President Donald Trump is the election meddler-in-chief.
In his latest assault on the integrity of November’s vote, Trump denigrated mail-in voting and during a staggering moment, seemed to suggest North Carolinians should attempt to vote twice — a potential crime — to test its security.
More evidence of meddling came earlier Wednesday with the news that Trump’s Department of Homeland Security withheld an intelligence bulletin warning of a Russian plot to spread misinformation about Joe Biden’s health, which mirrored the President’s own attacks. The report, first revealed by ABC News, followed the Director of National Intelligence’s decision to prevent in-person lawmaker briefings about election interference — a move Democrats say could shield foreign actors who want to help Trump.
If the story of the 2016 election was a broad meddling operation by a far off power to favor Trump, the emerging story of the 2020 election increasingly appears to be an attempt by the President to use executive power to swing the election his way. There has never been a contemporary American election during which a President has so publicly and unashamedly tried to portray the sacred quadrennial exercise in democracy as corrupt.
Trump’s plan to discredit mail-in voting got a robust assist from Attorney General William Barr, who declared that changing to such a system would be “reckless and dangerous,” in an interview with CNN on Wednesday.
“This is playing with fire. We’re a really closely divided country here,” Barr told. Asked for evidence to defend his claim that foreign adversaries could dump large numbers of fraudulent mail-in ballots into the system, Barr told Blitzer: “Logic.” US intelligence officials have said there’s no evidence to suggest that the election might be threatened in such a manner. Barr also claimed that China, not Russia, was the foremost active foreign foe in interfering within the election. Last month, intelligence officials said that while Beijing wanted Trump to lose, Russia was making a much more aggressive plan to hurt Biden.
Barr’s comments will stir fresh concerns that he’s acting as a political functionary for Trump instead of within the traditionally more neutral role expected of an attorney general. Such suspicions were provoked by the way he intervened to ease the political sting of the Mueller report and therefore the probes he has found out apparently to discredit previous investigations into 2016 election interference.
An election that is already tainted
The President’s effort to discredit the election isn’t limited to his false and frequent claims that mail-in voting — a reassuring option for several voters amid an epidemic that has killed quite 185,000 Americans thus far — is stained by massive fraud. The President has warned that the election is going to be the foremost corrupt in US history and said, without evidence, that Americans may never know who won. He also threatened to send US attorneys and sheriffs to polling places to make sure there’s no fraud, a tactic that might be construed as voter intimidation, especially among minority voters given grim historic echoes.
Trump has no reservations about using the authority of the presidency to mess with democracy. After all, he was impeached for an audacious plan to coerce a far off power — Ukraine — into intervening within the election to harm Biden’s campaign. And he has consistently rejected his own intelligence agencies’ assessments that Russia meddled within the 2016 election to assist him — once, infamously at the side of President Putin.