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OpinionEditorial

Trump's baseless attack on the election

President Donald Trump speaks at the White House

President Donald Trump speaks at the White House on Thursday in Washington. Credit: AP/Evan Vucci

With much of the nation waiting for the completion of ballot-counting in the presidential election, President Donald Trump launched another outrageous fact-free attack before a national TV audience Thursday evening — spinning lies, insults and innuendo in an assault on the integrity of the process and the thousands of public servants trying to diligently carry it out.

Trump's attempt to incinerate yet another institution central to our democracy is dangerous and must stop. His baseless attacks are only growing more desperate as the numbers point increasingly to a victory by former Vice President Joe Biden.

That’s not to say Trump has no right to request recounts or file litigation. Genuinely problematic ballots can be challenged on a case-by-case basis. But launching charges of wholesale fraud with no evidence is beyond the pale. It undermines Americans' well-placed confidence in our electoral system and serves as a call to action for the president’s most fervent supporters — like the people, some armed, who descended on the election center where ballots are being counted in Maricopa County in Arizona, forcing police to escort vote counters to their cars when their shifts were done. Angry protesters outside other doors in other states have election officials expressing worries about the safety of their staffs. Trump made that situation so much worse with his tirade Thursday.

Trump's effort to sow distrust has plumbed the depths of illogic when he demands that the vote count stop in states where he is clinging to leads but insists it continue in states where he is trailing. He can't have it both ways.

In pushing his false narrative of being cheated out of an election victory, he also is giving birth to an online flood of disinformation and conspiracy theories. Like the unfounded QAnon-inspired theory that legitimate ballots have watermarks and that the states that are gaining Democratic votes are receiving illegitimate non-watermark ballots.

On Thursday, some Trump campaign officials and supporters made allegations of fraud while providing no evidence at a Las Vegas news conference and left without answering questions. Facebook removed from its platform a group called "STOP THE STEAL," which told its 360,000-and-growing members, "We need boots on the ground to protect the integrity of the vote." The potential consequences are alarming. So was a remark by a Trump election lawyer that the Supreme Court with three Trump appointees should "step in and do something."

Counting every vote from every American is not stealing, as Trump charged. It's democracy. And sometimes, democracy requires patience.

That was Biden's message Thursday, when he asked Americans to stay calm. "The process is working, the count is being completed," Biden said after receiving one of his regular briefings on COVID-19, and he warned about the severity of the virus responsible for the flood of mailed ballots now being counted. Then Biden noted that in America the vote is sacred, concluding, "Thank you all for your patience."

It was a presidential message, while the current occupant of the White House lashes out at the process that has made our country great.

— The editorial board

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