PETE WILLIAMS: I'm Pete Williams, and this is the Washington Week Extra, where we pick up
online where we left off on air.
The members of the Electoral College will meet on
Monday to seal Donald Trump's victory, or at least that's what he hopes they'll do, as
the 45th president.
But some "never Trump" voters are hoping for a revolt.
Kimberly, are you on tenterhooks waiting to see how this comes out?
KIMBERLY ATKINS: Not exactly.
I don't think that President-elect Trump has a lot to
Yes, there have been a lot of folks ringing the phones and emailing the
Republican electors in the Electoral College, hoping that they will cause a revolt and
get somehow 37 of them to vote against Donald Trump.
PETE WILLIAMS: That's how many would have to flip?
KIMBERLY ATKINS: Exactly, that's how many would have to defect to keep him from getting
to 270 votes.
So far one has committed, so I don't think that that's a big fly in the
ointment for him right now, although I'm sure he will tweet his disappointment if he
does not get the full 306 votes.
PETE WILLIAMS: The president was asked today about the Electoral College and whether
maybe we should change it in light of the president and the popular vote not going along
with it, but he didn't seem to bite on this, did he?
JULIET EILPERIN: Yeah, he said, you know, it's a vestige of an old system and maybe
there are ways in which he - it disadvantages Democrats.
He took a swipe at Wyoming, easy to do.
PETE WILLIAMS: No it's not.
That's my home state, and there will be none of that.
JULIET EILPERIN: Well, I'm saying it was like, you know - I think that could - I think
that could backfire against him.
But that said, he basically said, you
know what, we've got to be smarter, we've got to go everywhere, we've got to compete,
and that's the way we're going to get better.
PETE WILLIAMS: But the point here, civics fans, is that the fact is that, despite some
relatively weak state laws that bind electors to vote as their state did, they really
don't have to.
They can be faithless, although it's never affected a presidential election.
ROBERT COSTA: It's been a great civics lesson this week to see alarmed Democrats revive
a whole civic conversation about the Electoral College.
DAVID SANGER: There have not been this many people in Washington, D.C.
who have gone back to read Federalist 68 - (laughter) - it's the one that deals with the
most with this - I think in probably 200 years.
PETE WILLIAMS: But this is - this is Hamilton's time.
KIMBERLY ATKINS: Exactly.
JULIET EILPERIN: Exactly.
It really fits.
DAVID SANGER: This is - you know, it's really its moment.
And we forget that nobody
was better at squeezing electors than Hamilton himself.
PETE WILLIAMS: Well, President-elect Trump's decision to appoint David Friedman to be
the U.S. ambassador to Israel has sparked another controversy.
He's a bankruptcy lawyer, David, who has represented the president there.
But what are - what are his credentials in terms of the Middle East?
DAVID SANGER: He has been an extremely - to say that he is pro-Israel understates it.
He has been in favor of expanding the settlements.
He has not been at all an endorser
of a two-state solution, which has basically been the wording that you've heard from
President Clinton through President Bush and President Obama.
His view has basically been a unitary state in which you'd have to assume that Arab
rights would be somewhat restricted because he's been quite concerned that the Arab
population would become the dominant population, or the largest population.
So he was described in Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, this morning as significantly to
the right of Bibi Netanyahu.
Now, it takes work - (laughter) - to get to the right of
That may actually turn out to be problematic for Mr. Netanyahu, who at
various points likes to contain his own right wing by saying Washington won't let us
If you looked at the announcement that the Trump campaign put out yesterday,
the Trump transition office put out, it talked about returning the capital to Jerusalem.
PETE WILLIAMS: Well, but does this - what does this tell us, though?
Does it tell us that they like his views about Israel, or they like the fact that he's a
friend of Donald Trump and these views come extra?
DAVID SANGER: We don't know.
I mean, I assume that they like the fact that he seems
close to Donald Trump.
But the question is, is this for show or does this become policy?
And if this becomes policy, what does that do in any - of any hope to reach an agreement
with the Palestinians?
PETE WILLIAMS: Any potential confirmation problems here, given that Congress has some
pretty strong views on Israel?
KIMBERLY ATKINS: Well, I think it'll make for some explosive moments during the
But I think by and large the Democrats also want to pick their
And I think as they're sort of laying out and looking at the landscape of
nominees so far, this may not be the one that they want to pick.
PETE WILLIAMS: Do you think he'll have trouble?
ROBERT COSTA: I don't think so.
I think the Republican leadership in both chambers,
while they may not be as conservative on some of these issues, they're generally in
the Netanyahu direction.
In fact, they of course welcomed Netanyahu to the Capitol.
An interesting figure in these discussions is Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, who
Trump repeatedly has said he'd like to see involved in some kind of peace negotiations in
the Middle East.
We'll have to see what his role is with the new ambassador,
should the ambassador be confirmed.
PETE WILLIAMS: Juliet, you made a point today about the president during his news
conference talking about a lack of faith in democratic institutions, citing the support
that many Republicans have for Putin.
What did you take from that?
JULIET EILPERIN: That, you know, this president, who has tried to be optimistic
throughout his presidency, is losing a little of his optimism at the end, and that in
fact, I mean, he really cited a range of things, whether he - you know, whether it's
elected officials, whether it's the press - he chastised reporters for how they handled
the election - even citizens themselves.
You know, he has gone in the wake of terrorist
shootings and said the only thing that will let us be vulnerable to the terrorists is
if we change our values, and today he said that we are in fact vulnerable to foreign
influence in part because we're losing who we stand for.
That's pretty striking.
PETE WILLIAMS: But didn't he also say we're giving the Russians more due than what they
deserve, that they're - you know, they don't make anything anybody wants, they don't innovate?
DAVID SANGER: I thought this - this was a really fascinating part of the press
conference, I thought, because he was essentially saying: before you get all spun up,
remember that the Russians are overdependent on oil, that their population is shrinking,
that they can't innovate, and nobody is particularly interested in doing business with
them except for fossil fuels.
And I took that as a subtle message to President-elect
Trump to say, keep your eye on the ball.
And the ball here is China, the rising power, not Russia, the declining power.
PETE WILLIAMS: What did you make of the president's comments on these points, Robert,
about this - the whole thing about losing faith in institutions?
ROBERT COSTA: Well, I think what you saw the president do in his press conference is
embrace the institutions himself.
I mean, he has, I think, said something about his
character and his leadership in how he's handled this post-election period.
As his party has been at times almost apocalyptic about the rise of Donald Trump,
President Obama has been exceedingly calm and continues to reiterate the importance of
continuity and the importance of these institutions of democracy.
PETE WILLIAMS: All right.
Thank you all very much.
That's going to do it for us.
There's more online, including this week's Washington Week-ly News Quiz.
Be sure to check that out.
And we'll see you on the next Washington Week Extra.