Trump is encouraging a lawless election

Early Returns

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Donald Trump is not just a presidential candidate. He is president of the United States. And it's his sworn responsibility to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." That's why it's not just bad behavior when he undermines the law. It's a violation of his oath of office. And that includes his efforts to encourage others to disregard the law.

For example, here's Trump on Wednesday:

We'll see what happens at the end of the day [on Election Day]. Hopefully it won't go longer than that. Hopefully the few states remaining that want to take a lot of time after November 3rd to count ballots, that won't be allowed by the various courts.

This isn't anything new. He's been saying for some time now that the election "must" produce results the night of Nov. 3, even though (as I said a while back) that's ahistorical and antidemocratic. But now Trump is taking it a step further and explicitly saying that legal ballots, validly voted and received, should be discarded — contrary to the laws of every state and to any possible interpretation of legitimate elections — if they aren't tabulated by his arbitrary new deadline.

To be clear: This isn't about ballots arriving late, after a state deadline. It's not even about what the state deadlines should be. It's simply a claim that what Trump wants should take precedence over the law.

Never mind all the perfectly valid ballots that would be tossed in the trash, including those from active-duty military members casting absentee ballots. Or that Trump himself has opposed giving states aid to expedite their counts — and that Republican legislatures in Pennsylvania and elsewhere have set rules that make it impossible to complete such counts rapidly.

Nor is this the first example of the president's lawlessness. Trump and his administration have trampled over statutes such as the Hatch Act and those mandating treatment of official documents. He has ignored the emoluments clauses of the Constitution. He has abused his power and obstructed justice on more than one occasion. His attitude about all of it is the same as his attitude toward taxes — that, as he explained during the debate last week, following the law is for losers. He simply ignores, and encourages others to ignore, the entire concept of neutral rules that everyone agrees to live by.

That Trump probably has no way to enforce his preferences is irrelevant. All of it is deeply corrosive to the republic and its institutions. And all of it demonstrates, one more time, how unfit he is for the office he holds.

1. Tom Pepinsky on public opinion about the integrity of the election.

2. Dan Drezner tries to grade Trump on his own terms. It doesn't go well. 

3. Julia Azari on the next president's mandate.

4. My Bloomberg Opinion colleague Justin Fox on the GDP report.

5. Amy Walter's latest look at the Electoral College map.

6. And David Graham on the media going easy on Trump's scandals. There's some truth to this. At the same time, though, it's the pandemic that has soaked up a lot of media attention recently (as Trump whines about quite a bit), and that's a topic that hurts the incumbent badly — probably worse than if there was more of a focus on his financial scandals or even the many accusations of sexual assault against him. 

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