The 2020 presidential election is coming to the wire, and both candidates have potential paths to victory. But President Donald Trump’s campaign is already considering the legal battles it has pledged to wage against states it baselessly accused of “stealing” elections for Biden. And it is a question of constituting a war chest to finance the effort.
Trump’s 2020 campaign has been hampered by cash shortages and allegations of financial mismanagement. The team there has already taken steps in the days leading up to the election to keep contributions in circulation until mid-December. His post-election money blitz could provide additional funding to continue arguing the election in court.
From midnight Tuesday to about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, the Trump campaign and its joint Republican National Committee fundraising account sent nine emails to their supporters asking them to provide additional funds. “The results are coming and we are on the right track to win big,” an email sent under the name of Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday morning. “But it’s only a matter of time before Democrats try to steal the election and manipulate the results … We need your help to make sure we have the proper resources to protect the results.”
On Wednesday morning, the campaign also sent out SMS calls claiming that “Dems & Fake News want to STEAL this election!” and the promise of a “1000%” match for donations.
The allegations of stolen elections are completely unrelated to reality, and far from being on the verge of “winning big”, the best result of the Trump campaign would be a very narrow victory over former Vice President Joe Biden.
But the Trump campaign appears to be anticipating possible legal battles over postal votes in major swing states. And he’s asking supporters to fund these efforts with the same kind of language Trump himself has used all year in an attempt to cast preventative doubt on the legitimacy of the election.
“Just like I predicted from the start,” Trump said in a Wednesday morning fundraising email, “mail-in ballots lead to CHAOS like you’ve never seen, outright. ! The radical left is going to do everything in its power to try to wrest a TRUMP-PENCE VICTORY from you, and that is why I am coming to you now.
In fact, Tuesday’s vote was largely ordered. And even with the combination of record-breaking voter turnout, an unprecedented volume of mail-in ballots, restrictions in many states on how quickly those ballots could be counted and, behind it all, the pandemic of current coronavirus, most states reported election results at a rate comparable to previous elections.
Trump nonetheless threatened to take court to fight what he claims to be widespread voting irregularities, and his top campaign aides signaled Wednesday that they plan to pursue the allegations more formally.
“Our legal teams are in place,” Senior Campaign Advisor Jason Miller told reporters on a call Wednesday. He and campaign manager Bill Stepien expressed confidence in Trump’s chances in the few remaining states – and even Arizona, where the Associated Press predicted a victory for Biden. But they also used language that seemed to presage their legal strategy.
“If we count all the legally cast ballots, we think the president will win,” Stepien said. He and Miller have repeatedly used this wording – “legally cast ballots” – suggesting that the campaign will attempt to invalidate mail-in ballots received after the polls closed (the Supreme Court ruled that Pennsylvania was required to ‘accept and count these votes).
The Biden campaign, on a conference call around the same time, called the legal threats “ridiculously baseless.” The election, they said, was “for granted” as they predicted the former vice president was on a clear path to winning 270 votes in the Electoral College.
“We are going to win the election. We have won the election. And we are going to defend these elections,” said Biden campaign adviser Bob Bauer.
Miller also signaled that the campaign would seek to present the election in Nevada, a nearby state where Biden is closely favored, as potentially tainted with fraud. “Nevada is a state rife with corruption,” he told reporters. “We’re very concerned about some of the efforts, the movements that have been made there.”
Miller and Stepien have both indicated that, as expected, the Trump campaign will pursue a recount in Wisconsin if the margin remains as narrow there as it is. Under state law, candidates can force recounts if elections are decided by less than one percent of the vote.
On Tuesday evening, as it became clear that Wisconsin would be one of the few states that could potentially decide the election, former Gov. Scott Walker said Republicans were already considering the possibility. He tweeted a link to the state’s recount law. On Wednesday morning, however, Walker threw cold water on the idea that a recount would be able to reverse Trump’s deficit.
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