He not only applauded the California GOP’s illegal use of mail-in ballot drop-boxes; he’s urging Republican officials elsewhere to do the same thing.
Donald Trump has long had a “tell,” a behavioral tic that gives his game away: He has a history of accusing his opponents of doing or planning what he and his supporters are actually doing or planning.
To take a few obvious examples: He accused Hillary Clinton’s campaign of working with the Russians to undermine the election, when a wealth of evidence suggested it was the Trump campaign that was benefiting from the efforts of Putin’s people to throw mud into America’s electoral works (even if the Mueller inquiry concluded it was not via deliberate coordination). And, throughout his presidency, Trump has accused the media of gratuitously spreading “fake news,” when in fact Trump himself has practiced the dark arts of propaganda and misinformation in a way no other president has come close to.
So the longer and louder Trump goes on about his opponents’ committing electoral fraud, the safer a bet it is that Trump’s people, as he lags in the polls, are gaming out ways they can themselves undermine the integrity of the voting process.
If you’re looking for a Signal 18 days before the election, you could do a lot worse than paying attention to a shocking story out of California. Apparently, in several Southern California and Central Valley communities, the state GOP has deliberately violated state law by putting in place more than four dozen of its own unsecured voter drop-boxes, in locales likely to attract conservative voters—including in several gun stores in and around Fresno.
This comes after months in which Trump has loudly denounced mail-in voting and voter drop-boxes. As I reported in Tuesday’s column, conservative politicians such as Texas Governor Greg Abbott have gone into overdrive looking for ways to shut down drop-box locales.
Earlier this week, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Secretary of State Alex Padilla sent cease-and-desist letters to the state Republicans, letting them know their drop-boxes were a violation of state law, which gives election officials—and only election officials—the power to set up such facilities.
Meanwhile, Trump seems to revel in the prospect of more election chaos, deliberately seeded and nurtured by state Republicans. On Tuesday and Wednesday, he sent out a series of tweets urging Republicans in California to stand firm in their illegal actions—in the wake of which the party suggested it would ignore California’s cease-and-desist letters and keep the boxes functioning—and suggesting that party operatives in New York, Illinois, and elsewhere should pull the same stunt.
To sum up the broader context for this particularly unsavory Signal: While GOP senators in Washington are twisting themselves into amoral knots to justify their rush-job confirmation of a stunningly conservative Supreme Court nominee—and doing everything in their power to ensure she is in place before an election that the so-called law-and-order president is trying to throw into legal chaos so that vote-count disputes end up before the Supreme Court—that same law-and-order president is busy encouraging dirty-tricks operatives to break state election laws in multiple states simultaneously.