Such is the pace of the news cycle in Trump Year Zero, where the news of the day gets bumped by even bigger news of the day every six minutes or so, that I had completely forgotten he intended to sign an order opening a voter-fraud investigation. That was seven days ago. There were tweets about it and cable news segments and statistical analyses of fraud flying around and Spicer was talking about it at the press briefing and Kellyanne Conway was on the air saying God knows what and I barely have any memory of it. In human years, it happened a week ago. In Trump-news years, it was the 15th century.
But yeah, I forgot about it. Sounds like he did too.
The Oval Office signing was abruptly canceled last Thursday and never rescheduled. The White House hasn’t talked about it since. The President has moved on to other subjects.
A senior administration official told CNN that the voter fraud investigation is no longer a top priority for the President, insisting it’s not off the table, but not expected anytime soon…
One aide said the President is waiting until Sen. Jeff Sessions is confirmed as attorney general before launching an investigation. But others inside the West Wing hope the President doesn’t pursue it, CNN has learned.
“I think there will be something signed,” one senior administration said, “but I don’t think it will be now.”
The signing process last week got as far as reporters and photographers being ushered into the room to document the moment before being told that Trump got stuck in a meeting, at which point the matter was quietly dropped. Makes me wonder if some sort of bartering went on between the Priebus wing of Trump’s operation, which prefers traditional politics, and the Bannon wing, which is in perpetual disruption mode. You can imagine Reince telling Bannon, “Listen, ordering the investigation of an election he won makes him look like he has brain damage. What say we table this and focus on that travel-ban order you’ve been wanting him to issue instead?” Twenty-four hours later, the travel ban was signed. The flaw in that theory, though, is that if Reince is trading meaningful policy concessions to Bannon in exchange for concessions on conspiratorial stuff, there’s really no end to what Bannon could extract from him. All Bannon would have to do is whisper to Trump, “Don’t you think it’s time for a DOJ investigation into Pizzagate?”, and Reince would have to agree to support sending the Marines to take Mexico City or whatever.
Note the bit at the end of the excerpt, though, about Trump keeping the order in his desk for potential use later. That makes sense. Why waste a splashy gesture about voter fraud now, so soon after the last election, when it’s all but guaranteed to show that no, actually, there weren’t five million illegal votes cast last year? Save the order for summer 2018, before the midterms, so that you can scream about voter fraud in November (when the investigation would still be ongoing) if Democrats have a big night and take back Congress. That’d be cynical as hell, but it feels pretty Trumpy.
In lieu of an exit question, your poll data of the day via Morning Consult: