Donald Trump has continued an unprecedented effort by a major presidential candidate to effectively declare the presidential election invalid before voters have even had their say.
On Monday, just over three weeks before election day, the Republican nominee repeated his unsupported claim that voter fraud was rampant and specifically stated in a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin that ballots cast by illegal immigrants led to Barack Obama’s victory in North Carolina in 2008. “People who died 10 years ago are still voting,” he claimed.
Trump’s Wisconsin appearance came after a series of provocative tweets culminating on Monday morning when he wrote: “Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!” Never before has a major presidential candidate in effect rejected the results before the election has been held.
In remarks that were mostly scripted Trump spoke darkly about the election he has long described as “rigged” and made specific unfounded claims about in-person voter fraud.
Previously Trump has only spoken in dogwhistles about voter fraud in “certain communities”.
On Monday he specifically said that 1.8 million dead people would vote – and for “somebody else”. The statement was apparently a reference to the fact that one 2012 study found up to 1.8 million active voter registrations from deceased voters. In reality the study it found no evidence of fraud or that any illegitimate ballots were cast – it simply meant state voter databases were out of date.
Trump also insisted without evidence: “We have voters all over the country where they’re not even citizens of the country and they’re voting.”
The man who cried rigged: the problem with Trump’s election claims
The Republican nominee’s unsupported allegations came as he continued to attack the press for reporting on a series of accusations against him of sexual assault and misconduct.
Since a tape was released of Trump bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy”, nine women have come forward with accusations that he groped them without consent.
Trump has insisted that the allegations are “false stuff”, suggested the women were motivated by financial gain and that some of them were not attractive enough for him to grope anyway. On Friday he portrayed the New York Times’ reporting on the subject as part of a Mexican conspiracy to defeat him.
On Monday Trump described the press at the Wisconsin rally as “the enemies back there” and repeatedly accused the media of “poisoning the minds of voters … the media is an extension of the Clinton campaign”.
As the crowd chanted “CNN sucks,” Trump answered: “They really do.”
He continued to conjure imagery of shadowy backers behind Hillary Clinton: “Her international donors control every move she made … history will record that 2017 is the year America lost its independence.”
In one display of policy substance, Trump proposed ethics reforms including a five-year ban on executive branch officials lobbying the government after leaving public service, and a similar ban for staffers on Capitol Hill.
Trump also showed some restraint towards at least one of his Republican critics. After attacking Paul Ryan repeatedly on Twitter on Sunday, describing him as “a man who doesn’t know how to win”, the candidate refrained in the speaker’s home state.
The two have had a notably frosty relationship, although Ryan insists he will vote for Trump in November. Still, Trump’s Wisconsin crowd chanted “Paul Ryan sucks”.
Ryan had implicitly rebuked Trump’s claims of a rigged election on Saturday when AshLee Strong, his spokesperson, said in a statement: “Our democracy relies on confidence in election results and the speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity.”
The Republican nominee’s wife, Melania, made her first public appearance since her plagiarized speech at the RNC in July. She spoke to Anderson Cooper to defend her husband in the aftermath of the leaked tape and the barrage of allegations of sexual misconduct.
Melania Trump insisted that Access Hollywood host Billy Bush had “egged on” her husband to make inappropriate remarks and blamed a media conspiracy for their release. “It was the media, it was NBC, it was Access Hollywood, it was the left-leaning media,” she told CNN.
With the third presidential debate looming, Hillary Clinton didn’t hold any rallies but Bill and Chelsea Clinton did appear at a celebrity-studded concert to raise campaign funds in midtown Manhattan on Monday night.