You knew it was coming. Trump calls for delaying the November vote.
With all the talk about whether Trump will accept the results of the November election, the issue was finally addressed by the Attorney General of the United States, William ‘No Bar is Too Low’ Barr who equivocated when asked by Rep Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), “Mr. Barr … what will you do if Donald Trump loses the election on November 3rd but refuses to leave office on January 20th?”
“Well, if the results are clear, I would leave office,” Barr replied.
When Jeffries, incredulously, followed up, “Do you believe that there is any basis or legitimacy to Donald Trump’s recent claim that he can’t provide an answer as to whether he would leave office?” Barr replied, “I really am not familiar with these comments or the context in which they occurred, so I’m not going to give commentary on them.”
Ok, the while the top law enforcement officer in the country won’t clarify what he would do if a defeated incumbent president won’t leave office, what does his boss, the potentially defeated incumbent president think?
He tweets a new plan.
In a tweet posted today at 8:46am EST, President Donald John Trump (I) wrote:
At this point it probably doesn’t make any sense to tweet back (as many people did) that absentee voting and mail-in voting are actually the same thing.
But think about this: the sitting President of the United States, sinking in the polls, facing the prospect of an historic defeat that might bring the rest of his party down with him, is calling for a delay in the 2020 presidential election!
(Of course, despite the fact that he is a “stable genius” who “reads a lot” and “knows words, the best words,” the irony* of his statement that “it will be a great embarrassment to the USA” when he has been the greatest embarrassment to the USA in the history of the USA, is striking.)
(*Irony, one of few “best words” he might not know)
(Or, perhaps this is finally Trump’s solution to emulating Putin’s and Xi’s “president for life” schemes. Call off the election, never reschedule it, and remain in office, well, for life. Could be a plot line for an episode of “Criminal Minds.”)
But, I digress.
So, all you Constitutional scholars out there, can the president actually do this?
The answer is an unequivocal no.
(I use the term unequivocal somewhat cavalierly since I did not post this question to our esteemed Supreme Court justices for life, God help us, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito).
But there is a wee-bit of wiggle room, according to the New York Times.
Postpone the 2020 Election? Only With Great Difficulty. Here’s Why.
Could the general election be postponed or canceled?
Only with enormous difficulty.
The date of the general election is set by federal law and has been fixed since 1845. It would take a change in federal law to move that date. That would mean legislation enacted by Congress, signed by the president and subject to challenge in the courts.
To call that unlikely would be an understatement.
And even if all of that happened, there would not be much flexibility in choosing an alternate election date: The Constitution mandates that the new Congress must be sworn in on January 3, and that the new president’s term must begin on January 20. Those dates cannot be changed just by the passage of normal legislation.
The Times went on to report that Marc Elias, a prominent Democratic election lawyer, in answer to a wave of questions, particularly because some states are delaying their primaries, tweeted: “While states can set their own primary days, the federal general election is set by federal statute as the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. This date cannot be changed by a state nor by the President.”
But, have American elections been moved because of emergencies in the past?
According to the Times, yes, at the state and local level.
Perhaps most notably, the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks came on the morning of a municipal primary election in New York City, and the state Legislature passed emergency legislation postponing the election by two weeks. In 2017, some municipal elections in Florida were briefly delayed because of Hurricane Irma.
It was reported in 2004 that some Bush administration officials had discussed putting in place a method of postponing a federal election in the event of a terrorist attack. But that idea fizzled quickly, and Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, said that the United States had held “elections in this country when we were at war, even when we were in civil war. And we should have the elections on time.”
What say, Justice Thomas? What say, Justice Alito? Ball’s in your court. (Sorry! A little inside SCOTUS humor there.)