FEC commissioner to Trump: 'No. You don't have the power to move the election'

Federal Election Commission (FEC) Commissioner Ellen Weintraub flatly stated on Thursday that the executive branch does not have the power to delay a presidential election after President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE stirred an uproar by raising the idea in an early morning tweet.

“No, Mr. President. No,” Weintraub said in a statement shared on Twitter. "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," she added. "Why don't you work on that?"

Trump does not have the power to unilaterally to delay elections, but he suggested doing so in a tweet that spread unsubstantiated claims that the wider use of mail-in voting due to the coronavirus pandemic would result in the most "INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history."

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"It will be a great embarrassment to the USA," Trump, who is trailing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Supreme Court and blind partisanship ended the illusion of independent agencies Missed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE in national polls, said. "Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???"

The tweet, which came as parts of the U.S. experience sustained rises in coronavirus cases, marked the first time the president has publicly suggested delaying the election. Democrats, including Biden, have voiced fears in the past that Trump would attempt to take such a step. 

Biden predicted in April that Trump would try to delay the election, which the president's reelection campaign dismissed at the time as a "conspiracy theory."

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After Trump's tweet on Thursday morning, Republican and Democratic lawmakers quickly noted that Congress holds authority when it comes to elections. Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerSunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Biden asks Pentagon to examine 'how and when' to mandate COVID-19 vaccine for troops Stefanik calls Cheney 'Pelosi pawn' over Jan. 6 criticism MORE (R-Ill.) said that he'd oppose any attempts to delay November's election. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris MORE (D-Calif.) also pointed to Article II of the Constitution, which says that "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.”

Trump's tweet comes as he ramps up his attacks on mail-in voting, despite a lack of evidence that it leads to widespread voter fraud. Trump has repeatedly claimed that the moves to expand voting opportunities in some states put Republicans at a disadvantage.  

Weintraub, who formerly served as the FEC chairwoman, rebutted many of the president's claims in an expansive, 60-plus tweet thread in late May focused on how mail-in voting is conducted throughout the nation. 

"There's simply no basis for the conspiracy theory that voting by mail causes fraud. None," Weintraub said at the time, citing several reports on the practice.

"The *real* fraud would be if U.S. citizens were deterred from voting and our government reflected the consent of fewer of the governed," she added. "True leaders speak truth. Especially in an election season plagued by pandemic, economic uncertainty, and death, the American people deserve nothing less than the truth from our leaders."

Five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — currently hold elections almost entirely by mail. Meanwhile, 33 states and the District of Columbia give voters the option. Other states allow voting by mail only in certain circumstances, though the coronavirus outbreak has prompted further discussion about relaxing some of those restrictions.