehow change the result of the Presidential race (Biden +13) or the U.S. Senate race in Colorado (in which Democrat John Hickenlooper defeated incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner by 9 points). It’s important to note that the losing candidates in November’s election all conceded their respective races in Colorado — in some cases even after a recount was conducted. Any concern about election irregularities isn’t actually coming from candidates themselves.
Suppose Saine and friends actually discovered something relevant today: As Goodland explained last week, the Legislative Audit Committee doesn’t have the authority to DO anything about it. The State Auditor can’t audit county election operations, and it can’t “investigate” private companies like Dominion Voting Systems.
For Republicans conducting today’s spectacle, their best case scenario may be convincing President Trump to Tweet something nice about them. That would be neat.
For Democrats attending today’s hearing, they need only to restrain themselves from following Republicans down the rabbit hole. There is no real point in arguing with Saine or any of the people she calls to “testify” today, because it’s not possible to win over conspiracy theorists with tactics of “logic” and “reason.” Democrats should just keep their COVID-19 face masks firmly attached and let the hearing conclude as quickly as possible.
This is a clear abuse of authority on the part of Saine, but it’s not out of character for a lawmaker who thrives on gibberish and was once caught trying to sneak a loaded gun onto an airplane. Republicans know full well that today’s hearing is a bad idea, but they’re moving ahead because they’re terrified of disappointing Trump’s unhinged base of supporters.
And besides, accomplishing nothing is basically the Colorado Republican brand.