The White House is pushing back against the allegation that President Trump is encouraging people to break the law by voting twice. "The president is not suggesting anyone do anything unlawful," press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Fox News Thursday, per Mediaite. "What he said very clearly there is make sure your [mail-in] vote is tabulated, and if it is not, then vote." Background and new developments:
- What he said: The controversy stems from Trump's comments to supporters Wednesday, in which he said: "On your ballots, if you get the unsolicited ballots, send it in and then go make sure it counted. And if it doesn't tabulate, you vote. ... And then if they tabulate it very late, which they shouldn't be doing, they'll see you voted and so it won't count. So, send it in early and then go and vote." Trump made similar comments in a TV interview with WECT, per the Hill: "So let them send it in, and let them go vote. And if the system is as good as they say it is, then they obviously won't be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they will be able to vote. So that’s the way it is, and that’s what they should do."
- Clarification: On Fox, host Sandra Smith told McEnany that what Trump suggested would "obviously" be against the law. "He said, 'Send it in early and then go and vote.' Isn't that telling someone to go vote twice?" Nope, said McEnany. "The president said send it in early, go and see if it's been tabulated; if it hasn't been tabulated, then vote," she said. Trump "wants verification. Democrats want a whole new fraudulent system of mail-in voting never tried before in American history, and what Democrats are saying to you is, 'Trust us, but don't verify.' What this president is saying is verify your vote."
- New tweets: In a series of tweets Thursday, Trump echoed what McEnany said. He encouraged people who get mail ballots to return them as early as possible. "On Election Day, or Early Voting, go to your Polling Place to see whether or not your Mail In Vote has been Tabulated (Counted)," he wrote. "If it has you will not be able to Vote & the Mail In System worked properly. If it has not been Counted, VOTE (which is a citizen’s right to do).” Doing so will ensure “THAT YOUR PRECIOUS VOTE HAS BEEN COUNTED, it hasn’t been 'lost, thrown out, or in any way destroyed.'"
- A reminder and a plea: The president's original words caused enough of a ruckus that North Carolina's Board of Elections issued a statement reminding people that it's a felony to vote twice, reports the Washington Post. And the board's executive director said mail-in voters should not do what Trump suggested and go to the polls on Election Day to verify that their mail ballot was counted. "This is not necessary, and it would lead to longer lines and the possibility of spreading COVID-19," said Karen Brinson Bell.
- Facebook's action: Facebook says it will delete videos of Trump's original comments because they violate "policies prohibiting voter fraud," reports Politico. Posts that share such video without context or clarification will get yanked, says the company.
- What the AG says: Asked about Trump's original suggestion on CNN, Attorney General William Barr said he doesn't know each state's rules but backed Trump's assertion that mail voting is vulnerable to fraud, reports the AP. It's like "playing with fire," he said. Michigan's attorney general was pretty clear about the idea of trying to vote twice: "Hey folks. Attorney General (Dana) Nessel here—top law enforcement official in Michigan, for those keeping track. Don’t try this at home. I will prosecute you."
(Read more President Trump 2020