Donald Trump could use emergency powers to extend his term in the White House, a senior Democrat has said, as fears grow that the president may attempt to hold onto office should he lose November’s election.
James Clyburn, the House majority whip, said he believes Trump has no intention of “peacefully” transferring power to presumptive Democratic candidate Joe Biden, who is well ahead in several major polls in the race for the Oval Office.
“I don’t think he plans to leave the White House,” Mr Clyburn, the Democrat Rep. for South Carolina, told CNN on Sunday. “He doesn’t plan to have fair and unfettered elections. I believe that he plans to install himself in some kind of emergency way to continue to hold onto office.”
Last week, Mr Trump floated the idea of delaying the upcoming election amid the coronavirus crisis, suggesting that the vote should be postponed “until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
In a message posted on his Twitter page, the president also claimed the 2020 election could fall foul to voter fraud, with millions of Americans set to cast their ballots via postal services due to the coronavirus.
But experts have since cast doubt on those claims, citing previous research showing that voter fraud in the US is extremely rare. Two studies by Arizona State University in 2012 and 2016 found only 10 cases of voter impersonation fraud nationwide from 2000-2012.
The president has also repeatedly claimed, falsely, that he would have beaten former rival Hillary Clinton in the 2016 popular vote were it not for the “millions of people who voted illegally”.
A subsequent analysis of 2016 voting data by The Washington Post found just four cases of voter fraud. Those four cases included three people who attempted to vote for Trump twice, according to the Post.
Lawmakers across Capitol Hill – including many prominent Republicans – have slapped down the suggestion that the election could be delayed.
Sen. Marco Rubio said “he [Trump] can suggest whatever he wants. The law is what it is.” Any move to delay the 2020 election would require an act of Congress — meaning both the Senate and the House of Representatives, where the Democrats have a majority, would need to sign off on it.
On Sunday, advisers shut down Mr Trump’s suggestion that the vote could de be delayed and sought to portray a confident mood within the president’s re-election campaign team, despite dire polling readings.
“We’re going to hold an election on 3 November and the president is going to win,” Mr Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told CBS on Sunday.
The president trails Mr Biden in a host of major polls, with data showing that he is behind in many of the states he must win to retain office.
Mr Trump’s team continues to play down the significance of polling, pointing out that Hilary Clinton was well ahead at a similar point in the 2016 race. But it is the scale of Mr Biden’s lead over Mr Trump that has led experts to predict that Mr Biden will prevail in November contest.
A number of polls – including those by Emerson, YouGov, CNBC and The Hill – give the Democrat politician a lead of seven points or more.