Trump to Fill More Vacancies as Recount Distraction Looms

Despite a recount petition and Donald Trump's tweeted claim this weekend, there's been no indication of widespread vote manipulation, illegal voting or hacking that materially affected the outcome one way or the other

With his return to New York, President-elect Donald Trump faces a pressing need to set more of the foundation blocks of his presidency in place by filling vacancies for secretary of state and other top posts.

Distraction looms, however, much of it created by the president-elect himself, who cited a fringe conspiracy theory of widespread voter fraud during a 12-hour Twitter offensive on Sunday, casting a shadow over the legitimacy of an election that he actually won.

"I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally," Trump tweeted Sunday. He later alleged "serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California." 

Trump's transition team did not provide any evidence to back up the president-elect's assertions of fraud in the November election. They pointed only to past charges of irregularities in voter registration. 

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said Monday he had "not seen any voter irregularity in the millions." 

"I don't know what he was talking about on that one," Lankford said of Trump on CNN's "New Day." 

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, asked about the claims, said Monday he would defer to the president-elect's team "for commentary on his tweets." 

"I think what I can say as an objective of fact is that there has been no evidence produced to substantiate a claim like that," Earnest said.

Indeed, there has been no evidence of widespread tampering or hacking that would change the results of the presidential contest between Trump and Clinton. The Democrat's team said it had been looking for abnormalities and found nothing that would alter the results. 

Still, Clinton's campaign was joining a recount led by Green Party candidate Jill Stein in up to three states.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission voted unanimously Monday to reject a request from Stein to conduct a hand recount of the presidential vote. 

Instead, the commission voted to allow local election clerks to determine the method they would use for a recount. 

The recount of Wisconsin's presidential vote will begin Thursday if the state receives payment on Tuesday. The commission has given counties until noon Monday to submit estimated costs for the efforts so Stein can be billed. Independent candidate Rocky De La Fuente has also asked for a recount.

Stein's request included an affidavit from J. Alex Halderman, who stated he's a computer scientist at the University of Michigan. He wrote in the affidavit that the only way to determine whether a cyberattack affected the results is to count ballots manually and examine the voting equipment. 

Stein can ask a judge to order the recount be done by hand, which could considerably delay how quickly it gets done. Federal law requires the recount to be completed by Dec. 13.

Recounts are possible in Pennsylvania and Michigan as well. 

"We intend to participate in order to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides," Clinton campaign attorney Marc Elias said. 

Trump narrowly won Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and, as of last Wednesday, held a lead of almost 11,000 votes in Michigan, with the results awaiting state certification Monday. All three would need to flip to Clinton to upend the Republican's victory, and Clinton's team says Trump has a larger edge in all three states than has ever been overcome in a presidential recount. 

After spending the Thanksgiving holiday in Florida, Trump was back in New York for meetings with potential Cabinet nominees. His team was divided over his choices for secretary of state, particularly the prospect that Trump could tap 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney for the prominent post. 

Romney is scheduled to hold his second in-person meeting with Trump on Tuesday. But the president-elect is also looking at other options, meeting Monday with retired Gen. David Petraeus and on Tuesday with Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

In an unusual public airing of internal machinations, Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway warned Sunday that the president-elect's supporters would feel "betrayed" if he tapped Romney as secretary of state. Romney denounced Trump in scathing terms during the campaign, prompting Trump to call him a "choker" who "walks like a penguin." 

The spectacle of close aides who speak frequently with Trump in private being so explicit about their personal opinions in public raised the possibility that Conway was acting at Trump's behest. 

People involved in the transition process said Trump's decision on his secretary of state did not appear to be imminent. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was initially seen as the favorite for the diplomatic post, but Trump is said to have grown irritated by questions about Giuliani's international business ties, as well as the mayor's public campaigning for the job. 

Even with major administration decisions looming, Trump seems preoccupied by the prospect of a recount. 

"Hillary Clinton conceded the election when she called me just prior to the victory speech and after the results were in," He tweeted Sunday. "Nothing will change." 

He quoted from Clinton's concession speech — "We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead" — and he concluded: "So much time and money will be spent - same result! Sad." 

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Conway said Stein, "the Hillary people" and others supporting recounts have to decide whether they are going to back a peaceful transition "or if they're going to be a bunch of crybabies and sore losers about an election that they can't turn around." 

Clinton's lawyer said her team has been combing through the results since the election in search of anomalies that would suggest hacking by Russians or others and found "no actionable evidence." But "we feel it is important, on principle, to ensure our campaign is legally represented in any court proceedings and represented on the ground in order to monitor the recount process itself," he said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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