We all know Trump wants to use the USPS to rig the election: Here's how he'll do it

Trump has a four-point plan to drive his voters to the polls and disenfranchise the rest of us. It could still work

Published August 18, 2020 7:00AM (EDT)

Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Donald Trump is practically daring us to nab him in the act. That's how obvious and unequivocal his latest conspiracy to cheat in the 2020 election happens to be. We all see it happening, we know what he's doing and we know exactly why. The crisis is so urgent that it requires us to compile, step-by-step, a complete picture of his plot to sabotage the U.S. Postal Service and, with it, the election. That's what I'd like to do here today, so let's get started.

Michael Cohen, in the foreword to his memoir about his time as a fixer for Trump, repeated what he testified under oath to the House Oversight Committee last year: Trump will do anything to win, and possesses "the desire for power at all costs." Cohen added, "I became even more convinced that Trump will never leave office peacefully." And the president's paranoia and rank ignorance when it comes to American government is fully embodied in this sentence: "He thinks everyone is as corrupt and shameless and ruthless as he is." 

While Trump's goal is to cheat by making it next to impossible to vote with social distancing in mind, there's a second layer to Trump's gambit. He believes — or at least he wants his Red Hat fanboys to believe — that the Democratic Party will illegally exploit the coronavirus pandemic to oust him from power. It's textbook projection, another Trump character trait described in Cohen's book. Blind, eager acceptance of Trump's unproven suspicions is precisely what he requires to make it all work.

I've been covering his war against absentee voting since it began. My original thought was that he'd rally his loyalists against voting by mail in preparation for legal challenges to absentee ballots on and after the Nov. 3 election, targeting boards of elections in precincts and districts that could swing entire states, and therebyy invalidating enough ballots to squeak out a narrow Electoral College victory. Indeed, it turns out the Trump campaign has already spent more than $20 million in that nefarious enterprise so far, with, we assume, plans for many more legal challenges through Election Day. 

But now, the walls of the trash compactor are growing narrower by the minute, with Trump making every effort to shrink the options for voting: He wants either in-person voting on the day, despite the pandemic, or nothing. 

So here's the plot as it currently appears.

Step One: Encourage the Red Hats to blow off the pandemic. It turns out that the coronavirus fits nicely into laying the groundwork for the big cheat. Trump began his herky-jerky movement to reopen at the initial height of the daily infection rate, rather than after the curve had been flattened. That's why we were still tallying more than a thousand deaths per day well into August, with many more daily infections than most other affluent nations. (We're ninth in the world in total cases per capita, and 10th in the world for deaths per capita. Oh, and regarding Trump's favorite excuse: we're 18th in tests per capita. That's bad.) For a man who says he understands the stock market, he stupidly bought high, demanding an economic reopening and the so-called liberation of Michigan and other states at absolutely the wrong time.

None of it makes any sense until you see it through the prism of Trump's desperation to win re-election. 

Not only did his reopening insistence appease the jacked-up white guys in lower Manhattan, resuscitating the stock markets, it set the stage for politicizing how we handle the outbreak. While most normal people continued to stay home, listening to experts, Trump's fanboys indulged themselves and, maskless, raced out to bars, restaurants, beaches, pools and other frivolous public spaces, deluding themselves into thinking it was safe. 

It's a suicidal delusion they continue to maintain today. That's good news for the Trump campaign because it means that his supporters will likely be willing to vote in person, if allowed by their states, while continuing to disregard the risk of exposing themselves and their families (and their co-workers, and their co-workers' families, and so on), while those of us who are trying to do the right thing amid a massive public health crisis will chiefly vote absentee, either by mailing our ballots or dropping them off.

Step Two: Attacking absentee voting everywhere, including the courts. We've been over this step before, but it doesn't hurt to revisit. Trump's strategy appears to be not only to use the courts to toss out absentee voting laws, but also to misrepresent what absentee voting actually is through a coordinated disinformation campaign: pure propaganda led by Trump and repeated by Fox News, Breitbart and others. 

Trump began by attacking "mail-in voting" as the enemy, when, in fact, all mail-in voting is absentee voting. It's the same thing. Incidentally, Trump and his wife have already requested their Florida absentee ballots, another case of Trump's gaslighting. By the way, they weren't required under Florida law to provide any excuse to get them, and the ballots will be delivered by the USPS.

At least 33 states, plus the District of Columbia, provide absentee voting without requiring an excuse to receive a ballot. Only seven states — all red states, except New York — require an excuse for voting absentee. Likewise, only nine states automatically send ballots to registered voters. All the remaining states require an application to receive a ballot. Trump wants his people to believe that voters in all states will get ballots automatically, irrespective of whether the voters are dead or alive.

Speaking of which, Donald Trump Jr. and other Red Hats tweeted out a Breitbart article over the weekend featuring the clickbait headline: "Michigan Rejects 846 Mailed Ballots 'Because the Voter Was Dead.'" Take a guess as to accuracy of this headline. Contrary to what Junior and the goons at Breitbart wanted their loyalists to believe, the actual Michigan secretary of state's website showed that 846 ballots had been submitted — not by dead people, but by people who were alive when they sent their ballots but died before the election. The site clearly notes: "Refers to voters who died after casting their absentee ballot but before Election Day." Also, the state caught all 846 of those votes before they were counted toward the election.

Nevertheless, a lie travels around the world before the truth gets its pants on. And that's what Breitbart, Junior and Trump himself want: to make it seem as if absentee voting is rife with fraud. It's not. And in the few anecdotal cases, fraudulent ballots are weeded out anyway. That said, mission accomplished for the Red Hats. This will mean more Trump voters turning up to vote in-person (state law permitting), while support is mustered for Trump to dispute the results of the election.

Step Three: Sabotage the U.S. Postal Service. This part of the scam is the very definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy. For months, the president's been demagoguing about how the USPS can't possibly handle all those ballots. Then he set about making sure of it by ordering Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who donated $1.2 million to Trump's re-election campaign, to needlessly slow down the mail. This direct sabotage includes removing sorting machines, ending overtime, removing some outdoor mailboxes while locking others and gouging the states, raising bulk-rate mailing fees to 55 cents per item. 

Last week, 46 states received word that, given the sabotage, ballots mailed late in the process might not arrive in time to be counted. The consequence of this prong is, of course, greatly diminished confidence in the USPS. A new poll shows a significant decline along those lines. Again, Trump did it. He successfully undermined public confidence in one of the most popular government services available.

Lately, Trump's gaslighting has included his ass-backwards insistence on making the "U.S. Post Office (System)" great again, apparently by bleeding it to death. Maybe instead of killing it by a thousand cuts, he should first learn the actual name of the thing. It's been called the U.S. Postal Service since 1970, not the "U.S. Post Office (System)." After that, how about giving the USPS the funding it needs to keep up with its pension obligations (the result of a 2006 law passed by a Republican Congress). Trump is also playing into this false notion that the USPS needs to make a profit when exactly zero other government services are held to the same standard, including NASA, the FBI and, yeah, the Space Force. When will the Space Force turn a profit? No one's asking that question because it's crazy. Same should be the case for the USPS.

On the bright side, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is reconvening the House Oversight Committee, starting next Monday, when DeJoy will be grilled about why he's doing what he's doing. Likewise, state attorneys general need to begin legal proceedings aimed at the sabotage, if they haven't already. This isn't over yet and the good guys still have time — but not much.

Step Four: Kill the drop boxes, too. For the past week or so, anti-Trump voters have been discussing, online and off, how best to make sure our ballots are counted. I'm planning on voting early and in-person, mask on. One of the other solutions is to get an absentee ballot, and then drop it off at a designated drop box. The USPS sabotage is avoided and our ballots are counted toward the ousting of the clown dictator.

So the clown dictator has struck back by launching his attack on drop boxes, too, tweeting:

Some states use "drop boxes" for the collection of Universal Mail-In Ballots. So who is going to "collect" the Ballots, and what might be done to them prior to tabulation? A Rigged Election? So bad for our Country. Only Absentee Ballots acceptable!

We can safely assume he'll be suing to have drop-boxes removed. Count on it. Once again, his paranoia is more about infecting his people with paranoia about all this so they'll support his cheating. In this case, he's calling into question the election workers who collect the ballots, as though there aren't election workers on Election Day doing the exact same thing. What's next? Suing to ban the use of No. 2 pencils? Where are all these pencils coming from? China! And who does China want to win? Sleepy Joe! 

You may have noticed that he's saying "only absentee ballots are acceptable." But it's absentee ballots that get dropped into the drop boxes. And hasn't he been screaming about how absentee ballots are loaded with rampant fraud? What the hell? No wonder his Red Hats are going around screaming the n-word and attacking mask-wearers -- their messiah's ballot blurts are neck-snappingly contradictory. 

The ultimate goal here is to disenfranchise his opposition while corralling his supporters into voting booths on Election Day. Any absentee ballots that make it through Trump's gauntlet will face legal challenges before they're counted. As long as the options are narrow, he can control the process. Loaded on top of all this is the Republican Party's useful idiot, Kanye West, plus Bill Barr's nonsensical "Obamagate" probe and the likelihood of an October surprise that may produce. And all that's on top of  the voter ID laws, voter purges, voting booth restrictions and all the rest of it. The party of Trump knows its days are numbered, so it's doing everything it can to rig the process against the growing majority of Americans who are done with Trump and all his insanity and fascism. 

There's still time to stop him. We have to. Once he's gone, former U.S. attorney Glenn Kirschner's concept for a Trump Crimes Commission should be launched, investigating a wide range misdeeds, up to and including the sabotage of the USPS. I hope Trump and his adult children have picked out non-extradition nations and packed their go-bags. They'll need 'em.

By Bob Cesca

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon. He's also the host of "The Bob Cesca Show" podcast, and a weekly guest on both the "Stephanie Miller Show" and "Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Contribute through LaterPay to support Bob's Salon articles -- all money donated goes directly to the writer.


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