Washington Post reporter Philip Bump says President Donald Trump is encouraging his supporters to have a “violent response” to November’s general election. Trump asserted that his supporters have to go and keep an eye on the polls.
“I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully because that’s what has to happen,” Trump told moderator Chris Wallace. “I am urging them to do it. As you know, today, there was a big problem in Philadelphia. They went in to watch. They were called poll watchers, a very safe, very nice thing. They were thrown out. They weren’t allowed to watch. You know why? Because bad things happen in Philadelphia, bad things.”
Bump writes Trump’s statement “is false in a few ways.”
“Poll watchers were prevented from observing voting in Philadelphia not because of some anti-Trump conspiracy but because, much as the president hates to admit it, the country is in the grip of a deadly viral pandemic. The poll watchers were asked to leave because there are rules about people congregating in small areas,” he notes.
“There is a utility to having poll watchers in place, people trained to track voter turnout or, for those with particular expertise, to assist those who might need help casting a ballot,” he continues. “What Trump is obviously encouraging is to poll watching what armed militias are to police: self-appointed experts whose priority is less keeping order than confronting perceived enemies.”
President Trump also faced heated criticism for refusing to disavow white supremacy, telling the white nationalist group Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”
“Proud Boys? Stand back and stand by,” said Trump. “But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s gotta do something about antifa and the left, because this is not a right-wing problem; this is a left-wing problem.”
“Notice the throughline here. Trump declines to call on his supporters to peaceably wait for votes to be counted, instead saying that he himself will accept only an untainted result — and that the result will necessarily be tainted. Trump’s line about the Proud Boys “standing by” will be excused as a misinterpretation of his intent, something Trump’s son has already argued,” says Bump. “His demand that his supporters police polling places and that they consider results necessarily suspect is far less murky, a much broader and potentially more problematic position. The Proud Boys probably number in the hundreds. His most fervent base of support numbers in the millions.”
He concludes that Trump “has whipped up an elaborate and thoroughly false description of how the election is unfolding that is being treated as a sincere assessment of a real threat by a large group of people. He had the chance Tuesday to lower the temperature. Instead, he pulled out a blowtorch.”