President Donald Trump vowed Thursday that he would send law enforcement officers and U.S. attorneys to Election Day polls to prevent potential voter fraud, drawing swift rebukes from critics.
On late Thursday night, Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity that if the White House would “have an ability” to monitor the November 4 proceedings and avoid fraud, “We’re gonna have everything.”
“We’re gonna have sheriffs, and we’re gonna have law enforcement,” the president said. “And we’re going to have hopefully U.S. attorneys, and we’re going to have everybody and attorney generals.”
"We're gonna have everything. We're gonna have sheriffs and we're gonna have law enforcement and we're going to have hopefully U.S. Attorneys…" https://t.co/ejOPCaQEdk
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) August 21, 2020
The president also took the opportunity to continue his criticism of mail-in voting practices, groundlessly claiming that “anybody can sign” the ballots, singling out Nevada’s rules as an example.
“Nobody’s ever heard of anything like this,” Trump said.
“They may send them to all Democrat areas, not to the Republican areas as an example,” he continued. “Could be the other way too, but I doubt it.”
The announcement drew criticism from a range of critics, including academics, activists, and former federal officials.
“He’s sending law enforcement because it would be a crime to send the military,” tweeted Walter Shaub, former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. “But let’s be clear: this is an attack on America. This is the dictator’s playbook.”
“We’ve suspected this would happen and here it is. Anything to intimidate and stop people from voting,” tweeted Vanita Gupta, CEO of nonprofit civil rights group The Leadership Conference.
University of California-Irvine professor and election law expert Rick Hasen noted that “Trump has no authority over local law enforcement such as sheriffs, so as commander in chief he cannot be ordering local law enforcement officials to be poll watchers.”
However, county sheriffs have increasingly grown radicalized over the past several years and have increasingly integrated with Trump supporters on the far-right fringes of U.S. politics, according to researchers. Various police and sheriffs’ associations – which have a history of embracing right-wing, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim extremist agendas – have also announced their support for President Trump’s re-election efforts.
Trump’s threat to deploy law enforcement officers to the polls come amid increasing claims by the president and his allies that mail-in voting can open the doors to widespread fraud without presenting any supporting evidence.
The president has also questioned whether election results will be accurate due to mail-in voting and the still-raging COVID-19 pandemic.
This week, Trump told supporters this week “the only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.”
The White House has also been unclear about whether the president would accept election results if he isn’t declared the winner. On Wednesday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany refused to rule out whether the president would accept the results if he loses his re-election bid.
On Thursday, former Vice President Joe Biden formally accepted the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
“The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long. Too much anger. Too much fear. Too much division,” Biden said during his acceptance speech. “If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I will be an ally of the light—not of the darkness.”