President Donald Trump is predicting that the November election will be “the most corrupt election in the history of our country,” while spreading false claims and inaccurate statements about widespread voter fraud.
Speaking to students in Arizona on Tuesday evening, the President took aim at states’ efforts to expand voting by mail in order to encourage Americans to continue to social-distance amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 100,000 Americans.
“The Democrats are also trying to rig the election by sending tens of millions of ballots using the China virus as the excuse for allowing people not to go to the polls,” Trump claimed, later adding: “This will be, in my opinion, the most corrupt election in the history of our country, and we cannot let this happen.”
Trump said ballots could be stolen, forged by foreign powers or excluded from Republican sections in voting districts. He also claimed there is “tremendous evidence of fraud in areas with mail-in ballots.”
CNN has repeatedly debunked the President’s claims about mail-in voter fraud, and his primary allegation – that voting by mail leads to “massive fraud” – is completely untrue. As the coronavirus spread, bipartisan officials across the country expanded postal voting as a pandemic-safe option – a move endorsed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And this week, CNN spoke with numerous Republican senators, including members of the GOP leadership team. None of them said they agreed with the President’s views on mail-in voting, and a number of them said they supported its expansion as a way to deal with the coronavirus.
The claim that foreign countries might try to rig the election with forged ballots puts him in a contorted position. Trump and senior members of his 2016 campaign welcomed Russian interference in that election, according to special counsel Robert Mueller. And since taking office, Trump has not spoken out forcefully against foreign meddling, until now.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which plays a leading role in identifying and countering foreign election-security threats, declined to address Trump’s unfounded claim earlier this week that foreign governments will “print millions” of mail-in ballots in the upcoming election.
On Tuesday, the President acknowledged his own past voting record of voting by mail, telling the group that “absentee ballots are fine” as long as they go through an identification process.
“Like, I live in the White House, and if I can’t get to Florida … you have to go through a process. Some people just can’t make it to a polling station, and they have good reason, but they have to go through this process to verify their identity,” Trump said.
But mail ballot fraud is exceedingly rare in part because states have systems and processes in place to prevent forgery, theft and voter fraud.
During remarks to a room filled with young people – many of whom were not social-distancing or wearing masks – Trump didn’t acknowledge the potential health hazards at polling places this November.
But he reasoned that if Americans went to the polls during World Wars I and II, “we can go to the polls and vote during Covid-19.”
CNN’s Marshall Cohen, Holmes Lybrand and Tara Subramaniam contributed to this report.