US President Donald Trump on July 29 2020. Picture: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA
US President Donald Trump on July 29 2020. Picture: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA

Washington — US President Donald Trump has raised the possibility of delaying the nation’s November presidential election despite its date being enshrined in the US constitution.

On Thursday, Trump repeated his claims of mail-in voter fraud, without evidence, and raised the question of a delay, writing: “Delay the election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

Trump has cast doubt on the legitimacy of mail-in ballots, which have been used in far greater numbers in primary elections amid the coronavirus pandemic. He has also made unsubstantiated allegations that voting will be rigged.

Democrats, including presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden, have already begun preparations to protect voters and the election amid fears that Trump will try to interfere with the election.

The tweet drew objections from Democrats and it was not clear whether Trump was serious. The US constitution bestows the power on Congress, not the president, to effect such a move.

Numerous Democrat lawmakers immediately rejected Trump’s suggestion, as did a commissioner with the US Federal Election Commission.

“A sitting president is peddling lies and suggesting delaying the election to keep himself in power,” Democrat representative Dan Kildee wrote on Twitter. “Don’t let it happen. Every American — Republican, Independent and Democrat — should be speaking out against this president’s lawlessness and complete disregard of the constitution.”

US Senator Tom Udall, also a Democrat, said, “There is no way @POTUS can delay the election. We shouldn’t let him distract us from his #COVID19 incompetence.”

It’s still the economy, stupid

Trump’s tweet came shortly after the US reported its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression: a second-quarter crash in GDP due to widespread shutdowns prompted by Covid-19.

Trump, who is trailing former vice-president Biden in opinion polls, had previously intended to focus his re-election bid on the nation’s economic performance.

Trump also said he would not trust the results of an election that included widespread mail voting — a measure that many election observers see as critical given the pandemic. The complaints are similar to those he raised going into the run-up to the 2016 election.

Trump has also made unsubstantiated allegations that voting will be rigged and has refused to say he will accept official election results if he loses. Democrats, including Biden, have already begun preparations to protect voters and the election amid fears that Trump will try to interfere with it.

Non-partisan US election analyst Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia said the tweet seemed to follow Trump’s typical approach of trying to distract voters from bad news.

“Trump suggesting delaying the election (he can’t do this w/o congressional approval) seems to be one of his more obvious attempts to change the subject given this morning’s wretched GDP numbers,” Kondik wrote on Twitter.

Attorney-general William Barr was asked in congressional testimony earlier this week whether Trump could change the election date: “I’ve never been asked the question before. I’ve never looked into it.” Barr also testified that to his knowledge, a sitting president cannot contest the results of an election if the vote tallies are clear.

Later,  Trump campaign spokesperson Hogan Gidley said in a statement, according to CNN, that, “The president is just raising a question about the chaos Democrats have created with their insistence on all mail-in voting.”

Reuters

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