White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s Fox News interview Wednesday night epitomized that.
Appearing with Fox’s Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, McEnany was pressed and struggled to reconcile the Trump team’s case that Pennsylvania mail ballots cast by Election Day but received in the three days afterward shouldn’t be counted. The Supreme Court has declined Republicans’ efforts to intervene after the state Supreme Court ruled that they could be counted if received by Friday (though the issue could be revisited in the days ahead, which the Trump team is banking on). Trump tweeted Thursday that, “ANY VOTE THAT CAME IN AFTER ELECTION DAY WILL NOT BE COUNTED!"
“We believe the American people deserve answers, which is why we are in court currently fighting in Pennsylvania,” McEnany said. “They want to count ballots that come in three days after. We have election days in this country for a reason, because votes are counted on Election Day.”
MacCallum, though, quickly noted that these are, in fact, votes that were cast by Election Day and that the vote-counting always lasts beyond that date.
“But Kayleigh, we always have had provisional ballots and military ballots — things that get counted later,” MacCallum countered. “The votes have to be in by November 3. … So, the voting is happening on Election Day. It’s just how long it takes to get them counted: three days.”
McEnany didn’t have much of a retort. She instead kept noting the ballots had arrived after Election Day while ignoring the part about them being cast by that deadline.
“In Pennsylvania, they want to extend arrival for three days after,” McEnany said, before adding that she thought Trump might win even if such ballots are counted.
MacCallum again noted: “Even if the person voted on voting day? Even if they voted on November 3 in Pennsylvania because they were told that that was okay to do, you’re going to throw their — toss their ballot out if it doesn’t come in until the day after or two days after?”
Confronted with the fact that the Trump campaign is essentially arguing for tossing out ballots people cast under the rules that existed at the time, McEnany tried to suggest that wasn’t the case but then admitted it was.
“No, we believe every vote on Election Day should be counted,” McEnany said. “But it’s those that arrive after the Election Day that we are fighting.”
MacCallum, to her great credit, wouldn’t let it go. “Even if they already voted on November 3, which is the postmark?” she said.
Again, McEnany strained to avoid the premise.
“We’re fighting for those that are after November 3,” she said. “We want Election Day ballots to be counted, and we will prevail.”
But it wasn’t the only aspect of McEnany’s interview that suggested an ill-conceived and poorly enunciated case for questioning ballots. At the start, Baier asked her whether there is “any real evidence that anything untoward has actually happened” in Pennsylvania.
McEnany provided nothing, instead referring to things that happened in past elections. Even that, though, included some remarkably dubious spin.
“So, let me start by saying: Philadelphia in particular has a history of very peculiar results,” McEnany said. “You had … 59 different precincts where Mitt Romney got precisely zero votes, which is very unlikely and curious indeed.”
It was an inauspicious start for her voter fraud suggestions. This claim was endlessly fact-checked after it was raised following the 2012 election, including by PolitiFact. In fact, it wasn’t 59 precincts, but rather 59 much smaller divisions of heavily Democratic Philadelphia — which number about 1,700 in total and generally feature only a few hundred votes. These 59 divisions were generally in overwhelmingly Black parts of the city and had very, very few registered Republicans in them. The Philadelphia Inquirer even checked in with many of these registered Republicans and found that they didn’t generally vote for the party or had moved.
Even a Republican city commissioner who has focused on voting irregularities in the city dismissed the allegation of impropriety.
McEnany then turned to one instance of actual, genuine fraud.
“Just six months ago, you had a Philadelphia judge who was convicted in a scheme to accept bribes as he cast fraudulent ballots,” McEnany said. “Four months ago, you had a Democrat individual who was charged for, in 2014, 2015 and in 2016, stuffing the ballot box with fraudulent ballots.”
This is all true, but what McEnany’s comments don’t readily indicate is that both refer to the same case. The latter man, a former congressman, has been charged with paying a judge, who has been convicted. The total number of ballots “stuffed” over those three elections: 118. And it was relatively easy to ferret out, given that the number of votes exceeded the number of people who had signed poll books.
This was a more substantial argument. But it did nothing to address Baier’s question about what precisely is being alleged about this election. That’s something the Trump campaign still can’t quite figure out.
And even shortly before McEnany made the point about how votes should be counted on Election Day in Pennsylvania, she — as many Trump allies have and Trump himself has before her — made quite a different argument about Arizona. There, hundreds of thousands of ballots are still being counted and helping Trump make up ground in a state that some organizations have called for Biden.
“About 400,000 of those [outstanding ballots] are right there in Maricopa County, which is crucial. They’ve released party ID of these ballots. There are more Republican ballots than Democrats, and we believe the unaffiliated ballots will break our way at the end of the night,” she said.
She added: “In fact, we’re predicting by about 30,000 votes we win, and there will be a very good drop, it looks like tomorrow morning in Maricopa County, which we think will change the analysis.”
Mere moments later, McEnany would say of Pennsylvania: “We have election days in this country for a reason, because votes are counted on Election Day. So, we are fighting for the American people to know sooner rather than later.”
Unless that “later,” it seems, is good for Trump. Such a “drop” is great in Arizona, but drops in other states after Election Day are to be regarded with overwhelming suspicion. Three days is too much in Pennsylvania but apparently not enough in Arizona.