President Donald Trump reissued a call to supporters early Wednesday to act as “poll watchers” after first telling voters in North Carolina on Tuesday to watch for “thieving, and stealing and robbing,” in an unprecedented move to instill fear and intimidate voters ahead of an election that is now only eight weeks away.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 9, 2020
Just a day before, Trump had ordered supporters at a rally in Winston-Salem to be watchful of ballots.
“Got to be careful with those ballots. Watch those ballots. I don’t like it. You know, you have a Democrat governor, you have all these Democrats watching that stuff, I don’t like it,” Trump told the packed and largely unmasked crowd.”Watch it. Be poll watchers when you go there. Watch all the thieving and stealing and robbing they do. Because this is important. We win North Carolina, we win.”
The comments are the latest in Trump’s effort to mobilize his base in an increasingly violent battle that has antagonized Democratic leaders.
Late last month, the President said in a Fox News interview that he intended to send law enforcement to patrol polling stations even though the move goes against federal law which prohibits officials from sending “armed men” to “any place where a general or special election is held.”
“We’re going to have everything,” the President told Fox News host Sean Hannity. “We’re going to have sheriffs, and we’re going to have law enforcement, and we’re going to have, hopefully, US attorneys, and we’re going to have everybody and attorney generals.”
Trump’s messaging dangerously fans a flame of violence among his supporters to take up arms against protesters in his defense.
Trump has made violence in “Democrat cities” a key campaign tactic against Democratic rival Joe Biden, even appearing to signal to his supporters to take aggressive and sometimes violent measures to defend their cities against what he has routinely referred to as a radical left “mob” of “thugs.”
Ahead of a visit to Kenosha, Wisconsin last week, following protests in the aftermath of the critical injury of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot seven times in the back by police, Trump said that his visit was intended “to see the people that did such a good job for me” during the protests.
The inflammatory comments came as the President declined to condemn Kyle Rittenhouse who faces criminal charges, including first-degree intentional homicide, for a shooting in the Wisconsin city that left two protesters dead and a third injured.
Trump’s calls for “poll watchers,” intensify a series of moves to weaponize fear and intimidate voters. They represent an ongoing effort by the President to obliterate the legitimacy of the election — while mobilizing violence amid swaths of his base who have joked about going on the “offense” and taking up arms against progressives.