President Donald Trump asserted on Monday that a force other than foreign adversaries was interfering in U.S. elections: Democrats.
“I’ll tell you who was meddling in our elections,” the president said at a White House news briefing. “The Democrats are meddling by wanting and insisting on sending mail-in ballots when there’s corruption all over the place.”
Trump had just rebuffed a question on whether he had ever confronted President Vladimir Putin of Russia on reported efforts to meddle in U.S. elections. Instead, he said Democrats were playing unfairly by pushing for more mail-in ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump has repeatedly lambasted Democrats for advocating mail-in voting, claiming with no evidence that it is a ploy to help them win the election by opening the doors to voter fraud. But Trump struck a new tone Monday in equating Democrats to authoritarian governments actively trying to undermine American democratic institutions.
The president’s remark come after the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, Bill Evanina, said publicly that Russia was vying to sway the election in Trump’s favor and that China and Iran were hoping for a Joe Biden victory.
Russian interference has always been a sore spot for Trump, who has denied reports by his own intelligence officials that Moscow interfered in the 2016 elections. He has dismissed the claims as a “witch hunt,” particularly suggestions that those efforts could have been tied to his campaign.
Democrats have been pushing for a shift to mail-in voting, fearing that polling places could become hotbeds for spreading the coronavirus. Despite Trump’s protestations, there is little evidence that mail-in voting allows more fraud than in-person voting, and a handful of states already conduct elections entirely by mail.
Still, several state leaders and Democrats expressed concerns about the U.S. Postal Service’s ability to handle a national election as the new Trump-appointed postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, makes cuts in the service in the name of reducing costs. Postal workers have complained about increased delays amid DeJoy’s changes, and voters are being encouraged to send in their ballots as soon as they can.