The President has recently begun laying the groundwork for the doubt and suspicion he could cast on election results if counting mail-in ballots — which are expected to be more widely used as a result of the pandemic — ultimately delays the declaration of a winner.
There is no evidence mail-in voting leads to widespread fraud. But the assertion was notable because it is an effort to sow doubt about the legitimacy about the election, now 91 days away.
“I want to have the election. 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,” Trump said at a Thursday news conference, during which he also called vote-by-mail a “disaster” and argued people should have to cast their votes in person.
Asked about the mixed messages, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said: “Well the President’s always said that absentee voting for a reason is different than mass mail-out voting like what Nevada is seeking to do, which leads to mass fraud.”
Again, there’s no evidence of widespread fraud with mail-in voting.
Some administration officials and Republican allies have expressed frustration at Trump’s rhetoric questioning the validity of mail-in voting behind closed doors — acknowledging that it will likely be necessary and perhaps even helpful for the President in some places.
Trump’s reversal comes days after Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said on a Trump campaign conference call that he had “no concerns” about mail-in voting in his state.
“We’ve been doing it a long time. I can’t speak for every state, I mean there are some states that are automatically mailing everybody a ballot, but our system is well established, it’s been used for a long time, we’ve frankly never had issues with it, generally speaking,” Rubio told reporters at the Capitol Tuesday.
Asked if he was the concerned the President’s rhetoric about mail-in voting will discourage his constituents, Rubio said: “I don’t think it will discourage them from voting. I know they might just end up voting on election day. That’s what we saw in 2016.”
CNN’s Jeremy Herb, Pam Brown, Sarah Westwood and Kristen Holmes contributed to this report.
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