The Trump campaign just can’t seem to get its messaging straight on whether it wants to actually stop vote counting or not as President Donald Trump’s chances of victory hang precariously in the balance.
Over the past few days, the president’s surrogates and advisers have been all over the map while trying to explain the Team Trump strategy when it comes to battleground states counting mail-in and late-arriving ballots.
And even as aides publicly attempted to spin away the undemocratic attempts to prevent thousands of votes being tallied, the president himself has stomped all over their claims: “STOP THE COUNT!” Trump raged Thursday morning on Twitter.
The president’s online meltdown came just as his early lead in must-win state Pennsylvania continued to dwindle away as mail-in votes—which lean heavily Democratic—continued to be tallied. The state’s laws prevented these votes from being counted prior to Election Day, resulting in a huge tranche of ballots left to count—most of which were likely cast for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
The Trump campaign has called for the temporary halt of counting ballots in Pennsylvania as well as Michigan—which has already been called for Biden by most news outlets—until they can get “meaningful” access to observe and review uncounted ballots. (A Pennsylvania court ordered election officials on Thursday to give more access to observers, a legal victory for Trump.) Pro-Trump protesters, at the same time, gathered outside a Detroit location on Wednesday, loudly chanting, “Stop the count!”
But during a Wednesday evening appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight, Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis insisted the media was falsely accusing the campaign of attempting to stop the count.
“No, we want meaningful access to be able to look and observe as the law allows and requires that we can look and make sure there isn’t fraud going on,” she claimed, baselessly asserting that Michigan had fraudulently given votes to Biden.
That same evening, of course, the president seemingly dismissed his own team’s actions while suggesting remaining votes should, in fact, not be counted.
“Our lawyers have asked for ‘meaningful access’, but what good does that do?” Trump blared on Twitter. “The damage has already been done to the integrity of our system, and to the Presidential Election itself. This is what should be discussed!”
He also declared on Wednesday that “we have claimed” the states of Pennsylvania, Georgia, and North Carolina—all of which still have remaining votes to be counted—and Michigan, even though it had already been called for Biden.
In the state of Arizona, meanwhile, the remaining ballots left to be counted appear to be yielding some gains for Trump, and so Team Trump has therefore decided in the Grand Canyon State that the full vote must be counted.
Pro-Trump protesters shouted, “Count that vote!” outside a Maricopa County counting facility on Wednesday night, and on Thursday morning, former senior Trump aide Kellyanne Conway appeared on Fox & Friends to urge patience when it came to counting all the votes and getting the final result.
“They spent three years investigating the president, impeaching the president,” she said. “We can’t wait three hours, three days, three weeks, to get a result in our great, sturdy democracy as to whom the president will be? What is the rush all of a sudden?”
(Conway did not address the fact that it was Trump himself who had demanded in the weeks leading up to the election that all results must be announced on Election Night, specifically saying that it would be “totally inappropriate” to count ballots “for two weeks.”)
“Why are we in such a rush to finish this election prematurely?” Conway continued. “Let’s be patient, let’s take a deep breath, let’s count every legal vote. I think it’s a time to be methodical and not emotional.”
Shortly after Conway’s interview, of course, Trump fired off his “STOP THE COUNT” tweet.