As Trump encourages voter fraud, AG Bill Barr vacillates on law

The president pushing a fraudulent "law and order" message is the same president encouraging his followers to deliberately commit felonies.
Image: Trump Signs Order For Task Force For Missing And Murdered Native Americans
Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump attend a signing ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House on Nov. 26, 2019.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file
By Steve Benen

There's an old political line that's been around for generations: "Vote early and vote often." It's generally intended to be funny, since everyone knows voting more than once in an election is illegal.

And yet, Donald Trump, apparently running on a brazenly fraudulent "law and order" re-election message, took a related message to supporters yesterday, and the president's pitch didn't appear to be a joke.

President Donald Trump suggested that people in North Carolina should vote twice in the November election, once by mail and once in person, escalating his attempts to cast confusion and doubt on the validity of the results.

Asked about the reliability of North Carolina's mail-in-voting system, the Republican said, "So let them send it in and let them go vote, and if their system's as good as they say it is, then obviously they won't be able to vote. If it isn't tabulated, they'll be able to vote."

Trump added, "If it's as good as they say it is, then obviously they won't be able to vote. If it isn't tabulated, they'll be able to vote. So that's the way it is. And that's what they should do."

In other words, as far as the president is concerned, North Carolina voters should deliberately commit voter fraud as a test of the state's electoral system. What North Carolinians "should do," in Trump's mind, is get a vote-by-mail ballot, "send it in," and then try to vote again in person.

Those who take the president's advice will be committing a felony and subject to criminal charges. And while it's also illegal to encourage Americans to commit voter fraud, Trump won't be prosecuted -- but those who try to vote twice may very well find themselves in serious legal jeopardy.

Telling a judge, "But the president encouraged me to break the law" is unlikely to be an effective defense in court. Trump is also unlikely to pay for these voters' legal defense.

Not long after Trump endorsed voter fraud and recommended that voters engage in illegal activities on purpose, Attorney General Bill Barr sat down with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who asked the nation's chief law enforcement official about the president's ridiculous advice.

Barr spent a minute dodging straightforward questions, at one point saying, "I don't know what the law in the particular state says." Blitzer, stating the obvious, reminded the attorney general, "It sounds like he's encouraging people to break the law and try to vote twice.... That would be illegal if they did that. If somebody mailed in a ballot and then actually showed up to vote in person, that would be illegal. You can't vote twice."

But while the CNN host said what was plainly true, Barr, feigning ignorance, would not. All the attorney general had to say was something along the lines of, "Don't commit felonies. Only vote once." That, evidently, was asking too much.

Barr said a system on mail-in voting was "reckless and dangerous," but he couldn't bring himself to use the same adjectives to describe a president recommending that Americans commit election felonies.

Tell me again which party's ticket claims to have the high ground on "law and order"?