Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday warned Americans that President Donald Trump is “going to do everything he can to suppress the vote” in a searing response to Trump’s opposition to much-needed funding for the US Postal Service.
Trump had admitted earlier in the day that he opposes the additional funding in a coronavirus relief bill because he doesn’t want to see it used for mail-in voting this November. In an evening news conference, he said would not veto a bill that contains the funding, but continued to claim without evidence that mail-in voting would lead to widespread fraud.
“What this is about is not complicated. Trump may be crazy, but he’s not stupid. And he looks at polling. He is behind. And I think what he and his friends believe (is) that if they can suppress the vote — make it harder for people to vote — they have a better chance to win the election,” Sanders told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “AC360.”
If you believe in democracy, he added, “you do not support a President who is literally trying to destroy the Postal Service because he does not want people in the middle of a pandemic to vote.”
Sanders’ retort comes the same day Trump directly linked USPS funding to mail-in voting during an interview on Fox News, fueling allegations that he is trying to manipulate the postal system for political gain.
Trump specifically said that if USPS does not receive the additional $25 billion funding request that Democrats included in the ongoing stimulus negotiations, then he believes the post office won’t be able to handle the influx of mail-in ballots in the upcoming election.
“They want three-and-a-half billion dollars for something that’ll turn out to be fraudulent. That’s election money, basically. They want three-and-a-half billion dollars for the mail-in votes. Universal mail-in ballots. They want $25 billion, billion, for the post office. Now they need that money in order to make the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said, repeating his false claims that mail-in voting would be “fraudulent.”
“But if they don’t get those two items that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because you — they’re not equipped to have it,” he continued.
Sanders had rebuked Trump for those comments earlier Thursday, calling it “a blatant attempt at mass voter suppression.”
“No, Mr. President. We won’t let you sabotage the election. This is a democracy, not a damn dictatorship,” he tweeted. “Your reign of authoritarianism will soon end.”
Despite Trump’s claims, experts say expanded postal voting is a critical component of any effort to hold a safe and fair election during the pandemic.
Voter fraud does exist, but not on the massive scale that Trump claims. An expansive study in 2017 from the Brennan Center for Justice, a liberal-leaning think tank, found that the rate of fraud in the United States was somewhere between 0.00004% and 0.0009% of all votes.
Asked Thursday if he thought Trump’s efforts would suppress voter turnout in November, Sanders maintained that “we’ll do everything we can to make sure that it doesn’t work.”