Trump Has Been Planning For Years to Make Losing Look Like a Win

From The New York Times, by Jim Rutenberg and Nick Corasaniti

The roots of Mr. Trump’s approach date to before his election in 2016, and he advanced his plans throughout his term. But his strategy for casting doubt on the outcome of the 2020 campaign took shape in earnest when the coronavirus pandemic upended normal life and led states to promote voting by mail.

From the start, the president saw mail-in ballots as a political threat that would appeal more to Democrats than to his followers. And so he and his allies sought to block moves to make absentee voting easier and to slow the counting of mail ballots. This allowed Mr. Trump to do two things: claim an early victory on election night and paint ballots that were counted later for his opponent as fraudulent.

The United States Postal Service, after coming under the leadership of a Trump ally, Louis DeJoy, made several cost-saving moves that severely slowed mail delivery rates and prompted broad concern about mail ballots arriving on time.

In the Senate, under the leadership of Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, Republicans blocked Democratic efforts to get more money to states so they could buy more sorting equipment to count the huge influx of mail ballots faster.

In key states like Pennsylvania and Michigan, Republican-controlled legislatures refused attempts by civil rights groups and Democrats to change or suspend statutes forbidding election workers from beginning to count ballots before Election Day. And once the counting began, the Trump campaign and the president’s allies pursued other tactics to slow or stop the count and seed doubt about the validity of the results.

Before Election Day, party officials at the state and national levels helped organize teams of observers, a role that was once a symbol of the transparency of American democracy. But in this case, Mr. Trump and his allies encouraged their observers in key states to act aggressively to stop what they portrayed as widespread cheating and provide information that could be fed into lawsuits and stoke demonstrations and coverage from friendly commentators and journalists.

As a Pennsylvania state senator, Mike Regan, a Republican, put it at a rally in Harrisburg last week, “I’ve been told in no uncertain terms by the state party and by our leaders that they are coordinating with the Trump campaign, and so far Pennsylvania has done everything that the Trump campaign has asked them to do.”

Nearly all of it would be done in the name of a falsehood: that the American voting system was so corroded by fraud that any losing result for the president could not be legitimate.

There was no greater proponent of that notion than Mr. Trump, who promoted it heavily from behind his presidential lectern or from his phone. A presidency that began with a lie — that President Barack Obama was not a citizen — is now ending with one, too.

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