What Would Donald Do?

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WhoWhatWhy’s Election Integrity Weekly is written by Gabriella Novello, and edited by William Dowell and Chris Carley. Have a tip or want to suggest a story? Send us an email at ei@whowhatwhy.org.

What Would Donald Do? We’ve heard PresidentTrump say it before, even if only jokingly.  “Under the normal rules, I’ll be out in 2024. So, we may have to go for an extra term.”

President Trump’s rhetoric about the 2020 election is becoming increasingly erratic, especially as his poll numbers continue to take a hit due to his failure to manage the spread of COVID-19. He is not interested in being a one-term president, and his latest attack on mail-in voting (which is roughly the same as absentee voting) is yet another reason to raise this important question: What will Donald Trump do if he loses the election in November?

Former Sen. Timothy Wirth (D-CO) thinks there are two ways that Trump could try to stay in power.

One is to manipulate the rules that govern the electoral college. The other would be to resort to emergency powers. “I think he is perfectly capable of doing [that],” Wirth told WhoWhatWhy’s Jeff Schechtman. Wirth added that there are practically no barriers keeping him from attempting to do that. (read more)

Trump’s misleading — and in some cases, outright false — claims about voter fraud could also seriously hurt the public’s faith in the election results. As Wirth put it: “In the recount process, the president can then state that the recounts are rigged, that the absentee ballots that have taken so long to count were rigged.”

Wirth believes that it is possible that a significant number of voters would accept the claim that a recount was rigged because voter education is woefully inadequate in the United States. Millions of people are expected to cast an absentee ballot this November, but we are also seeing the negative impact of Trump’s comments: his incendiary claims are turning Republican-leaning voters off at an alarming rate. (read more)

Why Roger Stone’s Clemency Matters: Trump’s decision to commute Stone’s prison sentence sends a disturbing signal to Russia and other potentially malicious actors — they can attempt to influence America’s 2020 election, lie about it, and not have to worry about repercussions.

Stone, a top adviser to the Trump campaign in 2016, was convicted for lying to Congress and denying that he knew that Russian military intelligence had illegally obtained the DNC’s emails and released them to Wikileaks. A White House statement following Stone’s commutation nevertheless claimed that his conviction was the result of a “fantasy of partisans unable to accept the result of the 2016 election.”

“The president, through this commutation, is basically saying, ‘if you lie for me, if you cover up for me, if you have my back, then I will make sure that you get a get-out-of-jail-free card,’” Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told George Stephanopoulos during an interview on ABC’s This Week Sunday.

The special counsel investigation uncovered critical information about the depth of Russia’s interference — which Stone was glaringly aware of and repeatedly lied about. Robert Mueller, who led the investigation into Russia’s election interference, rebuked the White House in a rare op-ed: “Russia’s actions were a threat to America’s democracy. It was critical that they be investigated and understood.” (read more)

I Wasn’t Going to Talk About It, But… We need to talk about Kanye West’s 2020 presidential bid for a minute.

It’s been two weeks since the Grammy Award–winning artist announced his run for president, and at this point, he has not filed official paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. In many states, the filing deadline to be on the ballot has also passed. At least two false filings for candidacy have been submitted to the FEC.

Per Billboard: “The FEC spokesperson says the fact that the rapper’s full name — Kanye Omari West — is not listed on the form and that the mailing address is the White House will lead to an FEC probe into whether the form contains ‘false or fictitious information.’” (read more)

Funding the 2020 Election: The House Committee on Appropriations included $500 million in election security grants in its FY 2021 budget proposal (every fiscal year starts on October 1, so the funds could go toward the upcoming election).

Still, election experts say that the $500 million is little more than a drop in the bucket. New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice estimates that, even before the coronavirus disrupted nearly every aspect of daily life, Congress will need to allocate $4 billion to ensure a fair and free election this November.

It remains uncertain whether the latest efforts to fund the 2020 election will succeed. The HEROES Act, the latest stimulus bill to pass the House, includes $3.6 million in election security funding. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the bill as a “liberal wish list.” (read more)

The Fight Against Disinformation Takes a Questionable Turn: Rumor has it that Facebook may ban political ads on its platform, according to the Houston Chronicle, but only for a few days leading up to the November 3 election.

Facebook would not be the first to drop political advertising — Twitter banned political ads a few months ago — but Facebook’s gesture could clamp down on some of the wild conspiracy theories and voter suppression efforts that currently proliferate on its platform. There is one problem, however.

Politicians with large online followings (like President Donald Trump) can easily post questionable statements and watch them spread like wildfire. After all, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during a recent congressional hearing that an elected official could “probably” lie and their post would not be taken down. (read more)

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