When Joe Biden mentioned the possibility that Donald Trump would try to “kick back the election somehow” back in April, Washington Post pundit Henry Olsen was aghast. He called Biden’s statement an “unfounded accusation” and said this was “not only clearly over the line but also unmasks how low the supposedly moderate Biden will go to win.”
Olsen better be prepping that apology, because on Thursday morning Trump extended his rant about mail-in voting to the place where it was obviously going all along. After repeating his previous lies about mail-in voting being “inaccurate and fraudulent,” Trump delivered the punch line. Rather than allow mail-in voting, why not, Trump suggested: “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote.” That safety would, presumably, be entirely up to Trump. Meaning that Election Day would be the second Tuesday after never.
As The Washington Post points out, Trump cannot actually change the date of the federal elections. Though Trump may believe that Article II provides godlike powers, picking the date for federal elections is actually the role of Congress. And that date is already set. Congress doesn’t have to vote to have the election on Nov. 3; it would have to vote to change it to any other date.
Still, this isn’t as comforting as it should be. Now that Trump has made an official salvo down the delay path, it’s certain not to be the last. And it’s easy to believe that Sen. Mitch McConnell and the other Senate Republicans who voted to give Trump a free pass on bribing foreign countries into lying about his opponent would happily go along with this scheme. After all, for McConnell, every day the election is delayed is another day in which a Supreme Court opening might occur.
Naturally, the Democratically-led House wouldn't go along with this, but that’s still no guarantee. Trump doesn’t have to actually delay the election so much as delegitimize it. That’s the purpose of all his rants against mail-in voting in the first place: To raise doubts about the outcome of the election and position Trump to deny the results, no matter how clear. It’s quite easy to imagine Donald Trump pounding the podium in November, claiming that only those votes cast in a voting booth on that date really count. Or even that the whole date is “not legitimate.” Because he says so. And it’s extremely easy to imagine Ted Cruz, and Lindsey Graham, and McConnell backing that play.
Of course, there is another obstacle. The date of the election may be subject to change by legislation, but the end of Trump’s term is set by Constitutional amendment. Vote or no vote, his term would come to an end on Jan. 20. Any attempt by Trump to continue occupying the White House at that point would be … put in front of the Supreme Court. Where such things always go so well.