Trump threatens to freeze aid for Michigan, Nevada over baseless 'voter fraud' charge

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President Donald Trump took a page from his Ukraine scandal playbook Wednesday and threatened to withhold federal aid for Michigan and Nevada if the states allow residents to vote by mail in November’s general election.

Trump, who was impeached last year for holding up $391 million in U.S. military assistance to Ukraine while pressuring the country to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, insisted in a couple of fact-challenged tweets that the Democratic-led states would break the law if they let all residents vote via absentee mail-in ballots.

“Breaking: Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election. This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!” Trump wrote in one tweet.

About another later, he thumbed out another message directed at Nevada.

“Nevada ‘thinks’ that they can send out illegal vote by mail ballots, creating a great Voter Fraud scenario for the State and the U.S. They can’t!” Trump posted. “If they do, ‘I think’ I can hold up funds to the State. Sorry, but you must not cheat in elections.”

Trump didn’t specify which funds he would withhold, though any attempt to freeze resources approved by Congress would almost certainly draw legal challenges. The president has made similar threats in the past without following through.

Despite Trump’s assertion, Michigan has not sent out 7.7 million absentee ballots.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced Tuesday that her office would send out applications for absentee ballots to all registered voters — not the actual ballots — in a bid to avoid overcrowding at polling stations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Following a wave of backlash, Trump uncharacteristically deleted his initial Michigan tweet and replaced it with one clarifying that Benson is sending out “applications” for ballots, not the ballots themselves.

Still, Trump’s charge that Benson’s move was “illegal” is incorrect.

States have wide discretion in deciding how to hold elections and the COVID-19 crisis has forced many of them to come up with creative solutions for socially distanced voting.

Several other states are pondering or have already implemented vote-by-mail systems similar to the one enacted by Michigan.

Trump himself even cast a mail-in absentee ballot in Florida’s GOP primary in March — and that vote has come under scrutiny.

Trump’s Florida residency is based on his private Mar-a-Lago club. But the local township says Mar-a-Lago can’t be registered both as a private club and a residence, raising concerns as to whether Trump can legally vote in the state.

Despite the apparent hypocrisy, Trump took his Nevada and Michigan threats to a new level by tagging White House budget czar Russ Vought in his tweets.

Vought implemented Trump’s order to freeze military cash for Ukraine last summer while the president pressed the European country’s leader for “a favor” in the form of an investigation into debunked corruption accusations against Biden. Despite playing a major role in the Ukraine scandal, Vought refused to testify in the House impeachment inquiry.

Trump’s opposition to mail-in voting appears to be politically selective.

The president did not voice any concern about voter fraud after a Republican candidate won a closely watched congressional election in California last week that used the exact same vote-by-mail process that he’s now slamming Michigan and Nevada over.

Michigan and Nevada are considered crucial swing states in November’s presidential contest, and Trump’s chances at winning reelection could be severely hampered by a loss in either state.

Echoing Trump’s dubious voter fraud claims, Republicans across the nation have embarked on a sweeping campaign to limit mail-in voting amid revelations that widespread access to absentee ballots could boost Democratic turnout.

Trump critics said the president’s latest Twitter rant revealed his true colors.

“Trump is openly admitting that he is willing to risk the lives of Michiganders in order to win an election,” said Kyle Morse, a spokesman for American Bridge, a liberal super PAC. “Trump will be held accountable for his corrupt and toxic threats that have no business being leveled at the Great Lakes State or any other state choosing to pursue mail-in-voting and policies designed to protect voters’ lives.”

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