President Donald Trump is reformulating his attack on mail-in voting — shifting focus away from the U.S. Postal Service and instead claiming that it is local elections officials who tally the mailed ballots results who are “going to count them wrong.”
“It’s not the post office,” Trump said in an interview with The Washington Examiner published late Wednesday. “No, it’s the elections office. The post office — look, this is a con job. It’s like the Russian hoax. The post office has run the way it’s been run forever.”
The comments are a kind of whiplash turnaround from a months-long attack made by the President to undermine the mail service. He has worked hard at trying to convince voters — especially in Democratic-led states — that they will be unable to reliably cast mailed ballots during the COVID-19 crisis and has called the Postal Service a “joke.”
There’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the United States, which Trump surely knows, but he’s used his attack on voting by mail as a campaign tactic to strategically suppress votes in places where he sees his second-term chances as less likely.
President Trump made sure as the Republican National Convention kicked off on Monday, to reinforce his efforts to delegitimize the voting process and criminalize Democratic efforts to expand mail-in voting amid the coronavirus pandemic. During remarks in North Carolina, he claimed that Democrats lawmakers were “using COVID to defraud the American people.”
“The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election,” Trump said.
Earlier this month, the President said he would oppose relief funding to boost the USPS but walked back those claims slightly when he later said that wrapped into a larger coronavirus relief package, he wouldn’t veto it.
Trump’s remarks from the Examiner interview, backed away from his earlier wholesale condemnation of the postal service as a long-trusted fixture of American life that many Democrats have said is charged with the essential mission of ensuring that critical medicines and packages reach Americans in rural economies especially during the current health crisis.
In recent days, the President had become increasingly isolated in his unfounded and venomous takedown of the USPS.
During a congressional hearing Friday, postmaster general Louis DeJoy sought to distance himself from Trump’s attack on mail-in voting, saying that believed voting by mail to be a safe and reliable way to cast a ballot.
“The Postal Service is fully capable of delivering the nation’s election mail securely and on time,” DeJoy told lawmakers on Friday.
By Monday, DeJoy had even admitted that the President’s attack on mail-in voting was “not helpful.”
Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) who headlined the Republican National Convention on Monday night told NBC’s Today show anchor Savannah Guthrie the following day that he also thought the country’s expanded mail-in ballots process would “prove to work out just fine.”
Appearing to take stock of those claims, Trump told the Examiner that “the post office is not to blame.”
“It has nothing to do with the post office,” Trump said in his repositioned argument, adding that even if mail delivery were “a day late,” the problem lies with the dumping of ballots “in front of a few people who are counting them, and they’re going to count them wrong.”