Attorney General Bill Barr on Tuesday refused to answer whether a sitting president can move a U.S. election—which is set on a date determined by Congress. During a Tuesday hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) asked Barr if it was legal for a sitting president to change the date, something critics of President Trump believe he might attempt to do amid the coronavirus pandemic. Stating that he has never been asked the question before, Barr said, “I haven’t looked into that question, under the Constitution.” When Richmond pressed Barr about whether he believed the election will be “rigged,” Barr said he had “no reason to think it will be” but claimed there is a high-risk that mail-in voting will lead to voter fraud.
According to federal law, Trump can’t cancel, postpone, or move the Nov. 3 election—even by executive order stating a national emergency or martial law. It’s only a decision Congress could make by altering the federal statute passed in 1845 that agreed states should appoint their electors in the first week of November. In the most extreme scenario in which the electoral college doesn’t vote in November, Trump’s term would still expire on Jan. 20, 2021 at noon—and the control of the presidency would go down the line of succession.