Claiming at Thursday's White House briefing that the 2020 elections could be "fixed" and "rigged," President Trump again highlighted the risks of nationwide, universal mail-in balloting in stark terms -- including by citing news articles and experts who have raised similar concerns.
Before taking questions, Trump honored former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, noting that "unfortunately, he passed away from a thing called the China virus." Trump also hit Democrats' plans to keep schools and businesses closed, saying they would cause "probably more death" and economic destruction than coronavirus itself.
Within seconds, Trump was pressed on his tweet earlier in the day that suggested the election could be delayed due to mail-in ballot fraud. He responded that delays in mail-in ballot results, including lost ballots, could mean the election winner isn't clear for weeks or even months after Election Day.
"You're sending out hundreds of millions of universal mail-in ballots. Hundreds of millions. Where are they going? Who are they being sent to? It's common sense," Trump said. "I want an election, and a result, much more than you. I think we're doing very well. ... I don't want to see a rigged election."
The president held up a Wall Street Journal article entitled "New York's Mail-Vote Disaster," as well as a CBS News article entitled "Vote-by-mail experiment reveals potential problems within postal voting system ahead of November election." He cited a similar piece in The Washington Post.
The press conference followed a backlash against Trump's comments from both sides of the aisle on Thursday, with Democrats railing against the suggestion and some Republicans saying they opposed it. The Senate's top Republican, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, flatly told a Kentucky news station the election would not be moving.
Earlier this month, a Fox News review found a slew of issues with mail-in ballots in recent elections. A dramatic local news report this week, tweeted out by the president on Thursday, highlighted missing ballots in a test of the United States Postal Service's ability to handle mail-in ballots.
"We all agree that absentee voting is good," Trump said, referring to votes by mail where citizens provide a justification for sending in a ballot remotely. He then hit Democrats for voicing concerns about Russian election interference, only to ignore the risks posed by mail-in voting.
"Mail-in voting will lead to the greatest fraud," he added. "Stupid people may not know it."
The brouhaha began when Trump tweeted at 8:46 a.m. ET: “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
Hours later, Trump appeared to suggest he was trying to raise awareness, not seriously suggest he would try to delay the election. “Glad I was able to get the very dishonest LameStream Media to finally start talking about the RISKS to our Democracy from dangerous Universal Mail-In-Voting (not Absentee Voting, which I totally support!)," he wrote.
"Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud," read the conclusion of a bipartisan 2005 report authored by the Commission on Federal Election Reform, which was chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker.
And a 2012 article in The New York Times was headlined, "Error and Fraud at Issue as Absentee Voting Rises." The article states that "votes cast by mail are less likely to be counted, more likely to be compromised and more likely to be contested than those cast in a voting booth, statistics show."
Twitter has previously slapped a warning label on Trump's tweets about mail-in ballots. Fox News has reported that Twitter's "Head of Site Integrity" Yoel Roth is in charge of fact-checking efforts – and that he has previously referred to Trump and his team as "ACTUAL NAZIS," mocked Trump supporters by saying that "we fly over those states that voted for a racist tangerine for a reason," and called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a "personality-free bag of farts."