Election experts and officials respond to Trump’s false claims of victory, fraud

President Trump pulls notes from his jacket pocket as he speaks at the White House early Wednesday morning.

When President Trump falsely claimed Wednesday morning that the pending election outcome was “a fraud on the American public” because remaining ballots were being counted, election experts were quick to correct him.

“I think the president is confused, if you want to treat it charitably,” election law expert Edward Foley said after watching Trump’s speech from the White House. “What he describes doesn’t match the reality of the legal process as it applies to counting votes. The votes will be counted in each and every one of these states.”

In a tweet directed at the president, Richard W. Painter, a White House ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, said: “In a representative democracy we don’t just vote. We also count the votes. And that includes the last few million of them.”


Hours later, Trump tweeted that his lead in key states began to “magically disappear” as more votes rolled in.

Photos: Election day voting is over but the counting continues.

Nov. 5, 2020

“Last night I was leading, often solidly, in many key States, in almost all instances Democrat run & controlled,” he wrote. “Then, one by one, they started to magically disappear as surprise ballot dumps were counted. VERY STRANGE, and the “pollsters” got it completely & historically wrong!”

As the vote count continued and showed Democrat Joe Biden pulling ahead or tightening the race in some states, Trump continued to fire off more tweets falsely claiming there are “secretly dumped ballots.” His campaign announced it would go to court to stop the counting.

Several of the president’s tweets have been flagged with a noticeable disclaimer, with a link to Twitter’s policy for flagging and slowing the spread of misinformation. The votes still being counted in many states are absentee and mail-in ballots that arrived before or on election day.

“There were no ‘surprise ballot dumps.’ There was just the usual ... counting of votes,” said Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas. “The only thing that’s nefarious here is the President peddling this dangerous and false narrative.”


Election officials affirmed their support of counting all the votes, despite the Trump campaign’s increasing attempts to halt it.

Wisconsin Atty. Gen. Josh Kaul told MSNBC News that Trump’s claims casting doubt on mail ballots have been misleading.

“We have a safe, secure and reliable system. It’s the same fundamental system that we had in place four years ago when President Trump won Wisconsin,” he said, adding that anyone could watch the Milwaukee vote counting process on a livestream. “There’s no reason to question the reliability of these results.”

Pennsylvania Atty. Gen. Josh Shapiro told CNN that the Trump campaign’s statement saying it would go to court to stop the commonwealth from counting votes was a political, not legal, document.

“The campaign is over, the candidates made their case. And now under the laws of this Commonwealth, the votes have to be counted,” Shapiro said. “And that’s the process that’s going on right now. And we will not let anything interrupt that process of counting. We’re going to follow the law. We’re going to count the votes.”

As his path to another term narrowed sharply, President Trump sent in the lawyers Wednesday, seeking to stop or reverse vote counts in three battleground states.

Nov. 4, 2020

The issue seemed to cross bipartisan politics, as some Republican strategists and allies of the president urged the count to continue.

John Bolton, a former Trump official and Republican strategist, characterized Trump’s comments about the election being stolen from him as “some of the most irresponsible comments that a president of the United States has ever made.”

“He has cast doubt on the entirety of the electoral process purely for his own personal advantage,” he said on SkyNews. “It’s a disgrace.”

The fate of the presidency still hangs in the balance as President Trump and Joe Biden duel over a few remaining battleground states.

Nov. 5, 2020

“I was very distressed by what I heard the president say,” Rick Santorum, a former Republican senator, said on CNN shortly after Trump’s speech. “The idea of using the word ‘fraud,’ that there’s fraud by people counting votes I think is wrong.”

Chris Christie, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, called Trump’s remarks “a bad strategic decision.”

Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio also tweeted a message that went against Trump’s message: “Taking days to count legally cast votes is NOT fraud.”

Spencer Cox, the Republican who won Utah’s race for governor on Tuesday, said that “there is nothing nefarious about it taking a few days to count all legitimate votes. So take a deep breath and look for the good around you.”

Times staff writer Brittny Mejia in Las Vegas contributed to this report.