- 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)
Trump’s “Star Witness” in Michigan Election Fraud Case Goes Viral After Bizarre Testimony
- Melissa Carone, the star witness in the Trump campaign’s Michigan election fraud case, is captured in a now viral video shouting at lawmakers combatively, slurring her words, and making numerous unfounded and false claims.
- Among other things, Carone claimed 30,000 ballots had been scanned more than once, then claimed it was 100,000.
- A Republican Representative pointed out that if that were true, the poll books would show the discrepancy, which they do not. Carone responded by accusing the Republicans of engaging in voter fraud to help Biden.
- Carone also argued that she was telling the truth because she signed an affidavit, but the same legal document was thrown out by a judge who said her testimony was “incorrect and not credible.”
- Carone was also not under oath at the hearing and made multiple claims not in her affidavit, meaning if they were false, she would not face legal consequences.
Melissa Carone Goes Viral
The star witness of President Donald Trump’s election fraud case in Michigan went viral Wednesday night after a video spread of her making wildly unverified claims, yelling at lawmakers, and slurring her way through a completely unhinged testimony before the Michigan House of Representatives.
The witness in question was Melissa Carone, an IT contractor for the election technology manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems who claims to have witnessed massive fraud at a voting center in Detroit. Carone had been tapped by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani last month to tell her story before the panel.
Despite being unable to explain to the representatives exactly what her role entailed, a combative Carone confidently insisted, without evidence, that poll workers at the voting center had counted 30,000 multiple times. At another point in the hearing, she also claimed the number was more than 100,000.
Republican Rep. Steven Johnson explained to Carone that if her claims were true, there would be massive discrepancies between the vote totals and the poll book that tracks voters and ballot totals. However, the figures did not show that.
After interrupting Johnson several times and being shushed by Giuliani, Carone appeared to accuse the Republicans of committing election fraud to help president-elect Joe Biden.
“What’d you guys do, take it and do something crazy to it?” she asked the Republican representative.
“I’m just saying the numbers are not off by 30,000 so,” Johnson replied, before Carone interrupted him again.
“I know what I saw,” she interjected. “And I signed something saying that if I’m wrong, I can go to prison. Did you?”
It is true that Carone signed an affidavit last month recounting her claims, though she did not provide any evidence. However, that same affidavit was included in a lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign that was struck down by a Wayne County judge. That judge ruled that the testimonies from Carone and other the witnesses’ were “incorrect and not credible.”
Additionally, despite Carone’s reliance on the fact that her story was true because she signed an affidavit, the 30,000 and 100,000 vote figures she claimed in the hearing were not mentioned in the legal document. In fact, Carone never provided a specific number of votes she claimed to have witnessed being counted more than once.
That is notable because during the hearing, despite objections from the panel’s Democrats, Carone and the other witnesses were not under oath, meaning she could not be charged for lying in her testimony.
In other words, because those specific numbers were not in her affidavit, she could technically make up the figures she presented to the panel without breaking any rules.
That fact is highly significant when considering the credibility of the witness. Over the last month, Carone, who said in her affidavit she was a Trump supporter, has repeatedly pushed a number of bizarre claims in interviews with right-leaning news networks.
In an interview with Fox News’ Lou Dobbs last month, she claimed vans intended to bring food to poll workers had secretly brought tens thousands of ballots to the voting center in a series of perplexing and contradictory statements.
“The city provides the workers with food for their shift. Well they only had enough food for one-third of their workers,” Carone said. “So that is the reason why they were claiming that these vans were brought in. But these vans did not have food taken out of them.”
“The vans that showed up, they were supposed to be filled with food, what did they have in them? Do you know?” Dobbs asked.
“I never saw anything being brought out of the vans,” she added, seemingly entirely undermining her own story. “I was not allowed over in that area at all, but the vans were definitely not big enough to be carrying food for two-thirds of those workers.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Daily Beast) (MLive)
Attorney General Barr Says There Is No Evidence of Widespread Election Fraud
- Attorney General Barr said for the first time that he and the Department of Justice had not seen widespread election fraud at a scale that could have changed the outcome of the election.
- The remarks make Barr the highest-ranking member of the Trump administration to directly contradict the president’s repeated and unproven insistence that there was nationwide voter fraud in the election.
- Trump’s legal team responded in a statement disputing Barr’s findings and asserting, without proof, that they had “ample” evidence of fraud. Meanwhile, Trump continued to push the false and unverified claims on Twitter.
Barr Disputes Trump’s Claims
In an interview with the Associated Press Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr said that he has “not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” contradicting the claims that President Donald Trump and his supporters have been spreading without evidence for nearly a month now.
“Most claims of fraud are very particularized to a particular set of circumstances or actors or conduct. … And those have been run down; they are being run down,” Barr said. “Some have been broad and potentially cover a few thousand votes. They have been followed up on.”
Barr also directly disputed some of the unproven and actively debunked assertions spread by Trump and his allies, including a particularly insidious conspiracy theory that Trump’s recently-disavowed attorney, Sidney Powell, has been promoting regarding voting machines manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems.
Powell has repeatedly claimed that the Dominion machines flipped votes from Trump to former Vice President Joe Biden as part of a global communist scheme using software developed by former Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez, who has been dead for over six years.
In addition to failing to provide any semblance of proof for her assertions, there are also a number of issues that entirely undermine this story.
Almost all of the claims about Dominion machines flipping votes and having ties to foreign actors or left-wing groups have been entirely debunked. Additionally, in order for this far-reaching conspiracy to have any legs, Republican governors who have been major supporters and allies of Trump — such as Brian Kemp in Georgia and Doug Ducey in Arizona — would have had to play a key role in helping ensure their states went to Biden.
Even then, the majority of key swing state counties that used Dominion machines actually voted for Trump. Now, the top law enforcement official in the country has also added his voice to refute these falsehoods.
In his interview, the Attorney General explicitly told the AP that both the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security have investigated the claim.
“And so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that,” he said.
Barr’s remarks represent a near-complete reversal from his pre-election stance. In addition to echoing many of the false claims touted by Trump about how mail-in ballots were not secure and vulnerable to fraud, he was also accused of using the DOJ to implement policies to undermine public confidence in election systems.
Barr is now the highest-ranking administration official to break ranks with Trump and dispute his claims about widespread fraud. The last high-ranking official to contradict Trump on the subject here was Christopher Krebs, the former Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, who Trump promptly fired.
While experts say Barr likely will not lose his job, the fact that the country’s top election security official and its top law enforcement official — both of whom were appointed by Trump — have now undermined the president’s claims is highly significant.
However, following Barr’s interview, Trump and his team still continued to push the same narrative that widespread voter fraud had occurred.
In a statement to the media, Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and legal adviser Jenna Ellis claimed, without evidence, that they had “ample” proof that there was nationwide fraud significant enough to sway the election.
“With the greatest respect to the Attorney General, his opinion appears to be without any knowledge or investigation of the substantial irregularities and evidence of systemic fraud,” they wrote.
While Trump himself did not directly address Barr’s comments, he continued to post tweets claiming that there had been nationwide fraud and that the election was rigged.
However, with Barr’s new stance, other people, including key Republican officials, have begun to express their feelings that Trump and his cronies have gone too far.
In a now-viral video, Gabriel Sterling, a Republican and one of the top election officials in Georgia, delivered an emotionally charged statement at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
There, he noted several instances of Trump’s supporters directly inciting violence because of the misinformation Trump himself was spreading, like the fact that Trump lawyer Joe diGenova said earlier this week that Krebs “should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot.”
Sterling also pointed to the fact that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has also recently had caravans of Trump supporters in front of his house, some of which have gone on their property. On top of that, his wife has received sexually explicit threats on her personal phone.
Sterling said that for him, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the fact that a 20-something contractor who worked for Dominion in Georgia was facing death threats after a video thread that circulated that claimed to show him altering votes during the recount.
The video led to his identity being released, people calling for him to be “hung for treason” in a Twitter thread, and his family being harassed by Trump supporters.
“It has to stop. Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language,” Sterling said. “This is elections, this is the backbone of democracy, and all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this. It’s too much.”
“Mr. President. It looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia. We’re investigating. There’s always a possibility, I get it, and you have the rights to go through the courts,” he continued. “What you don’t have the ability to do — and you need to step up and say this — is stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone’s going to get hurt. Someone’s going to get shot. Someone’s going to get killed.”
“Be the bigger man here and stop. Step in, tell your supporters: Don’t be violent, don’t intimidate. All that’s wrong. It’s unAmerican.”
However, it seems as though Trump will not be heeding that call any time soon. Shortly after Sterling’s remarks started to gain traction on Twitter, Trump did the exact opposite, retweeting the video and using it to continue to spread disinformation.
“Rigged Election. Show signatures and envelopes,” he wrote. “Expose the massive voter fraud in Georgia. What is Secretary of State and @BrianKempGA afraid of. They know what we’ll find!!!”
There has been no evidence of voter fraud in Georgia, and it is illegal in the state for the signatures on envelopes to be displayed once the ballots have been opened and counted.
See what others are saying: (The Associated Press) (NPR) (The New York Times)
Trump Threatens To Veto Yearly Defense Spending Bill if Congress Doesn’t Throw Out Protections for Social Media Companies
- On Tuesday, President Trump threatened to veto the $740 billion annual defense spending bill if Congress does not repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
- Section 230, which became law in 1996, gives social media companies the ability to moderate posts on their platforms without liability. It also shields them from lawsuits for what people post on those platforms.
- Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that the section should be revised but for different reasons.
- It is unlikely that Congress will completely repeal the law and bend to Trump’s threat.
- If Trump does veto the defense bill, that could potentially be overridden by Congress. If it’s not, the process for proposing and passing the bill would begin anew in January and would possibly not be passed until President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Trump Threatens to Veto Defense Spending
President Donald Trump stepped up his attack on big tech companies Tuesday night in a novel way: by threatening to veto the country’s annual defense spending bill, which Congress is scrambling to pass before it goes on break for the holidays.
In a pair of tweets, Trump railed against Section 230, which gives social media companies the ability to moderate posts on their platforms without liability.
“Our Country can never be safe & secure if we allow it to stand,” he said after calling the statute a threat to national security and election integrity.
“Therefore, if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill when sent to the very beautiful Resolute desk. Take back America NOW. Thank you!”
Section 230 allows companies like Twitter, without repercussion, to remove tweets that include false information and to mark other tweets if they are misleading — something it’s been actively doing against Trump’s tweets since May. In recent weeks, Twitter has flagged a flurry of Trump’s tweets pertaining to unfounded conspiracy theories about election fraud.
This isn’t the first time Trump has criticized Section 230. After he was first flagged in May, he signed an executive order instructing federal regulators to look into how to roll back parts of the section. With that, he argued Section 230 allows social media companies to engage in “anti-conservative bias.”
Trump’s attempt to repeal Section 230 hinges on what provision is contained in the final version of the NDAA, which totals roughly $740 billion this year. It’s an annual bill that shapes Pentagon policy by directing how funds are appropriated. That includes pay raises, troop levels, new weapons, and even how to compete with other world powers like China and Russia. Notably, this year’s defense bill includes a 3% pay raise for U.S. troops.
Congress has been working to finalize the bill this week. That’s because the House will break on Dec. 11 and the Senate on Dec. 18 for the holidays. With such a short time span before the new Congress comes in on Jan, 3, there is a rush to pass the bill. If this Congress doesn’t, the whole process will have to start over from scratch in January.
For the last 59 years, the NDAA has passed through Congress on a bipartisan basis.
Earlier this year, Trump had once already threatened to veto the NDAA if Congress voted to rename Army posts named after Confederate generals.
Will Section 230 Be Repealed or Amended?
Trump’s threats are not likely to fully repeal Section 230.
“It’s a fucking joke,” a senior House staffer told Politico. “This is a complex debate that has no business as an eleventh-hour airdrop.”
Several Republican members of Congress have also openly criticized Trump for the ultimatum and its timing.
Still, that doesn’t mean a reform to the section entirely out of the question.
In September, the Justice Department submitted legislation to Congress that would erode protections granted by Section 230. Like Trump, it also argued that tech companies have engaged in an “anti-conservative bias.” In fact, such an argument has become increasingly common among Republicans.
In October, the Federal Communications Commission said it would re-examine and clarify the meaning of Section 230, a move that could potentially change the protections the statute currently gives tech companies. Because of that, the agency was criticized by some as being a puppet of the Trump administration.
It’s not just Republicans who’ve criticized Section 230. Democrats also have problems with it, particularly because they say it still allows for harmful content to be spread online. For example, they’ve argued that platforms like Facebook haven’t done enough to crack down on election disinformation and hate speech.
According to The Washington Post, Republicans in recent days have suggested a trade that would involve bipartisan reforms to Section 230 in exchange for renaming the military bases named after Confederates. Reportedly, Democrats have largely dismissed that idea.
In fact, many Democrats have said they want to wait to discuss reforms to Section 230 until the next Congress begins.
What Happens If Trump Vetoes the NDAA?
If Congress doesn’t issue a total repeal of Section 230 (as expected), there could be several outcomes.
Trump could back down from his threat to sign the veto. Some analysts even expect him to back down, though others have been more skeptical about that claim. In its nearly six decades, the NDAA has never been vetoed by a president.
Congress could also override Trump’s veto. As it stands right now, each chamber has passed their own versions of the bill with enough bipartisan support to do just that. Still, it’s unclear if those margins will hold up once a final bill is negotiated between the chambers.
For reference, Congress hasn’t been able to override any of Trump’s eight vetoes during his time in office. On top of that, many Republicans would likely question whether to side with Trump or the Pentagon.
Finally, Trump could successfully veto the NDAA. If that happens, as noted earlier, the next Congress would then have to start the process over and likely wait until President-elect Joe Biden is in office to pass it.