Election 2020

Donald Trump suggests delaying presidential election

Congressional Republicans quickly sought to distance themselves from the president over his suggestion


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.

Michael Beschloss, a historian of the US presidency tweeted: “Never in American history—not even during the Civil War and World War II--has there been a successful move to “Delay the Election” for President.”

Ellen Weintraub (@EllenLWeintraub): No, Mr. President. No. You don't have the power to move the election. Nor should it be moved. States and localities are asking you and Congress for funds so they can properly run the safe and secure elections all Americans want. Why don't you work on that? https://t.co/mCLeS3yjbw

Congressional Republicans quickly sought to distance themselves from the president over his suggestion. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, told a Kentucky television station that the election date was “set in stone”.

Senator Marco Rubio, a loyalist on most issues, said: “I wish he hadn’t said that, but it’s not going to change: We are going to have an election in November.”

Lindsey Graham, normally a cheerleader for the president, told CNN he did not think Trump’s tweet about the election was “a particularly good idea”.

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.”

The Democratic House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, simply tweeted quoting the US constitution stating: “The Congress may determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.”

Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution states: “The Congress may determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.”

The 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 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.

16 top Trump officials have voted by mail or requested absentee ballots: Trump, Pence, Barr, McEnany, Conway, Ivanka, Melania, Azar, Ross, DeVos, McDaniel, Kushner, Glassner, Stepien, Ayers, Parscale

GOP only opposes mail voting when Dems use it.

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,” his campaign spokesman, Hogan Gidley, said in a statement, according to the TV cable network.

Trump was asked in April about whether the coronavirus crisis could necessitate a delay in the election and he said: “I never even thought of changing the date of the election. Why would I do that? November 3. It’s a good number. I look forward to that election.”

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