Sometimes President Trump will say something that can be explained away or debunked fairly simply. Other times, there are so many layers worth evaluating that something more robust is useful.

On Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted the following, which deserves the latter treatment.

We will walk through this, section by section.

“Breaking”: If we’re going to nitpick, let’s pick nits. The story at issue here was first reported Tuesday morning.

“Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election”: Actually, no. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced Tuesday her office would send every registered voter in the state an application to vote by absentee ballot.

The difference here is important. The state isn’t simply offering mail-in ballots to each of its 7.7 million voters. It’s just making it easier for Michiganders to avail themselves of the option, should they wish to do so. One important bit of context is that 1.3 million voters in the state, about a fifth of the total, already are permanent absentee voters, meaning they cast ballots by mail in every election.

Benson’s announcement notes the state’s effort would fill existing gaps, because some localities were already sending absentee-ballot applications.

Update: Trump later revised his tweet to correct this. He also removed the “breaking" introduction.

“This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State”: One man’s “government official exercising her understood authority” is another man’s “a rogue official doing something without authorization.”

This yields an entertaining thought experiment. Can you reframe the tweet below in terms as unflattering as the ones Trump uses to describe Benson’s announcement?

One answer is shown at the end of this article.

As for the “illegal” assertion, that’s a standard formulation of Trump’s. Things he doesn’t like are cast in legal terms. In early 2018, we documented things Trump had alleged were illegal, including his own party’s fundraising and basically everything Hillary Clinton has done since 1965.

It is true Benson’s order probably will face a court challenge. The Detroit Free Press notes an effort by a county clerk to send absentee ballot applications in 2008 was thrown out by the courts because election law is the purview of the legislature and there was no statutory authority for sending the applications. That case, it’s worth noting, predates Michigan’s permanent absentee-voting law.

“I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!”: It’s not entirely clear what “funding” Trump is talking about here. Elections funding? Any federal funding? Trump often threatens to withhold funding from organizations and entities that have frustrated him; sometimes, he actually does.

The more important part of this sentence is the claim about the “Voter Fraud path.” Those who’ve paid attention to the news at any point in the past four years probably are familiar with Trump’s frequent invocations of the threat posed by voter fraud — a threat that has never manifested in demonstrated fraud at any significant scale.

Experts on election security do recognize the risk of fraud is higher for absentee voting than in-person voting, where fraud is all but nonexistent. In the 2018 election, the results of a House race in North Carolina were tossed after an alleged scheme to collect and fill out absentee ballots was uncovered. But even that was remarkable in part for its rarity.

For Trump, the phrase “voter fraud” is more of a cudgel than a reflection of reality. As the 2016 election approached, he offered grim warnings about how the Democrats would use fraud to steal the election from him — a neat bit of before-the-fact excuse-making. He warned particularly of Pennsylvania, where he said fraud was rampant. (It wasn’t and isn’t.) Then he won Pennsylvania, and there was no more talk about fraud in the state.

In fact, his attorneys admitted in a court filing after that election, “all available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”

That filing was offered in response to a recount effort … in Michigan.

Of course, after Trump took office, he used the idea of rampant voter fraud as a rationale for his massive loss in California and his narrow loss in New Hampshire. It was consistently the case that the amount of fraud Trump alleged was just enough to have cost him a victory, a tell in its own way. But, again, there was no evidence for this, just Trump throwing it out in the world to rationalize winning the electoral vote while losing the popular one.

Trump seems convinced absentee ballots help Democrats, perhaps because he sincerely (if erroneously) believes the party uses the ballots to commit fraud. Research finds no partisan advantage one way or the other from the voting methodology.

In other words, Trump is claiming because a Michigan official did something (which she didn’t) to aid her party (which research suggests it won’t) through fraud (which it isn’t), he will punish the state broadly.

Odd campaign strategy.

Puzzle answer: ˙lɐɹǝuǝƃ ʎǝuɹoʇʇɐ ǝnƃoɹ ɐ ʎq uoᴉʇɐzᴉɹoɥʇnɐ ʇnoɥʇᴉʍ pǝpuǝdn sɐʍ ǝsɐɔ ǝuoʇS ɹǝƃoɹ ǝɥʇ