President Donald Trump on Monday launched a baseless attack on mail-in voting that critics charged is part of an effort to preemptively delegitimize the results of the 2020 election as his poll numbers continue to slide.
"Because of MAIL-IN BALLOTS, 2020 will be the most RIGGED Election in our nations history—unless this stupidity is ended," Trump tweeted Monday morning. "We voted during World War One & World War Two with no problem, but now they are using Covid in order to cheat by using Mail-Ins!"
Trump's tweet followed an earlier all-caps outburst in which the president warned, without providing a shred of evidence, that "millions of mail-in ballots will be printed by foreign countries, and others."
"It will be the scandal of our times," Trump tweeted.
In a separate tweet just minutes earlier, the president cited Attorney General William Barr's evidence-free claim during a Fox News interview Sunday that mail-in voting "absolutely opens the floodgates to fraud."
"Those things are delivered into mailboxes," Barr said. "They can be taken out."
Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, warned the president is "laying the groundwork for an election challenge" with his attacks on mail-in voting.
"Barr's corrupt enough to help him do it," said Shaub. "That's why the House must impeach Barr. Even if the Senate won't convict, it puts down a historical marker that this is not OK and creates a factual record exposing Barr's corruption."
Dartmouth College political scientist professor Brendan Nyhan echoed Shaub, calling Trump's tweets "a systematic assault on the legitimacy of our election."
"Elections have been held during wars and pandemics," Nyhan said, "but never with the president attacking the result before it has even taken place."
Advocacy groups and election experts say nationwide mail-in voting is the only way to safely hold the November elections amid the Covid-19 pandemic. But Trump has repeatedly attacked absentee voting as "corrupt"—despite having done it himself—and threatened to sue states that expand access to mail-in ballots.
In an interview with Politico last Friday, Trump openly admitted that he views mail-in voting as a grave threat to his reelection prospects.
"My biggest risk is that we don't win lawsuits," Trump said, referring to the Republican Party's multi-million-dollar legal effort to block expansions of absentee voting. "We have many lawsuits going all over. And if we don't win those lawsuits, I think—I think it puts the election at risk."
Fearing that Trump could refuse to leave office if he loses reelection in November, advocacy groups Stand Up America and Indivisible are preparing to mobilize millions of people to ensure that the election results are protected.
"Trump has no respect for the rule of law, and we have no reason to believe he will leave willingly after losing reelection," Ezra Levin, co-founder and co-executive director of Indivisible, said in a statement earlier this month. "Preparing for the possibility of Trump refusing to concede isn't just reasonable, it's the responsible thing to do."