President Donald Trump began his Thursday by demanding that states stop tallying votes.
“STOP THE COUNT!” Trump tweeted at 9:12 am ET, after spending much of Wednesday posting a flood of misinformation on Twitter meant to make it seem as though Democrats are stealing the 2020 election from him.
STOP THE COUNT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 5, 2020
There’s one big problem, though — if vote tallying were immediately stopped in all the states, former Vice President Joe Biden would prevail in Arizona and Nevada, giving him 270 electoral votes and making him the presumptive president-elect.
Not only is Trump’s talking point self-defeating, it’s completely inconsistent with what his advisers were saying on Wednesday and Thursday.
About an hour before Trump posted his tweet, for instance, Trump’s former campaign adviser Kellyanne Conway was on Fox & Friends preaching the virtue of patience, saying, “We can’t wait three hours, three days, three weeks, to get a result? ... What is the rush?”
Kellyanne Conway on Fox: "They spent three years investigating the president, impeaching the president. We can't wait three hours, three days, three weeks, to get a result? ... What is the rush?"— The Recount (@therecount) November 5, 2020
(It's been her boss Trump who has consistently argued for the rushed result.) pic.twitter.com/fCLC1khcCc
And on Wednesday evening, Trump campaign senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show and blasted the media for “reporting inaccurately and falsely that the Trump campaign is wanting the ballot counting to be stopped.”
Ellis’s comments, in turn, contradicted what Trump said during his bizarre early Wednesday morning press event/campaign rally at the White House, during which he described the election as a “major fraud on our nation” and said “we’ll going to the US Supreme Court. We want all voting [i.e., vote counting] to stop.”
"This is a major fraud on our nation ... so we'll going to the US Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop." -- Trump is counting on SCOTUS to help him steal the election pic.twitter.com/MHF60tszkN— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 4, 2020
Trump’s real position, of course, is that only votes cast for him should be counted. His followers are on the same page, and that’s why groups of them chanted “Stop the vote!” outside government buildings in Michigan — a state where Trump led during the early part of the count on Tuesday evening, only to be surpassed by Biden as more ballots were tallied on Wednesday — while others chanted “Count the vote!” in Arizona, where Trump is trailing.
That incoherency is captured in this video mash-up:
Trump supporters: "Count the vote!"— The Recount (@therecount) November 5, 2020
Also Trump supporters: "Stop the count!" pic.twitter.com/ctyIop97gf
Trump campaign officials like Ellis and Pam Bondi have tried to thread the needle by arguing that Trump wants all the legitimate ballots to be counted, but not ones that were cast fraudulently. But when Bondi was pressed to provide evidence of fraud during a Wednesday morning appearance on Fox & Friends, she couldn’t.
On Fox & Friends, Pam Bondi warns about "fake ballots" in Pennsylvania. When pressed on it, Bondi just says "there could be" some, and mentions a bunch of stuff that is not "fake ballots." pic.twitter.com/1G1Anlhciw— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) November 5, 2020
Trump’s Thursday morning tweet was likely meant to allude to Pennsylvania, where his narrow lead over Biden is in jeopardy as more votes are counted from the Democratic-leaning Philadelphia region. But what Trump doesn’t seem to understand is that Biden doesn’t need Pennsylvania to get to 270 electoral votes.
More broadly, Trump’s strategy, to the extent there is one, appears to be to try to create the perception that he was cheated by tossing out accusations of fraud. The problem for him is that there’s no evidence to back up his claims.
Later Thursday morning, Trump posted another tweet proclaiming that “ANY VOTE THAT CAME IN AFTER ELECTION DAY WILL NOT BE COUNTED!”
ANY VOTE THAT CAME IN AFTER ELECTION DAY WILL NOT BE COUNTED!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 5, 2020
But that tweet contradicts state law in places like Pennsylvania and North Carolina that allow mail ballots to be tallied after Election Day so long as they’re postmarked before November 3. As I’ve explained previously, Trump’s position that mail ballots are vulnerable to fraud isn’t supported by evidence, but it may give the Supreme Court a pretext to get involved in an election he now appears very likely to have lost.