Pompeo: The Justice Department and others will make the decision about whether the election is delayed

No, Mike, they won’t. Unless by “others” you mean Congress, for cripes sake.

The only thing more obnoxious than Trump’s tweet this morning is the thought of Bill Barr dressing up a de facto coup as some sort of law enforcement operation.

This is at least the second time a top administration official has punted when asked about delaying the election, by the way. Jared Kushner also ducked when asked about it in May, but Kushner seemed merely to be hedging in the moment because he wasn’t sure offhand who sets the date of elections. Kushner’s not a cabinet officer either. Pompeo is, as Tim Kaine helpfully reminded him, and he’s a Harvard Law grad. What’s his excuse for being agnostic about moving the election apart from raw toadyism in not wanting to contradict the president on one of his worst ideas ever?

Or does Pompeo mean to imply he thinks the DOJ should have a say in when America votes?

The correct answer when asked whether we might delay the election is, “We shouldn’t delay it even if the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man is rampaging through Manhattan on Election Day.” Or, if that’s too colorful, something like this:

Trump’s more outlandish tweets invariably ignite debates within political media about what his “angle” is in tweeting them. Did he propose an election delay to distract from this morning’s gruesome GDP data? Was he trying to preemptively delegitimize an impending loss to Biden by setting himself up to argue that he would have won if only we hadn’t irresponsibly insisted on holding the election as scheduled, when it was too dangerous/complicated for his fans to vote? I’m in this camp with Lachlan Markay:


Trump isn’t nearly as clever about manufacturing distractions as most of his detractors assume. If he’s floating a trial balloon about delaying the election, the most likely reason is that he’s nervous about the polls and starting to grasp for ways that he might avoid a likely defeat. A “delay” is one such way. Simple as that.

This morning’s tweet also inspired a round of people being called to account for scoffing at Biden back in April when he speculated that Trump “is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held.” I don’t know why that idea seemed preposterous to others at the time; Trump is so neurotic about being thought of as unpopular that he came up with a conspiracy theory in 2016 to explain the vote totals in an election he won. There’s zero chance that he’ll sit by idly and endure a possible humiliation at the polls if there’s anything he can do to avert it. In any event, some commentators did think Biden was out of his gourd for believing that Trump would do anything to stay in power…

…and are feeling less certain about that today:

Jonathan Turley also lambasted Biden at length in April (“Biden Goes Postal”) only to have to write a new post this morning wearily reminding the president that Congress sets the date of the election and the date that the electoral college meets to cast its votes, and the Constitution of course sets the date for when a president’s term ends. None of that’s going to change.

Although what a Republican-controlled Congress might conceivably do at Trump’s request to tinker with the election sure would make for an interesting thought experiment.

Anyway, there are other potential nightmare scenarios that might be foisted upon the country as the president panics over a likely defeat so let’s start scoffing at these now:

If the coronavirus is still a factor in the fall, Trump could claim emergency powers to keep people in cities where outbreaks have been worse from going to polling places in person, in the name of public health, Hasen said. That could depress turnout in the heavily populated urban areas that tend to vote Democratic…

Hasen said the president could also lean on state legislatures to take voting for president away from citizens entirely in the name of public safety. The members of the electoral college who officially choose the president do not need to be chosen by the voting public. Instead, the state legislatures could select the presidential electors as they did in the early days of our republic.

If he’s worried about the election being delayed as opposed to hoping it might be delayed, why doesn’t he do something to help facilitate day-of voting? “Trump could take steps to help secure the election system and ensure safe elections in a coronavirus-stricken country,” writes David Graham. “He could help fund efforts by states to open new polling places or better prepare for an influx of mail-in ballots. He could assist the U.S. Postal Service in preparing for a busy election.” It speaks volumes of his illiberal instincts that when he raises the prospect of voting being difficult, his solution isn’t to try to make it easier, it’s to try to make it impossible, however temporarily.

And needless to say, grasping for ways to avert a verdict by the voters reeks of weakness, a blaring siren that he thinks he’ll probably lose. A president normally consumed with projecting strength would avoid the idea of postponing the election if only for that reason, one would think.

I’ll leave you with this, another way in which Trump’s tweet might create political problems for him. If the outlook on COVID is so daunting that we should consider delaying the election so that people don’t feel forced to resort to dubious mail-in ballots, why the hell are we reopening anything right now? Keep schools closed, drive cases way down, and then Americans will feel safer voting in person in November.