President Trump on Thursday painted Democratic nominee Joe Biden as weak on crime and a danger to the U.S. economy, while again suggesting supporters attempt to vote twice in the November election to ensure their ballot is counted.
Speaking to a crowd during a campaign stop in Latrobe, Pa., Trump expanded on remarks that caused a firestorm Wednesday, when he urged supporters to vote by mail and then attempt to vote in person.
The president reiterated that this is necessary to ensure that their vote is tabulated.
“Sign your mail-in ballot, OK? You sign it and send it in and then you have to follow it. And if on Election Day or early voting, that is not tabulated and counted, you go vote,” Trump told the crowd. “And if for some reason after that — it shouldn’t take that long — they’re not going to be able to tabulate it because you would have voted.”
“But you have to make sure your vote counts, because the only way they are going to be able to beat us is by doing that kind of stuff,” Trump continued.
It is illegal for voters to intentionally vote twice in an election. After Trump made remarks in North Carolina on Wednesday encouraging voters to vote twice to test the system, the executive director of the state’s board of elections issued a statement making clear that voting twice is illegal.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday that Trump was not suggesting people “do anything unlawful” but that he was telling voters to verify that their ballots are counted in the November election.
Speaking to reporters on Air Force One following Trump’s stop in Latrobe, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said that Trump was advocating for people to vote by mail, and then to cast a provisional ballot if the mail ballot was not recorded. Meadows said Trump was not urging voters to vote twice.
Trump’s remarks in western Pennsylvania were part of the president’s continuous assault on expanded mail-in voting. Critics say this effort marks a way to sow doubt about the validity of the results in the upcoming election, which is about two months away. Trump called mail-in ballots a “disgrace” and claimed that “unsolicited ballots” would be sent to dead people and even dogs.
Trump has repeatedly claimed that efforts to expand mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic would encourage widespread voter fraud. However, there is little evidence of meaningful voter fraud with mail-in ballots.
Trump also used his remarks in Latrobe to skewer Biden on multiple fronts, accusing the Democratic nominee, who is a moderate, of embracing radical-left policies that would harm the economy and weaken law enforcement. He also insisted Biden would not be “tough on China” while touting his own trade policies.
“Biden will never be able to protect your jobs or your family. He is a puppet of the socialist, Marxist and the cop-hating extremists,” Trump said, his remarks prompting frequent cheers from the crowd.
Trump has embraced law enforcement and decried violence that has accompanied some of the protests against police brutality and racial injustice that have gripped the nation in recent months.
The demonstrations grew following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police in late May. Another Black American, Jacob Blake, was shot seven times in the back by an officer in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 23. Blake is currently in stable condition and paralyzed from the waist down.
The president has called for a fierce crackdown on unruly demonstrations and blamed Democrats for what he has described as rampant lawlessness in American cities, but he has largely sidestepped addressing the issues fueling the peaceful demonstrations.
This week, Biden condemned the destructive aspects of the demonstrations while accusing Trump of fomenting the violence. Trump spoke in Pennsylvania hours after Biden traveled to Kenosha, where he met with Blake’s family.
Trump visited Kenosha on Tuesday to tour property damage.
Trump’s “law and order” message has become a central element of his bid for reelection as he faces broad disapproval for his handling of the novel coronavirus.
“I will always defend law-abiding citizens. That’s why the rioters are voting for Biden and the law enforcement people … they’re all voting for me,” Trump claimed Thursday.
Trump focused portions of his remarks on touting his energy policies and accusing Biden of embracing a platform that would eliminate jobs in the energy sector.
He sought to refute Biden’s recent claim that he would not ban fracking — a key election issue in the state of Pennsylvania — and jabbed at the former vice president for pledging to bring the United States back into the Paris climate accord.
“It’s a death sentence for your energy jobs,” Trump said. “Biden plans to reinstate it.”
Trump spoke to a crowd of hundreds of supporters outdoors at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport. The event, while smaller, mimicked the president’s packed campaign rallies, with Trump speaking for an hour and a half and rambling from topic to topic. Many attendees were not wearing masks.
He sought input from the crowd on his new nickname for Joe Biden: “Joe Hiden’.” And at one point, Trump entered into a prolonged aside about his unannounced trip to Walter Reed last November, refuting a recent report from a book written by New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt that Vice President Pence was told to be on standby in the event that Trump had to undergo anesthesia.
“Yesterday I read that I had strokes,” Trump told the crowd, claiming that he heard such an account on “fake news CNN.”
No outlet has reported that the president had a stroke, though CNN contributor and former Clinton White House press secretary Joe Lockhart questioned on Twitter whether Trump had a stroke and concealed it from the public following Schmidt’s reporting.
“They want to try to get me to be on Biden’s physical level,” Trump said of the press.
Pennsylvania is among a handful of key swing states that could decide the 2020 presidential election.
Trump, who won Pennsylvania in 2016 by a narrow 1-point margin against then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, has been courting voters there in recent weeks. He traveled to Pennsylvania two weeks ago as part of his effort to counter-message the Democratic convention, speaking in Scranton near Biden’s hometown.
A Monmouth University poll released Wednesday showed the race tightening between Biden and Trump in Pennsylvania. The survey found Biden leading Trump 49 percent to 45 percent, an advantage that is within the poll’s margin of error.
Trump sparingly mentioned the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday evening, at one point complaining that the virus had hurt his reelection chances.
“Before the China virus, this election was over. Now, I had to go back to work,” Trump said, adding that his administration hasn’t received due credit for its work combatting COVID-19.
He also touted progress on a vaccine, expressed optimism about the economic recovery and criticized Democratic governors — including Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) — for what he alleged are efforts to keep coronavirus-related restrictions in place for political reasons.
Story cited here.