In an address from the White House on Thursday evening that Donald Trump called “an update,” the president reached deep into the online garbage bin and regurgitated many of the rumors that have been widely circulated — and widely debunked — over the last three days.
Trump gave voice to baseless rumors about voter fraud and ballot-counting and once again lied about winning an election that is tilting away from him hour by hour. Throughout the speech, Trump clearly either misunderstood or misrepresented the election laws of the country he governs, and he seemingly sourced much of his material from the internet.
“Michigan, we won the state. In Wisconsin, we did likewise fantastically well. And that got whittled down,” the president falsely said. “In every case, they got whittled down. We're on track to win Arizona.”
None of that is accurate. Joe Biden won the state of Michigan. Wisconsin and Arizona are still being counted. Trump’s early lead was not “whittled down.” Rather, he is either confused by or is purposely sowing confusion about how mail-in ballots are counted, as he, his son, and his press secretary have done in the past few days.
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“They stopped counting for four hours, and bad things happened,” Trump said about Georgia.
This is a reference to an online rumor that claimed ballot counters taking a break were acting nefariously. In reality, poll workers, who are uniformly human beings, need sleep, and some counties decided to give their staffers a break.
“They don’t want anybody there. They don’t want anybody watching as they count the ballots,” Trump said about Pennsylvania.
In this case, the president is likely referring to two separate videos, both of which were missing context, of altercations involving poll watchers in Pennsylvania. In both cases, those poll watchers were able to remain at their locations and do their job, a city official confirmed to BuzzFeed News on Tuesday.
“They put papers on all the windows so they can’t see in,” Trump said.
He has previously amplified this rumor on Twitter and now brought it all the way to the White House press room. But windows being covered with paper is not some overarching conspiracy. The reality is that ballot counters were worried about people taking photos of the process, which is against the law, as the New York Times reported.
“They did the mail-in ballots,” Trump said, “where there’s tremendous corruption and fraud going on.”
This claim has been the president’s go-to narrative for months, dating as far back as the midterm election in which he cried “fraud” at the electoral process. In reality, the US has a minuscule number of election fraud cases, including those that deal with mail-in ballots.
This hasn’t stopped Trump’s debunked crusade. “They mailed out millions of ballots without any verification measure whatsoever,” he claimed without proof. Mail-in ballots are in fact tracked and closely monitored in the US, although Postal Service officials said in an ongoing trial yesterday that they chose not to track some ballots through the mail in an effort to speed up their delivery.
Of his multiple rants during the press conference, his tirade against mail-in ballots was the lengthiest and included a false claim that those ballots don’t have identification and verification requirements.
“They’re just taking the numbers. They’re writing down things,” he said.
Anyone watching Trump's conference would have received the same false impression as the people who bought into the rumors online — that the voting process in key states is in disarray. In reality, the mundane if plodding process of counting one ballot after another is proceeding as predicted.