After Donald Trump posted tweets today threatening to withhold federal funding from Michigan and Nevada because those states were taking steps to ensure that their citizens could safely vote by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kayleigh McEnany, his latest press secretary, came up with an explanation as novel as the coronavirus that inspired the states’ efforts.
Despite the fact that the president provided no evidence of his deliberately misleading claims that the two states were acting “illegally,” McEnany told reporters that Trump’s tweets were intended to alert officials within his own administration about his unexplained legal misgivings about the potential for voter fraud he believes is inherent in absentee ballots.
At a press briefing today, Fox News‘ John Roberts asked McEnany:
“What does the president believe is “illegal” about the secretary of state in Michigan sending out absentee ballot applications and what federal funding is he considering withholding from the state of Michigan as a result?”
The press secretary likely considered this a “gotcha” question, even when asked by a reporter from the friendly confines of the right-wing’s favorite cable news organization, because it is already well documented that there is nothing illegal in the least in the Michigan Secretary of state’s actions.
Not surprisingly, McEnany had to stretch further than a centerfielder reaching to try to catch an out of the park home run in her reply.
“So, you know, I won’t get into exactly what the funding considerations are. I would note that his tweets were meant to alert Secretary [Steven] Mnuchin and Mr. [Russell] Vought — head of OMB — about his concerns with trillions of dollars going to these states and his noted concern about a lot of fraud that’s potentially at play when you have mass mail-in voting,” the press secretary replied.
“So with regard to the legality and illegality of it, that’s a question for the campaign as to their voting and ballot practices. I would just note that his tweet was meant to alert OMB. He wanted to be very careful when we send trillions of dollars to states that we keep this important in mind and we assure that there is fairness in our voting system and absolute accuracy,” she continued.
Odd, Trump finds that it is easier to communicate with his direct reports via the public medium of Twitter rather than calling his direct reports on a secure phone line or having them visit him in his office. Moreover, his supposed concern about the “trillions of dollars” sent to states doesn’t seem to apply to the copious bailout funds that he is parceling out to favored supporters.
When other reporters pressed McEnany on the fact that she still hadn’t provided information about exactly what was illegal about Michigan and Nevada’s action when other states — including those with Republican administrations — had taken the same steps and hadn’t been singled out and that Trump himself had voted by mail just recently, the press secretary said that Trump “supports a mail-in vote for a reason.”
Apparently the risk of catching a potentially deadly virus is not a sufficient enough reason for casting your ballot by mail in Trump’s grand vision of the world.
When that concept was thrown back at the press secretary, she reverted to the patented magical thinking of the Trump administration in believing that COVID-19 will miraculously disappear by election day, sarcastically accusing the reporter of having “the prediction tool and you can tell what will be happening on November 3rd,” a date she called “very far” away.
McEnany also referred to a 2005 study by the Carter/Baker Commission that warned of potential fraud in absentee ballots, a citation immediately demolished by CNN‘s Jake Tapper in his own Twitter post.
To push back on NV & MI absentee ballot application moves, the WH quoted a 2005 report Carter/Baker Commission report on potential fraud from absentee ballots.
Worth noting: Carter is now calling for leaders "to expand vote-by-mail" during the pandemichttps://t.co/Xpne4Nmuiz
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) May 20, 2020
Game, set, match, Mr. Tapper!
You can watch the entire White House daily press briefing in the video below. The action starts just past the 32-minute mark, giving you an idea of how late the press secretary is for her own briefings.
Original reporting by Oliver Willis at The American Independent.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.