Trump defends tweet about moving election by casting doubt on results

President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Bob Woodward book will include details of 25 personal letters between Trump and Kim Jong Un On The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' Biden commemorates anniversary of Charlottesville 'Unite the Right' rally: 'We are in a battle for the soul of our nation' MORE on Thursday dodged questions about his tweet raising the idea of delaying the November election, and instead sowed doubt about the validity of what happens in November.

Trump was asked multiple times how serious he was when he tweeted about pushing the election back amid the coronavirus pandemic, something he does not have the authority to do.

The president downplayed the substance of the tweet, pivoting to exaggerated claims about mail-in voting and suggesting the November election will be “rigged” months before it has even occurred. 

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“I don’t want to delay. I want to have the election,” Trump said during a press briefing at the White House. “But I also don’t want to have to wait for three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing and the election doesn’t mean anything. That’s what’s going to happen … that’s common sense.”

“Smart people know it,” he added. “Stupid people may not know it.”

Trump has repeatedly claimed that mail-in ballots are rife with fraud, despite experts saying that there is no evidence of meaningful voter fraud in mail-in voting. He has threatened funding to states that look to expand mail-in voting in order to ensure that citizens can vote safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

Critics have viewed the president’s charges as an attempt to cast doubt on the credibility of the election result before it happens. 

Asked about if that was the net result of his tweet earlier Thursday, Trump said his nefarious claims have raised awareness about the prospect of the elections being “fraudulent.”

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“Do I want to see a date change? No. But I don’t want to see a crooked election. This election will be the most rigged election in history if that happens,” Trump said, referencing widespread mail-in voting.

The president himself voted absentee earlier this year in the Florida primary, and his press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, has similarly voted by mail roughly a dozen times.

Trump supported his allegations of fraud with multiple inaccurate or exaggerated claims. He claimed that “hundreds of millions” of mail ballots were being sent out across the country ahead of November’s election despite the fact that only roughly 140 million Americans voted in the 2016 election.

And he suggested that election results may not be known for months, or even years because of litigation over the results.

Experts have noted that the increased use of absentee ballots due to the pandemic will likely mean results won’t be finalized on the night of Nov. 3 since many states cannot begin counting mail ballots until Election Day.

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Trump, who is trailing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenRon Johnson signals some GOP senators concerned about his Obama-era probes On The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' Biden commemorates anniversary of Charlottesville 'Unite the Right' rally: 'We are in a battle for the soul of our nation' MORE in national and swing state polls, also asserted that he felt confident about his position less than 100 days from the November election. 

“I think we’re doing very well,” the president said, decrying what he labeled “fake polls” showing him losing. 

Some, however, viewed Trump’s tweet on Thursday morning as an effort to distract from the negative news about the gross domestic product (GDP) data in the second quarter, which was released shortly before he sent the tweet. Trump has made the economy a central argument of his reelection bid, and the coronavirus has dampened that message by wiping out jobs and forcing business closures.

Trump received broad and swift pushback from Republicans in Congress earlier Thursday after he abruptly tweeted that mail-in voting would threaten the integrity of the U.S. election before suggesting that the election be delayed “until people can properly, security and safely vote.” 

Election Day takes place on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, as determined by federal law. Moving the date would require an act of Congress.

“I have concerns about mail-in ballots being the exclusive way to cast votes, but I don’t believe we should delay the elections. I want to reopen the economy in a sound way. I want people to go back to school safely,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRon Johnson signals some GOP senators concerned about his Obama-era probes Democrats ramp up warnings on Russian election meddling Hillicon Valley: Facebook removed over 22 million posts for hate speech in second quarter | Republicans introduce bill to defend universities against hackers targeting COVID-19 research | Facebook's Sandberg backs Harris as VP pick MORE (R-.S.C.), one of Trump’s closest GOP allies on Capitol Hill, told reporters. 

Graham said he believes that “delaying the election probably wouldn’t be a good idea.” 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate Democrats say White House isn't budging in coronavirus relief stalemate MORE (R-Ky.) said in an interview with a Kentucky television station Thursday that the Nov. 3 election would be held “on time,” noting that elections have been held without delay during other times of crisis throughout U.S. history.