WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump opened a new front Monday in his fight against mail-in voting, making unsubstantiated assertions that foreign countries will print up millions of bogus ballots to rig the results and create what he called the “scandal of our times.”
The claims not only ignore safeguards that states have implemented to prevent against widespread fraud but they also risk undermining Americans’ faith in the election, spreading the very kind of disinformation U.S. authorities have warned foreign adversaries could exploit to foment doubt in the voting process.
Trump accelerated his attacks following a bruising weekend for his reelection campaign, when a lower-than-expected turnout at a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, left him seething, and as he fights for a second term during the worst unemployment since the Great Depression. The rhetoric, coming as states scramble to adjust voting processes because of the coronavirus pandemic, represents a two-track approach of trying to both block mail-in balloting in advance and setting the stage for challenging the results once it’s over.
“It’s a way of trying to turn the foreign interference claims that have been made on their head,” said Richard Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine. “Typically we’ve heard that the Russian government and others were working to help elect Trump, and here is Trump using fears of foreign interference as a way of bolstering his own side.”
“This potentially lays the groundwork,” he added, “for him contesting election results.”
Though election records obtained by The Associated Press show that a half-dozen senior advisers to the president have voted by mail, others in the administration have recently promoted the notion that states could be inundated with fraudulent ballots from overseas.
Attorney General William Barr raised that prospect in interviews in recent weeks with The New York Times Magazine and Fox News.
“Right now, a foreign country could print up tens of thousands of counterfeit ballots, and (it would) be very hard for us to detect which was the right and which was the wrong ballot,” Barr told Fox in an interview that aired Sunday.