President Trump has reportedly revealed to confidants that if he appears to be ahead on Election Night, he'll prematurely declare victory, regardless of how many votes remain uncounted. That's per three sources who spoke to Axios, which says, "Trump's advisers have been laying the groundwork for this strategy for weeks, but this is the first account of Trump explicitly discussing his election night intentions." More:
- Pennsylvania: Many experts are predicting Trump will appear ahead in the state on Tuesday night, but that as mail-in ballots continue to be counted, that could change significantly. State law prohibits mail-in ballots from being counted prior to Election Day. Per Trump's reported plan, his team will claim that Democrats are attempting to steal the election if the results in Pennsylvania flip from him winning the state to Joe Biden winning the state, and they will reportedly attempt to cast any mail-in ballots counted after Election Day as illegitimate.
- What Trump said Sunday: While he denied that he would declare victory before all the votes are counted and called the Axios story "a false report," he had this to say to reporters, per the Hill (shortened for clarity, see link for full video): "We'll look at what happens. I think it's a terrible thing when ballots can be collected after an election. I think it's a terrible thing when states are allowed to tabulate ballots for a long period of time after the election is over. I think it's terrible that we can't know the results of an election the night of the election. We're going to go in the night of, as soon as that election's over, we're going in with our lawyers. We don't want to have Pennsylvania, where you have a political governor, a very partisan guy ... we don't want to be in a position where he's allowed, every day, to watch ballots come in. See if we can only find 10,000 more ballots."
- What Trump's adviser said Sunday: Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller was on ABC News on Sunday, where he made similar comments. "If you speak with many smart Democrats, they believe President Trump will be ahead on election night, probably getting 280 electorals (sic), somewhere in that range. And then they’re going to try to steal it back after the election. We believe that we'll be over 290 electoral votes on election night. So no matter what they try to do, what kind of hijinks or lawsuits or whatever kind of nonsense they try to pull off, we’re still going to have enough electoral votes to get President Trump re-elected." (Full transcript here.)
- Fact-checking that: Politifact says that Miller's comments are false. "No candidate will 'be over 290 electoral votes' on Election Night, because electoral votes aren’t cast until Dec. 14 and won’t be counted until Jan. 6. Beyond that, Miller is miscasting how media organizations will call races for one candidate or the other on Election Night," the site says. Plus, "Miller is wrong to suggest that only legal 'hijinks' can justify counting ballots after Election Night. ... In fact, federal law allows states until more than a month after the election to finalize their results."
- More on Trump's reported plan: Axios' sources say that in order for the POTUS to stand behind a podium and declare that he's won Tuesday night, he'd need to have either won "or have commanding leads in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Iowa, Arizona and Georgia." Axios spoke to senior campaign officials who were much more optimistic about many of those states now than they were three weeks ago.
- The official word on the Axios story: "This is nothing but people trying to create doubt about a Trump victory. When he wins, he's going to say so," the Trump campaign's communications director, Tim Murtaugh, tells the site.
- A post-script on the Biden bus incident: Trump on Sunday lashed out after news broke that the FBI would investigate reports that a caravan of Trump supporters tried to run a Biden campaign bus off the road in Texas. "In my opinion, these patriots did nothing wrong," Trump tweeted. "Instead, the FBI & Justice should be investigating the terrorists, anarchists, and agitators of ANTIFA, who run around burning down our Democrat run cities and hurting our people!" Fox News reports that caravans of Trump supporters massively clogged freeways in at least three blue states Sunday.
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