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Trump insists election is 'rigged,' divides Republican Party

Americans have never seen a presidential nominee go to such lengths to delegitimize an election before it occurs. It's dividing the GOP in a severe way.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally, Oct. 14, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally, Oct. 14, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C.
With three weeks remaining, and polls showing him trailing, Donald Trump should probably be focused on pushing his strongest possible closing message. For reasons that don't appear entirely rational, the Republican nominee has decided the smart move at this point is telling voters that the entire election is "rigged."Last week, pointing to nothing except his own bizarre assumptions, the GOP candidate said the presidential election "one big fix" and "one big, ugly lie." On Saturday morning before dawn, Trump shared related thoughts on Twitter:

"This election is being rigged by the media pushing false and unsubstantiated charges, and outright lies, in order to elect Crooked Hillary!"

Soon after, he tweeted again:

"Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted and should be in jail. Instead she is running for president in what looks like a rigged election."

In case this isn't already obvious, let's note that there's literally no evidence to suggest the election has been "rigged" by anyone at any level. Let's also mention that there's no wisdom in having a major-party presidential nominee discouraging his own supporters from casting a ballot.On the Sunday shows, Trump's running mate and surrogates fanned out, trying to clarify the scope of Trump's conspiracy theory: the GOP candidate, they said, is really just complaining about news organizations, which aren't covering the presidential race the way Trump wants them to.Even Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and someone who really ought to know better, told an audience on Saturday, "They are attempting to rig this election." Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) added that this line of attack isn't focused on state and local elections officials, so much as it's focused on media outlets, which he accused of orchestrating a "coup d'etat."Apparently unaware of his own allies' talking points, Trump himself weighed in soon after to say his conspiracy theory isn't limited to the media: it also includes corruption "at many polling places."Keep in mind, elections aren't run by federal officials; they're overseen by state and local officials. In other words, in Trump's imagination, the conspiracy involves plenty of Republicans in red states, whom he apparently believes are part of the "rigged" process.Some GOP officials, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), spoke up over the weekend to defend the integrity of the American elections system, which only irritated Trump more.There's simply no precedent for anything like this in American history. Voters have never seen a major-party presidential nominee go to such lengths to undermine confidence in their own country's voting system -- without any proof whatsoever -- intentionally trying to delegitimize an election before it occurs.The New York Times spoke to Chris Ashby, a Republican election lawyer, who said Trump's bizarre theories have the potential to "destabilize the election ... which is very, very dangerous."