With remarks about poll watchers and the Supreme Court, Trump stepped up attempts to sow doubt on the vote.
President Trump dramatically escalated his effort to undermine public confidence in the integrity of the election at the first presidential debate, urging his supporters to “go into the polls” to shadow Democrats — while suggesting he was “counting” on a conservative Supreme Court to determine the victor.
Mr. Trump’s statements came at the end of an ugly 90-minute debate, and at the end of a rambling string of false and familiar claims that Democrats are using mail-in voting to steal the election.
The high court needs to “look at the ballots” in the presidential election, Mr. Trump said.
The extraordinary request came before most of the voting has even taken place. The president revived his 2016 rally cry that the election was already “rigged,” despite the absence of evidence of wrongdoing.
“This is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen,” Mr. Trump said. “We might not know for months because these ballots are going to be all over.”
Mr. Biden, who had previously told voters that Mr. Trump “cannot stop you from being able to determine the outcome of this election,” turned to the camera and said: “He’s just afraid of counting the votes.”
Mr. Trump’s comments came just days after he refused to commit to peacefully transferring power if he lost the election. Mr. Biden has said that he would abide by the results of the election once all the votes were counted.
Later, Mr. Trump touted his support for efforts by conservative groups to congregate at polling places frequented by Democrats — a move that has been denounced as voter intimidation at a time when Mr. Biden seems to be widening his lead in several battleground states.
“I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully. Because that’s what has to happen. I am urging them to do it,” said Mr. Trump.
He went on to falsely accuse officials in Philadelphia of preventing his supporters from monitoring electoral activities this week. In fact, the officials turned some of Mr. Trump’s backers away because they had not registered as poll workers.
“Today there was a big problem. In Philadelphia, they went in to watch. They’re called poll watchers — a very safe, very nice thing. They were thrown out. They weren’t allowed to watch,” he said. “You know why? Because bad things happen in Philadelphia. Bad things.”
It was merely the latest effort by Mr. Trump to cast doubt upon election results. He has for years made false claims about voter fraud. Even after he won in 2016, he said without evidence that millions of illegal votes had been cast for Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump even convened a White House commission on voter fraud, which disbanded in 2018 without having uncovered evidence of illegal votes.
In recent months, as his standing in the polls has fallen, Mr. Trump has pre-emptively argued that Democratic elections officials are orchestrating a scheme to send extra mail ballots to like-minded voters. There is no evidence of this, either.
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