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Officials undercut Trump on foreign interference with mail-in voting

Trump and Bill Barr have insisted that 2020 voter-fraud threats are legitimate. Intelligence and law-enforcement officials know better.
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Dave Turnier processes mail-in ballots at at the Chester County Voter Services office in West Chester, Pa., prior to the primary election on May 28, 2020.Matt Rourke / AP file

Under normal circumstances, it wouldn't be especially noteworthy when U.S. officials make an announcement confirming what most people already know, but this stood out yesterday for a reason.

U.S. officials said Wednesday there has been no intelligence to suggest that foreign countries are working to undermine mail-in voting and no signs of any coordinated effort to commit widespread fraud through the vote-by-mail process, despite numerous claims made by President Donald Trump in recent months.

The Associated Press report added that these officials, from multiple federal agencies, made it clear that there's simply no evidence to support the idea that voter fraud will be a systemic problem in 2020, or the idea that mail-in balloting is susceptible to manipulation by foreign actors. The AP added:

[A] senior official with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, asked on a conference call with reporters Wednesday about the threat of foreign countries manufacturing their own ballots or amplifying disinformation about the integrity of the vote-by-mail process, said there was no information or intelligence that any adversary was "engaged in any kind of activity to undermine any part of the mail-in vote."

At face value, none of this was surprising in the least. Indeed, these officials' assessments dovetailed with a recent congressional briefing in which U.S. intelligence officials were dismissive of the idea that foreign powers would, or even could, target the mail-in voting process.

So what makes it so notable? The fact that Donald Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr have spent recent months telling the public that this made-up threat is legitimate.

As recently as late June, the president published an all-caps tweet that read, "RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!" A month later, the Republican raised the prospect of "delaying the election" because of his expectation that this year will bring "the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history."

Barr, who probably knows better, has played along, recently delivering sworn congressional testimony in which he suggested it's "common sense" to see these voter-fraud threats as real.

In reality, however, the "scandal of our times" is a baseless claim, made up by a desperate president who fears he'll lose if more Americans vote.

What the public is left with is simple: believe U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials who have no reason to lie about threats to the election, or trust Trump and Barr, who set their credibility on fire quite a while ago.