'Delay the election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???' - Trump tweeted
U.S. President Donald Trump has called for the 2020 US presidential election to be delayed despite its November date being enshrined in the US Constitution.
Mr Trump, without evidence, repeated his claims of mail-in voter fraud and raised the question of a delay, writing: "delay the election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???"
In a series of tweets, Mr Trump said the election would be "inaccurate and fraudulent" if mail-in voting was used.
Mail-in voting has been considered by a number of US States due to the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.
The US President cannot legally delay the election.
"Mail-In Voting is already proving to be a catastrophic disaster. Even testing areas are way off. The Dems talk of foreign influence in voting, but they know that Mail-In Voting is an easy way for foreign countries to enter the race. Even beyond that, there’s no accurate count," the US President said.
"With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???" he added.
Trump's tweet came shortly after the United States reported its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression: a second-quarter crash in gross domestic product due to widespread shutdowns prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump, who is trailing challenger and former Vice President Joe Biden in opinion polls, had previously intended to focus his re-election bid on the nation's economic performance.
Trump had previously suggested he would not trust election results - complaints similar to those he raised going into the runup to the 2016 election - but had not so directly suggested changing the Nov. 3 date.
Representatives for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump has cast doubt on the legitimacy of mail-in ballots, which have been used in far greater numbers in primary elections amid the pandemic. He has also made unsubstantiated allegations that voting will be rigged and has refused to say he would accept official election results if he lost.
Democrats, including Biden, have already begun preparations to protect voters and the election amid fears that Trump will try to interfere with the November election.
"A sitting president is peddling lies and suggesting delaying the election to keep himself in power," Democratic Representative Dan Kildee wrote on Twitter. "Don't let it happen. Every American — Republican, Independent and Democrat — should be speaking out against this President's lawlessness and complete disregard of the Constitution."
U.S. Senator Tom Udall, also a Democrat, said, "There is no way @POTUS can delay the election. We shouldn't let him distract us from his #COVID19 incompetence."
Nonpartisan U.S. election analyst Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia said the tweet seemed to follow Trump's typical approach of trying to distract voters from bad news.
"Trump suggesting delaying the election (he can't do this w/o congressional approval) seems to be one of his more obvious attempts to change the subject given this morning's wretched GDP numbers," Kondik wrote on Twitter.
Attorney General William Barr was asked in congressional testimony earlier this week whether Trump could change the election date: "I've never been asked the question before. I've never looked into it."
Barr also testified that to his knowledge, a sitting president cannot contest the results of an election if the vote tallies are clear.
U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., called Trump's tweet "despicable," especially because it came on the day of the funeral of civil rights icon John Lewis.
"Americans will rise up & continue John's fight for unfettered access to the ballot box," Clyburn tweeted. "Our voices will not be silenced."
As more states have turned to mail-in voting in response the pandemic, Trump has repeatedly sought to undermine the method, often with unsubstantiated claims. He has attacked mail voting nearly 70 times since late March in interviews, remarks and tweets, including at least 17 times this month, according to a tally by The Washington Post.
A Department of Justice spokeswoman declined to comment on Trump's tweet.
Trump has also argued that mail-in voting tends to hurt Republicans at the ballot box.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted this month shows that 51% of Democrats prefer voting by mail this fall, compared to 20% of Republicans. However, a recent study by Stanford University researchers found no partisan impact of expanding voting by mail.
At the congressional hearing, Barr repeated his concern that he felt there was a "high risk" mail-in voting would lead to fraud, but said he did not believe the election would be rigged - seeming to break with Trump.
"I have no reason to think it will be," he said.
Even if Congress voted to delay the general election, the electoral college is still required to elect a president under federal law. If for some reason that didn't happen, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence would be required to leave office by noon on Jan. 20. With no successor, the speaker of the House of Representatives, currently Democrat Nancy Pelosi, would be next in line
Additional reporting from Washington Post.