President-elect Donald Trump moved one step closer to the White House after collecting the necessary Electoral College votes to validate his victory.
Despite several last-ditch efforts by a number of rogue electors and activists to block Trump’s victory, he surpassed the 270 electoral votes needed to make his election night victory official, collecting 304 votes, according to The Associated Press.
Trump lost two votes from GOP electors in Texas on Monday, but those were not enough to derail his 306-232 electoral edge over Hillary Clinton.
Meanwhile, Clinton lost four electoral votes, after electors in Washington cast protest votes — three for former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell, and one for Sioux tribe leader Faith Spotted Eagle, who has led protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.
The six so-called “faithless electors” tied a record for most dissenting votes cast, according to Politico, which reports the record was first set in 1808, when six Democratic-Republican electors opposed James Madison.
Trump celebrated the results on Twitter: “We did it! Thank you to all of my great supporters, we just officially won the election (despite all of the distorted and inaccurate media).”
Congress will hold a joint session on Jan. 6 to certify the Electoral College vote, leading the way for Trump to be sworn in on Jan. 20.
Bill Clinton, the elector
Former President Bill Clinton, after casting his Electoral College vote in Albany on Monday for his wife, Hillary Clinton, said she battled through a “bogus email deal” in her presidential campaign, but ultimately couldn’t prevail against “the Russians and the FBI.”
Clinton, one of New York’s 29 official electors, essentially placed the blame for Hillary’s loss on Russian hackers — who the FBI and CIA say intervened in the election to help Republican Donald Trump — and the FBI’s disclosure just 11 days before the election that it was reviewing more of Hillary Clinton’s emails. Some analysts have said the FBI action probably tipped late votes to Trump, who won the Electoral College vote but lost the popular count.
The former president said casting a vote for his wife under these circumstances was bittersweet.
“But I’ve never cast a vote that I was prouder of. You know, I watched her work for two years. I watched her battle through that bogus email deal, be vindicated at the end,” Clinton told reporters as he exited the New York State Capitol. “She fought through that. She fought through everything. She prevailed against it all. Then, you know, at the end, we had the Russians and the FBI deal. She couldn’t prevail against that. But she did everything else and still won by 2.8 million votes.”
Read Newsday’s Yancey Roy’s recap from the Capitol building.
NY electors’ shot at Trump
New York’s 29 electors, all Democrats, may not have mentioned Trump by name during their one-hour session, but they did have a subtle message for the president-elect, who has made overhauling the nation’s immigration enforcement laws a key part of his platform.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie moved to donate the delegates’ compensation — $15 per delegate, or a total of $435, plus travel expenses — to the New York Immigration Coalition, reports Politico New York.
“The electors of this college unanimously agree to forgo their compensation as electeds and have their money designated to an organization which assists the brave men, women and children wanting to make the great United States their home,” Heastie said.
Steve Choi, the group’s executive director, said the group was “humbled” by the vote, noting that on Sunday “thousands of New Yorkers took to the streets to loudly declare that our New York will not give in to anti-immigrant hate and that immigrant New York is here to stay.”
Billionaire to lead Army
Trump turned to the business sector once again for his latest top-level appointment — naming Florida Panthers hockey team owner Vincent “Vinnie” Viola as secretary of the Army.
Viola, a billionaire who founded Virtu Financial, an electronic trading firm, is also a former infantry officer who served in the 101st Airborne Division and graduated from West Point.
Forbes Magazine lists Viola’s net worth at $1.8 billion, and he has been a prominent donor to his military alma mater, donating funds for the creation of West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, reports AP.
He reportedly sent Panthers players to West Point for training, and several of the military academy’s graduates and military veterans work in the hockey team’s front office.
Viola, who served as chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange during the time of the 9/11 attacks, is a 1983 graduate of New York Law School, according to an announcement released by Trump’s transition team.
Trump: Eradicate ISIS
The assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, a shooting rampage at a Swiss mosque, and the deadly attack at an outdoor Christmas market in Berlin, prompted Trump to call on the “civilized world” to change its thinking toward suspected terrorism.
“Today there were terror attacks in Turkey, Switzerland and Germany — and it is only getting worse,” Trump tweeted. “The civilized world must change thinking!”
Earlier in the day, Trump offered his condolences “to the family and loved ones of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov,” who was shot to death at an Ankara art gallery by a gunman who reportedly yelled “God is great” in Arabic. The gunman was later fatally shot by police.
“The murder of an ambassador is a violation of all rules of civilized order and must be universally condemned,” Trump said in a statement.
Meanwhile in Switzerland, three people were injured when a gunman stormed into a mosque in Zurich’s financial district and opened fire on people at prayer, authorities said.
And at least 12 people were killed and dozens more seriously injured when a driver plowed a 40-ton truck through a crowd gathered at a popular Berlin Christmas market.
Trump, in a statement, said, “Our hearts and prayers are with the loved ones of the victims” in Berlin, pegging the attacks to the Islamic State terrorist group, though German officials had not yet identified the perpetrators.
Trump said the Islamic State “and their regional and worldwide networks must be eradicated from the face of the earth, a mission we will carry out with all freedom-loving partners.”
What else is happening
- Asked about his future role in shaping the Democratic Party, President Barack Obama told NPR News: “What I am interested in is just developing a whole new generation of talent.”
- First lady Michelle Obama, in a sit-down interview with Oprah Winfrey, said her door is “open” to give advice and guidance to incoming first lady Melania Trump.
- Retired U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allan, who oversaw recovery efforts during the 2010 BP oil spill off the U.S. Gulf Coast, is said to be in the running for Veterans Affairs secretary, according to Fox News.