- President Donald Trump appeared to float the idea of delaying the election on Thursday and made false claims about mail-in voting, which numerous states have expanded in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
- The president does not have the power to move the general election, an authority given solely to Congress under the Constitution.
- Separately, the Constitution also states that the four-year term of a president must end on Jan. 20.
- While the White House later walked back the president’s remarks, the suggestion still drew bipartisan backlash from members of Congress.
- Trump has repeatedly made false claims about mail-in voting and claimed it is the biggest risk to his re-election, a fact that many say is an attempt to undermine the outcome of the election.
Trump Floats Delaying Election
President Donald Trump stirred up significant outcry on Thursday after suggesting in a tweet that the 2020 general election be delayed.
“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” he wrote. “It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
The president has zero legal authority to change the date of the general election. Under the Constitution, Congress is given the power to set the date for the general, and states are given the power to choose when their primaries are. There is nothing that gives the president that ability.
Even if Congress did want to delay the election, it would be an incredibly complicated and tough legal process. The date of the general election was set by a federal law in 1895, which says it must be the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
In order to change that, both the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-held House would have to pass legislation, Trump would have to sign off, and that would still be subject to legal challenges in court.
But even if that all happened, the 20th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution mandates that the four-year term of a president and vice president end at noon on Jan. 20, and because that date is set in the Constitution, any change to that would require a Constitutional amendment.
That is arguably the most important thing to keep in mind here. Even if the election was delayed, the Constitution, as is, still says it has to happen before Jan. 20. If it does not happen before then, Trump cannot simply continue to be the president after his term ends Jan. 20 without changing the Constitution. The same applies for Vice President Mike Pence.
If, for whatever reason, there was not an election or a Constitutional amendment changing the term date, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) would become the president on Jan. 20.
Though, notably, if there is not a presidential election, there would also most likely not be a congressional election, meaning Pelosi’s term would end Jan. 3 and the Senate Pro Tempore, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.) would take over the presidency.
The remarks drew immediate bipartisan ire and prompted rebukes from several key Republican members.
“Never in the history of the federal elections have we not held an election, and we should go forward,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.)
“Never in the history of the country, through wars, depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time, and we’ll find a way to do that again this Nov. 3,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said during an interview later on Thursday.
The White House denied that Trump wants to change the election from November 3rd.
While Trump’s exact intentions with floating the idea of moving the election remain unclear, many accused the president of trying to sow discord and set up a scenario where if he loses the election, he and his supporters could refuse or challenge the results.
Over the last few months, Trump has launched numerous attacks on the mail-in ballot expansions many states have undertaken in response to the coronavirus pandemic, repeatedly claiming that voting-by-mail will rig the election and lead to inaccuracies and fraud.
Experts and politicians on both sides of the aisle allege that those attacks, almost all of which are based on falsities, are continued efforts by Trump to undermine the election results.
Instances of voter fraud are very rare in general. Specifically, the five states that already conduct voting almost entirely by mail have reported very little fraud.
While experts do say that it is true that without the proper security measures, mail-in voting is more susceptible to fraud, they also note that one of the most significant examples of absentee ballot fraud in decades was actually designed to help a Republican.
That instance took place during the 2018 race for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, when a Republican operative was charged with election fraud after collecting absentee ballots for the Republican candidate, Mark Harris. State election officials mandated that the election be held again.
However, experts also use that as an example to show that fraud that is big enough to change an election outcome will probably be detected.
But despite the fact that there is hard historical and scientific evidence to back all of that up, Trump has continually pushed these false claims, and in recent weeks, he has only ramped up his efforts and rhetoric.
During an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace earlier this month, Trump refused to say if he would accept the results of the 2020 election.
“It depends. I think mail-in voting is going to rig the election,” he said. “I have to see. I’m not just going to say yes, I’m not going to say no.”
According to a tally by The Washington Post, since late March, Trump has gone after mail-in voting nearly 70 times in interviews, remarks, and tweets, including at least 17 times this month alone.
Trump has also recently said that mail-in voting is his biggest risk for his re-election, and claimed that it will hurt Republicans more, though studies have found that mail-in voting does not favor one party either way.
States Expanding Mail-In Ballots
On the other side, Democrats have accused Trump and other Republicans who have pushed to limit mail-in voting during the pandemic of undermining democracy by making people choose between exercising their right to vote and endangering their health.
Many also accused them of engaging in voter suppression, arguing that it’s not mail-in voting that will hurt the Republicans, but rather, voter turn out.
According to data from the National Vote at Home Institute, states that changed their presidential primaries to largely mail-in voting this year saw much bigger voter turnout than states that mostly held in-person contests. In fact, seven of the nine states that saw the lowest turnout held their elections primarily in person.
For example, Montana, which had the highest percentage of voter turnout in the nation with 63%, sent ballots to all registered voters and encouraged them to vote by mail. In Pennsylvania, a crucial battleground state, 1.5 million people voted by mail in the primary, nearly 18 times the amount of people who voted by mail in the state in 2016.
If states with mail-in voting have higher turnout, that has huge implications for the general election. While some states have been inflexible, the vast majority of others have either relaxed their rules for absentee and mail-in voting or already had those rules in place.
According to The Post, currently, over 180 million eligible voters will be able to vote by mail in the election. Of those eligible voters, 24 million live in states that have either switched to allow no-excuse absentee voting or will now allow fear of the coronavirus as a reason to vote absentee.
Meanwhile, only eight states are keeping in-person voting as the only option unless the voter can give an approved reason other than fear of the coronavirus.
Those massive expansions, which have timed out perfectly with Trump’s increased attacks, seem to indicate that Trump views increased voter turn-out as a threat. That could not come at a worse time for the embattled leader.
Current polls are increasingly showing him trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, including in some key battleground states. Trump’s unusual tweet Thursday also came just minutes after the Commerce Department reported that the U.S. GDP fell 9.5 percent last quarter, the largest quarterly drop on record.
But for now, it seems like the election will stay put. And with just 95 days to go, the clock is ticking.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (USA Today) (The New York Times)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Signs Restrictive Elections Bill Into Law
- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a sweeping elections bill into law Thursday that critics say will significantly limit voting access.
- Among other measures, the bill will impose new restrictions on ballot drop boxes, add barriers to mail-in voting, and limit who can hand out materials to voters at polling locations — a provision many believe will ban the distribution of food and water.
- While Republicans claim the bill is necessary to provide election security and transparency, Democrats and voting rights advocates argue that it will suppress voters, particularly voters of color.
- DeSantis also received widespread backlash from critics and the media for taking the unprecedented step of blocking all journalists from attending the signing ceremony for the law, which was broadcasted exclusively on Fox News.
Newest Voting Restrictions Law
Florida became the latest Republican-led state to impose new voting restrictions Thursday when Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a broad elections bill into law.
The new law contains many provisions similar to the dozens of pieces of legislation aimed at restricting voting access that have been proposed and approved in the months following the 2020 election.
Among other measures, the Florida law will:
- Limit the use of drop boxes and impose new restrictions on where they can be placed.
- Add more identification requirements for requesting absentee ballots.
- Require voters to request absentee ballots for each election, rather than getting them automatically through a voting list.
- Limit who can collect and drop off ballots.
- Give more power to partisan observers during the ballot-counting process.
- Expand a current rule that bans outside groups from engaging in actions that could influence voting within a 150-foot radius of a polling place, which voting rights experts say could be used to prohibit people from giving out food and water to voters waiting in line to vote.
On top of that, critics have also said the new law could result in longer lines for both early in-person and Election Day voting. Democrats and voting rights advocates have also argued that this is just a transparent attempt to suppress voters, and specifically voters of color.
Republicans, meanwhile, have claimed the new law is necessary to make elections more secure — claims that were reiterated by DeSantis during the signing ceremony.
“Me signing this bill says, ‘Florida, your vote counts,’” he said. “Your vote is going to be cast with integrity and transparency, and this is a great place for democracy.”
DeSantis Blocks Media From Bill Signing
In addition to backlash against the new law itself, many condemned DeSantis for speaking about transparency but then completely shutting the media out of the signing, which was broadcasted exclusively on Fox News.
Numerous individual reporters and outlets were blocked from accessing the event, including Jay O’Brien, a reporter for the local CBS affiliate, who tweeted that the station was supposed to film pool footage of the event to feed to affiliates nationwide.
“This isn’t a story about the press being locked out of an event,” O’Brien later added. “It’s about Floridians who had their eyes and ears in that room cut off. @GovRonDeSantis signed a law today that will impact ALL Floridians. And only some viewers were allowed to see it. That’s not normal.”
That disbelief was also echoed by other outlets, like The New York Times, which explained that “Giving exclusive access to a cable news network was unusual, if not unprecedented.”
The Flordia law, which was immediately challenged by civil rights groups in federal court, comes just months after Georgia passed a similar, widely controverisal bill.
Meanwhile in Texas, Republican leaders are ignoring the pleas of major corporations like Dell, Microsoft, and American Airlines by moving forward with legislation that would make the state one of the toughest to vote in throughout the entire country. That proposal, which has already been passed by the state Senate, could see a full state House vote as early as next week.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CBS News)
Biden Administration To Reunite Four Migrant Families Separated Under Trump
- Four migrant families split up under former President Trump’s child separation policy will be reunited this week, Biden administration officials said Sunday.
- More than 5,500 children were separated from their parents from 2017 to 2018. Around 1,000 families remained separated when Trump left office and over half had not been contacted by the administration.
- Shortly after taking office in January, President Biden formed the Family Reunification Task Force, which has located at least 200 more parents. The families that will be reunited later this week mark the first that the task force has connected.
- While immigration advocates applauded the move, they also criticized Biden’s team for not moving faster or pouring adequate resources into reunification efforts.
Four Migrant Families To Reunite
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced Sunday that four migrant parents who were separated from their children and deported alone under former President Donald Trump’s controversial family separation policy will be allowed to return to the U.S. and reunite with their kids.
The “zero tolerance” policy, one of Trump’s most notorious actions on immigration, was formally enacted in April 2018 and ended just months later in June after a federal judge forced the administration to stop.
It was later revealed that the administration had actually been regularly separating families throughout much of 2017. According to government documents, over 5,500 children were separated from their parents in 2017 and 2018.
Most of those families were later reunited, but at least 1,000 parents remained separated because a parent had been deported. More than half of those parents — an estimated 645 — still had not been contacted by the time Trump left office.
President Joe Biden has said reuniting families would be a top priority as he begins undoing the complex network of immigration policies set by Trump. This latest move marks the first families that will be reunited through the Family Reunification Task Force, which Biden created shortly after taking office in January.
So far, that task force has managed to find around 200 of the 645 remaining parents and recently reported that it’s looking into 5,600 files from the first few months of the Trump administration that may have evidence of even more separations.
Immigration Advocates Call for More
While immigration advocates and lawyers applauded the move, they also criticized the slow rate of reunification. Some also accused the Biden administration of taking credit for the reunions despite doing very little to facilitate them.
“Despite what Secretary Mayorkas would have the public believe, DHS has done nothing to facilitate the return and reunification of these parents this week, other than to agree to allow them in,” said Carol Anne Donohoe, a managing attorney for the reunification project run by immigrant advocacy organization Al Otro Lado.
“The only reason these mothers will be standing at the port of entry is because Al Otro Lado negotiated their travel visas with the Mexican government, paid for their airline tickets and arranged for reunification,” she added.
Many advocacy groups have also slammed the Biden administration for not doing enough to plan what happens next for these families. Some have urged them to provide permanent legal status to parents so they cannot be separated from their children again, as well as support services and potential financial compensation.
The parents arriving this week will be allowed to temporarily stay in the country under what’s called humanitarian parole, their long-term immigration status and what happens from here is largely up in the air.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (NBC News)
Matt Gaetz’s “Wingman” Reportedly Said the Congressman Paid for Sex With a Minor
- The Daily Beast reported Thursday that it had obtained a letter written by Joel Greenberg, an accused sex trafficker and a close associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.), where he admitted that he and the congressman paid for sex with numerous young women, including a 17-year-old girl.
- In the letter, Greenberg allegedly claimed that he and Gaetz believed the girl was 19 but ended contact in September 2017 after realizing she was a minor. Once she turned 18, he said both men re-established contact.
- The Daily Beast also obtained alleged screenshots of messages where Greenberg offered to pay Roger Stone to help him secure a pardon from then-President Trump. Greenberg admitted he and Gaetz paid for sex with a minor in those messages as well.
- In a statement, Stone confirmed that he had spoken to Greenberg about a possible pardon and said he had requested Greenberg’s letter but denied receiving compensation. Gaetz, who is currently under investigation for possible violations of sex trafficking laws, denied ever paying for sex or having sex with a minor.
Alleged Greenberg Letters
Joel Greenberg, an accused sex trafficker and a central figure in the ongoing federal investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.), admitted that both men paid for sex with multiple young women and a 17-year-old girl, according to a letter obtained by The Daily Beast Thursday.
Greenberg was indicted last summer on 33 counts, including sex trafficking a minor. The former Florida politician is an ally of Gaetz, who is currently the subject of a Justice Department investigation that is allegedly part of a broader probe into Greenberg.
The letter in question was reportedly written after Greenberg asked Roger Stone, a close associate of former President Donald Trump, to help him obtain a pardon from the then-president before he left office.
According to The Daily Beast, Greenberg had written multiple drafts of the letter at Stone’s request, including “two typed versions and an earlier handwritten one,” seen by the outlet. In at least one of the letters, Greenberg reportedly said both he and Gaetz had repeated interactions with a girl who was 17-years-old.
“On more than one occasion, this individual was involved in sexual activities with several of the other girls, the congressman from Florida’s 1st Congressional District and myself,” he allegedly wrote of the girl.
“From time to time, gas money or gifts, rent or partial tuition payments were made to several of these girls, including the individual who was not yet 18. I did see the acts occur firsthand and Venmo transactions, Cash App or other payments were made to these girls on behalf of the Congressman.”
In the drafts, Greenberg purportedly stated that “all of the girls were in college or post college,” and he claimed that he and Gaetz had believed the minor was 19 at the time of their sexual relationships with her.
He said he learned she was underage in September of 2017 and contacted Gaetz, who he reportedly wrote was “equally shocked and disturbed by this revelation.” After that Greenberg said, “there was no further contact with this individual until after her 18th birthday.”
However, after she was legal, Greenberg contacted her again, according to The Daily Beast, which previously reported Gaetz had sent Greenberg $900 on Venmo asking him to “hit up” the same girl five months after she turned 18.
Messages Between Greenberg and Stone
The outlet also obtained a series of private messages between Greenberg and Stone starting in late 2020 that had been sent over the encrypted app Singal. Greenberg appears to have taken screenshots of a number of conversations, which are automatically deleted after a set period of time.
“If I get you $250k in Bitcoin would that help or is this not a financial matter,” Greenberg wrote to Stone in one of the screenshots published in the exposé.
“I hope you are prepared to wire me $250,000 because I am feeling confident,” Stone appears to have responded in a message The Daily Beast said was sent on Jan. 13. Just weeks before, Trump pardoned Stone himself for his 2019 conviction.
The images also appear to show Greenberg describing his activities with Gaetz, who he repeatedly refers to as “MG” or “Matt.” In one exchange, Greenberg says that he has not spoken to Gaetz and implored Stone to help him reach out to the congressman.
“He absolutely has to know that the sex charge they hit me with would be what they would hit him with,” he wrote, per the screenshot.
The Daily Beast additionally detailed several other messages between the two men that it did not provide screenshots of. In one alleged interaction, the outlet claims that Greenberg said that federal law enforcement officials were pressuring him to cooperate with their investigation and that he fired his lawyers for urging him to do the same.
“My lawyers that I fired, know the whole story about MG’s involvement,” he purportedly wrote. “They know he paid me to pay the girls and that he and I both had sex with the girl who was underage. So naturally they think that is my golden ticket.”
However, according to the outlet, Stone said several times that Gaetz refused his request to help with the matter. Greenberg did not ultimately receive the pardon, though The Daily Beast stated that White House officials confirmed his name had made it on a list of possible candidates, a detail backed up messages seen by the outlet.
“What I don’t understand is why [Gaetz] would not help me at all and actually told me not to help you which I tried to do anyway. In the end it would not have mattered,” Stone purportedly wrote after Trump had announced his final pardons.
Official Responses to Latest Allegations
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Stone confirmed that Greenberg had tried to hire him to help get a pardon, but denied that he asked for or received payment.
“I made no formal or informal effort in regard to a pardon for Mr. Greenberg,” Stone said. “I recall requesting a document explaining his prosecution The [sic] details of which I was unfamiliar with.”
“I never requested or received a penny from Mr. Greenberg,” he continued. “I recall him offering to retain me and I declined.”
Stone also acknowledged that there may be “copies of correspondence” between him and Greenberg, but he questioned whether they were in full context.
“Sounds to me like you have been presented some kind of cut and paste record,” he said, warning the outlet to “be very careful” and threatening legal action if it published “anything that is false or defamatory.”
Greenberg’s lawyer declined to comment on the story. Gaetz’s office did not respond to the request to comment, but Logan Circle Group, an outside PR firm hired by the Congressman, denied the accusations in a statement.
“Congressman Gaetz has never paid for sex nor has he had sex with a 17 year old as an adult,” the firm said. “We are now one month after your outlet and others first reported such lies, and no one has gone on record to directly accuse him of either.”