Rantz: AG Ferguson fundraising off dangerous Trump coronavirus conspiracy
Attorney General Bob Ferguson sent out a disingenuous email, fundraising off a dangerous President Donald Trump coronavirus conspiracy. There’s almost nothing accurate about the email.
Ferguson emailed supporters that Trump may “use the global coronavirus pandemic to delay or cancel the November general election.” And if he does, he’ll sue!
Ferguson knows Trump can’t delay or cancel the presidential election. But it didn’t stop him from exploiting his base of delusion anti-Trump activists to bring in campaign dollars to his re-election campaign.
The anti-Trump coronavirus conspiracy
Though Trump hasn’t ever floated the idea of delaying the election (instead, it’s a contrived controversy pushed by Sen. Sherrod Brown and anti-Trump network CNN), Ferguson pretends it’s a reasonable possibility.
“With polls showing Trump behind in most battleground states, he may try to exploit this public health emergency to retain power,” Ferguson claims in an email.
Ferguson says “may” because, well, anything’s possible. It’s also possible Ferguson will try to exploit this public health emergency to raise campaign dollars. Oh. Wait. That’s what he’s doing.
“If President Trump delays or cancels the November elections, I will consider an emergency lawsuit — but it should not come to that,” Ferguson notes.
Ferguson asks you to sign a petition to condemn the move if it were to happen, and by doing so, you sign up for emails that he’ll use to send campaign solicitations.
“We’re preparing for an attack on our democracy. Please help us get the message to Congress that they need to prepare as well.”
The Trump coronavirus conspiracy argument is truly bad-faith and Ferguson knows it. He’s legitimizing a contrived concern for personal gain.
The office of the President doesn’t have the power to delay an election, even during a national emergency. Congress can pass a bill to postpone national elections by a few weeks or so, but beyond that, they would run into constitutional problems.
In this non-reality Ferguson wants you to live in, neither Trump nor Vice President Mike Pence can stay in office past their terms without being re-elected. So, if an election didn’t happen for any reason, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would become the president. Does Ferguson believe Trump is conspiring to install Pelosi as president? Talk about a plot twist.
Ferguson’s office defends Trump coronavirus plot
A Ferguson spokesperson emailed me a lengthy statement confirming that the Attorney General “has initiated conversations with his team regarding the many articles written about the possibility of the coronavirus impacting the presidential election, and concerns he’s heard from Washingtonians.”
Ferguson’s spokesperson, however, says it’s possible Trump may try because he’s done things in the past that have been successfully challenged: “I would suggest you consider President Trump’s use of his emergency powers to unilaterally re-appropriate billions of dollars from military construction projects to fund construction of a wall along our nation’s southern border.”
But there’s not even a good-faith argument for us to expect Trump would move on this. He actually spoke against postponing of earlier primaries over the coronavirus.
Ferguson knows all this. He’s not dumb, he’s deceitful. He knows this isn’t going to happen but he’s preying on the irrational fears of his desperately anti-Trump activist base so that they’ll give him money. It’s despicable.
Full email statement
In the interest of fairness, if you’re covering our office’s federal litigation, we trust that you will mention our record of success against the administration. Your listeners deserve to know that judges appointed by presidents of both parties have overwhelmingly agreed with our office after we challenged unlawful actions. We’ve filed 58 lawsuits against the administration. We are 26-1 in cases where there has been a decision or resolution. 17 of our 26 legal victories against the Trump administration are final and cannot be appealed.
Yes, Attorney General Ferguson has initiated conversations with his team regarding the many articles written about the possibility of the coronavirus impacting the presidential election, and concerns he’s heard from Washingtonians. We don’t discuss the substance of internal conversations about potential legal actions. That said, Bob has said publicly many times that one of the key factors that contributes to our success against the Trump administration is our ability to anticipate unlawful actions before they happen.
In response to your statement that the president “can’t actually delay” the election, I would suggest you consider President Trump’s use of his emergency powers to unilaterally re-appropriate billions of dollars from military construction projects to fund construction of a wall along our nation’s southern border.
Whether or not the president has the legal authority to delay an election, he may try. Until President Trump used his emergency powers to do an end-around Congress to build a wall, many said that he did not have that authority without an act of Congress, but he went forward anyway. Three lawsuits were filed – a coalition of states filed in Southern California, a coalition of non-profits filed in El Paso, and Washington state challenged in the Western District of Washington. (We waited until the administration confirmed it was taking money meant for a Washington project.) Thus far, only Washington’s lawsuit has succeed in enjoining the president’s action; Judge Rothstein permanently blocked the president from re-appropriating the $89 million meant for Kitsap Bangor Naval Base. All of those lawsuits may prevail months after the president took the action, but that did not stop him from acting unlawfully in the first place.
There is a federal statute that requires the election be held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. There is also a federal statute, the National Emergencies Act, that allows the president to waive statutes after declaring a national emergency. This USA Today article does a good job of laying out the president’s emergency powers.
The president has a record of interpreting his powers far more expansively than legal scholars or the courts. That is why we are 26-1 in lawsuits against his administration. The president has acted unlawfully at least 26 times since his election. He has repeatedly broken the norms of the office and done things that many Americans believe find astonishing. We try to anticipate actions that will harm Washingtonians, which is why we’ve been successful. Washingtonians have a right to expect the presidential election in November. If the president tries to use emergency powers to unlawfully delay the election, we’ll be prepared.