Day 1,382: Trump is prepared to falsely claim victory on election night, even if he hasn’t won

Donald Trump knows what’s at stake for reelection, outside of just his legacy and being branded a loser to someone he said could never beat him in Joe Biden. There is the possibility of criminal penalties for financial crimes and the specter of having to pay back over $400 million to creditors.

Those incredibly high stakes, combined with awful poll numbers, mean that Trump is already exploring every way that he can stay in office in the event the night goes poorly for him.

One such maneuver is a bevy of legal challenges throughout the country — a scheme that has already begun — in a blatant attempt to disenfranchise millions of Americans who have cast ballots. The other part of that equation is meant to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election immediately after it has happened. Trump is set to call himself the victor on Tuesday night, even well before the votes have been substantially counted, according to Axios.

President Trump has told confidants he’ll declare victory on Tuesday night if it looks like he’s “ahead,” according to three sources familiar with his private comments. That’s even if the Electoral College outcome still hinges on large numbers of uncounted votes in key states like Pennsylvania.

The issue is that certain states, like Pennsylvania, don’t begin to count mail-in votes until the day of the election, meaning there will be potentially hundreds of thousands of votes that will need to be counted in the days following election night. Since Democratic voters are choosing to mail-in their votes more than their Republican counterparts, the idea for Trump is that he would be winning in known votes, even if behind overall. Rather than letting those largely-Democratic mailed in votes get counted, Trump is going to try to usurp the process, at least from a public relations perspective.

Details: Many prognosticators say that on election night, Trump will likely appear ahead in Pennsylvania — though the state’s final outcome could change substantially as mail-in ballots are counted over the following days.

- Trump’s team is preparing to claim baselessly that if that process changes the outcome in Pennsylvania from the picture on election night, then Democrats would have “stolen” the election.

- Trump’s advisers have been laying the groundwork for this strategy for weeks, but this is the first account of Trump explicitly discussing his election night intentions.

Of course, a candidate “declaring victory,” is legally meaningless. States certify election results, not candidates in speeches to their supporters. Trump knows this, but his entire goal is to sow doubt as to the results and turn up the heat on election offices and states, while judicially challenging mail-in votes and turning the election into a full-on brawl.

1,382 days in, 80 to go

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TrumpTimer watches, tracks and reports about Donald Trump and his administration’s policies every day. TrumpTimer is also counting down until January 20, 2021.