President Donald Trump and his Attorney General William “Coverup” Barr were engaged in a crime spree of election law violations on Wednesday.
President Trump on Wednesday suggested that people in North Carolina stress-test the security of their elections systems by voting twice — an act that constitutes the kind of voter fraud the president has railed against.
Mr. Trump made the comment in a briefing with reporters, where he was asked about his faith in the state’s system for voting by mail, which is expected to be more expansive in the 2020 presidential election than in previous years because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.
Mr. Trump encouraged people to send in an absentee ballot and then go vote in person on Election Day.
“Let them send it in and let them go vote, and if their system’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote,” the president said. “If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote.”
“That’s the way it is,” he added. “And that’s what they should do.”
Just to be clear: voting twice in the same election is illegal. So is inducing someone to vote twice in the same election. Once again, Trump is openly committing a crime live on TV in front of the cameras. He seems to be convinced that if he says the quiet part out loud in public, it’s not a crime. (It’s an admission against interest, next best evidence to a confession).
Election law expert Rick Hasen explains, President Trump Arguably Broke North Carolina Law in Suggesting That Voters Try to Vote by Mail and In Person:
President Trump made some worrisome comments today that seemed to encourage double voting in the state of North Carolina.
Pres. Trump appeared to suggest that his supporters should commit voter fraud by attempting to vote both by mail and in person pic.twitter.com/zcvdzYCY8x
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) September 2, 2020
Here’s the transcript (my emphasis):
(Q) 600,000 people could vote by absentee in this state. Are you confident in that system?
“They will vote and then they are going to have to check their vote by going to the poll and voting that way because if it tabulates then they won’t be able to do that. So let them send it in, and let them go vote. And if the system is as good as they say it is, then they obviously won’t be able to vote (at the poll). If it isn’t tabulated, they will be able to vote. So that’s the way it is, and that’s what they should do.
“I don’t like the idea of these unsolicited votes. I never did. It leads to a lot of problems. They’ve got 11 problems already on very small contests. I’m not happy about it. At the same time, we’re in court with a lot of it. We’re going to see if it can be stopped.
“But send you ballots, send them in strong whether it’s solicited or unsolicited. The absentees are fine. But go to vote and if they haven’t counted it, you can vote. That’s the way I view it.”
Under North Carolina law, it is illegal: “(7) For any person with intent to commit a fraud to register or vote at more than one precinct or more than one time, or to induce another to do so, in the same primary or election, or to vote illegally at any primary or election.”
Was Trump by his comments “induc[ing]” “with intent to commit fraud” a person to “vote” “more than one time” “in the same …. election”? I think a case could be made that he did. He was encouraging people to vote both by mail and in person. The questionable part is about his intent. It sounds like he was suggesting an attempt at double voting as a means of testing the integrity of the system, or assuring that his voters can cast at least one ballot for him. Is that a fraudulent intent? I could see how a jury could find it to be so especially given Trump’s other statements suggesting he believes that such double voting would not be caught by election officials.
Another possible defense is that Trump was “joking” or not being serious about his comments, and this was typical Trumpian hyperbole. Perhaps so, but I think many people may hear his comments and think he is serious. At the very least, this is now going to create a headache for election administrators in North Carolina (and potentially elsewhere) to admonish voters not to try to do this and muck up the system.
Federal law also makes it a crime for a person to vote more than once in a federal election.
BTW, this also includes “coerc[ing] any person for urging or aiding any person to vote or attempt to vote” under §10307 (b).
I don’t expect Trump to be prosecuted for this statement but it is a terrible thing to encourage voter fraud—especially by someone who consistently makes claims that it is rampant in the U.S. (it’s not).
The Huffington Post adds:
Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe used a simple analogy about a bank robbery to dismantle Trump’s request:
“I was just testing whether this state can detect voter fraud when I showed up to vote a second time”
— is about as good a defense as:
“I broke into the bank just to test whether it has a good alarm system.”
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) September 3, 2020
Memo to Mr. Trump:
You’re committing a felony by urging North Carolinians to cast illegal second votes.
Not that you care. https://t.co/F12UD1BL61
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) September 3, 2020
Other critics on Twitter echoed Tribe’s concerns:
How is it Trump’s idiocy & lawlessness can still shock the conscious? He’s encouraging citizens to break the law. On the upside, the “clean-hands” doctrine guarantees Trump will lose any challenge to the election results he brings in court. https://t.co/hpF7bhR6ju
— Glenn Kirschner (@glennkirschner2) September 2, 2020
Turns out, in fact, criminal voter fraud exists
In North Carolina, it's "unlawful…for any person with intent to commit a fraud to register or vote…more than 1 time, OR TO INDUCE ANOTHER TO DO SO" h/t @jgeltzer @JoshStein_ isn't this a crime in NC?
— Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) September 3, 2020
The legal community is certain about the law. But Attorney General William “Coverup” Barr feigned ignorance when asked about Trump’s illegality in an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, while promoting his own unsupported conspiracy theories about voter fraud with mail-in ballots.
Just watch Bill Barr – the top law enforcement official in the United States – pretend that he’s not sure if it’s illegal to vote twice.
Beyond shameless. Beyond.pic.twitter.com/vPeiF4ctwF
— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) September 2, 2020
At one point, [Barr] blew up at Blitzer over a discussion about mail-in voting. But the nature of his blow-up was particularly revealing. He had been arguing that advocates of mail-in voting for the November election are risking the vote’s security because it’s never been done before.
But Blitzer pointed out that five states, including Republican-majority states like Utah, have done universal mail-in voting for years without any major problems. As Blitzer tried to get the explanation out, though, Barr burst with rage.
“Wolf, this is playing with fire! This is playing with fire,” he said, becoming increasingly incensed. “We’re a very closely divided country here. And if people have to have confidence in the results of the election and the legitimacy of the election. And people trying to change the rules to this methodology, which as a matter of logic is very open to fraud and coercion is reckless and dangerous. And people are playing with fire.”
This outburst, though, only served to distract from the fact that he had no counterargument to Blitzer’s point that universal mail-in voting in a well-established practice in this country. His claim that the methodology is flawed a matter of “logic” is essentially an admission that he has no evidence to support his view. And his pleas of concern about confidence in the election ring hollow when the president is undermining faith in the results on a nearly daily basis. Even in this very interview, Barr was bringing up concerns about foreign interference via fraudulent ballots — undermining trust in the election by floating a possibility that is completely unsubstantiated.
In fact, on Wednesday, Trump openly encouraged voters to commit voter fraud — supposedly to test the system’s defenses. This is open encouragement of a federal crime. When Blitzer asked Barr about these comments, the attorney general first tried to shrug them off. But when Blitzer tried to explain why they were serious, Barr dismissively said: “If you know what he was saying, why are you asking me what he’s saying?” The answer is obvious: Because the attorney general should have something to say about the president encouraging crimes.
And then there was this. Bill Barr ‘made it up’: Ex-federal prosecutor says AG invented fake Texas voter fraud case:
During a CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer Wednesday, Attorney General Bill Barr cited a case in Texas where someone voted 1,700 times by using vote-by-mail ballots.
The segment was part of a conversation about President Donald Trump encouraging his voters to vote twice, once by mail and then again at the polls as a way to “test the system.”
Barr cited the Texas case, as a justification for vote-by-mail being a magnet for fraud.
“I do not know what Bill Barr is talking about,” said ProPublica reporter Jessica Huseman. “To my knowledge, there has never been anyone in Texas charged with fraudulently casting 1,700 ballots. I cannot even think of a county where such a thing would be possible.”
“The only mention of that number with alleged voter fraud is a race several years ago where – in a race where it was alleged hundreds of people received *absentee ballot APPLICATIONS* the winning candidate won by 1,700 votes,” Huseman also explained, citing the Dallas Morning News. “The number of absentee ballot requests that were initially considered “suspicious” was actually 1,200. Again, NOT BALLOTS.”
Former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega explained that it’s because Bill Barr “just made it up.”
He just made it up.
Simple though – Give us the name of the case, Bill. https://t.co/ZviYBhkwox
— Elizabeth de la Vega (@Delavegalaw) September 2, 2020
Attorney General Barr either hasn’t *read* 18 U.S.C. § 592—or he has, and he’s lying about what it prohibits.
— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) September 2, 2020
The most corrupt Attorney General in the history of the United States needs to be investigated and prosecuted for his subversion of justice at the Department of Justice. Appoint a special prosecutor come January.