Trump suggests delaying US presidential election as dire economic data released


JULY 30, 2020

Photograph:  Donald Trump tweets without evidence that ‘universal mail-in voting’ would lead to ‘the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT election in history’. – Leah Millis/Reuters

Donald Trump on Thursday morning floated the idea of delaying November’s presidential election, justifying the extraordinary suggestion by repeating his false claim that widespread voting by mail from home would result in a “fraudulent” result.

Trump’s incendiary proposal was dropped in a Thursday morning tweet, as the US was reeling from bad economic news, digesting the death toll of 150,000 having been reached in the coronavirus pandemic and preparing for the funeral of Congressman John Lewis in Atlanta. In it he claimed without evidence that “universal mail-in voting” would lead to “the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT election in history”.

It also coincided with the preparations for a retreat by federal law enforcement agents from Portland, Oregon, where they had been called an “occupying force” and “Trump’s troops” by the state governor after being sent in to tackle protests sustained daily since the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis in May, which triggered nationwide demonstrations and a fresh surge of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Trump, pontificating that the result would be a “great embarrassment to the USA”, raised the prospect of a postponement. “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” he tweeted.

The US constitution grants the power to set an election date to Congress, not the president, and numerous opposition figures immediately rejected Trump’s suggestion, as did a commissioner with the US Federal Election Commission, Ellen Weintraub.

The Democratic representative Zoe Lofgren, who chairs the House committee overseeing election security, rejected the idea of a delay.

“Only Congress can change the date of our elections,” Lofgren said in an email to the Reuters new agency, adding: “Under no circumstances will we consider doing so to accommodate the President’s inept and haphazard response to the coronavirus pandemic, or give credence to the lies and misinformation he spreads regarding the manner in which Americans can safely and securely cast their ballots.”

Washington state attorney general Bob Ferguson issued a statement saying there was no evidence that mail-in ballots increase voter fraud.

He said: “President Trump’s statement that he may unlawfully delay the November election is undemocratic, un-American, and, sadly, entirely predictable.’”

And added: “For months, my legal team has been preparing for the possibility that the president might attempt to unlawfully delay the election. If that happens, we will see President Trump in court – and we will win.”

The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who was appearing before the Senate foreign relations committee at the time Trump’s tweet went out, sought to dodge questions on whether the president had the authority to delay the election.

“I’m not going to enter a legal judgment on that on the fly,” Pompeo, a Harvard Law School graduate, said. “The department of justice and others will will make that legal determination.”

The justice department does not have the power to change the date of the election.

The idea that the US president should suggest a delay in a ballot that will decide whether or not he stays in the White House for another four years is certain to inflame fears that he is preparing for a fierce battle that could threaten the integrity of US democracy. Recent polls have him falling significantly behind his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Trump has already indicated that he might not accept a Biden victory on election day, 3 November. In a recent interview with Fox News Sunday he declined to commit to abiding by the results.

The idea that voting from home in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic would lead to an explosion of fraud has become a growing theme for Trump. Most states have a long history of administering mail-in voting, without any significant incidence of fraud.

Trump himself and numerous members of his administration, including Vice-President Mike Pence, have voted by mail.

Trump was, however, “just raising a question” a spokesman for his election campaign told CNN.

“The president is just raising a question about the chaos Democrats have created with their insistence on all mail-in voting,” campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement, according to the TV cable network.

Courtesy/Source: The Guardian