Trump is attempting to seed doubt on the democratic process itself because of his huge drop in the polls, increasingly unlikely chance at re-election, downturn in the economy, racist appeals which are backfiring, and severe mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis.
On Thursday, Trump raised the prospect of delaying the November election because of the COVID-19 pandemic, though the president lacks the legal authority to delay elections on his own. He tweeted a complaint about potential problems with mail-in voting, a concern he has floated without citing specific evidence for months, and which Attorney General William Barr himself dismissed as baseless before Congress on Tuesday.
The U.S. Constitution requires congressional elections every two years. To hold congressional and presidential elections together, a delayed presidential election would still need to take place in 2020.
Delaying a presidential election would be unprecedented – the nation did not do so even during the Civil War and World War II.
But Trump’s tweet nevertheless drew criticism from Democrats and Republicans for again sowing doubt about the accuracy of elections.
Ari Fleischer, former spokesman for President George W. Bush, told Trump in a tweet: “Mr. President – please don’t even pretend to mess with this. It’s a harmful idea.”
Both Democrats and Republicans denounced the idea. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., tweeted the language of the U.S. Constitution at Trump: “The 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.”
On the Republican side, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, cited the Constitution, and said “we’re a country based on a rule of law. No one is going to change anything until we change the law.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the Nov. 3 election should go forward. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the election would be held on November 3 regardless of the situation.
Regardless, the four-year term of a president, in this case Trump, ends at noon on Jan. 20, according to the 20th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, if the presidential election were somehow not held, Trump would not continue to hold office. Instead, the new speaker of the House, or Nancy Pelosi if the Democrats maintain control, would be first in line to be acting president.