President Trump, adopting a double-barrelled closing strategy of maximising uncertainty over the election and minimising the pandemic, is vowing to mount a legal challenge to Pennsylvania’s vote count while threatening to fire Dr Anthony Fauci, the person Americans trust most to tell the truth on the coronavirus.
At a raucous late-night rally in Florida early on Monday, Trump smiled as a crowd, many mask-less and crammed together, began chanting “Fire Fauci!” — a response to the epidemiologist’s repeated criticism of the administration’s downplaying of the deadly fall surge.
“Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election,” Trump said as the audience in Opa-locka erupted. “I appreciate the advice.”
Speaking to reporters earlier on Sunday, Trump vowed to mount a legal challenge in Pennsylvania even before all votes were counted, which could take days as mail-in ballots continue to arrive after the election.
“We’re going to go in the night of, as soon as that election is over, we’re going in with our lawyers,” Trump said.
Trump made his remarks during a frenetic five-rally day where he jumped from event to event, sowing uncertainty and stoking passions. He has scheduled another five rallies for today.
Election Day is usually a moment of tension and release, of anger and some bitterness, but also the closure that comes with watching Americans choose their next President.
But this campaign is ending on an unsettled and unsettling note. These dyspeptic final days have been marked by threats of violent skirmishes and street demonstrations in places like Beverly Hills. Store owners are putting plywood on their windows, anticipating a return of this summer’s unrest.
More than 90 million ballots have already been cast in the general election. More Democrats are voting early by mail than Republicans. Democrats and Republicans are following every gyration of the last round of polls, looking for reasons for hope and posting anguished observations on Twitter and Facebook.
It is building up to an election night that seems increasingly unlikely to end with the customary punctation mark moment, when one candidate concedes and the other declares victory.
President Trump has made it clear that he will not concede even if he appears to be losing — if, for example, Florida tilts to Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee. Trump has hinted he might even declare victory based on early results.
While voters who turn out on Election Day tend to skew Republican, the majority of mail-in ballots have been cast by Democrats, meaning that early returns may not accurately reflect the full vote.
The President, who has spent months undermining public confidence in the election system, said that he would also probably mount legal challenges in other states, including Nevada, because the governor there is a Democrat.
Trump repeated his desire that vote-counting stop after Election Day — something that has never been done in any presidential race in the country’s history.
Asked to comment on Mr. Trump’s attempts to undermine faith in the process on Sunday, Biden said, “The President is not going to steal this election.”
Twitter gears up
Twitter Inc on Monday outlined a plan for placing warning labels on tweets from US election candidates and campaigns that claim victory in advance of official results.
The move comes as the social network braces for what it has called an unusual election.
Beginning on poll night till the inauguration, Twitter said it would place warning labels such as “official sources called this election differently”, or “official sources may not have called the race when this was tweeted”.