The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Kayleigh McEnany and the Trump team are running out of voter fraud tricks

Since Nov. 4, President Trump has repeatedly claimed his election loss as a result of massive fraud. The following is a round-up of his claims. (Video: The Washington Post)

An increasing number of Republicans and now even President Trump’s own Justice Department have undermined the White House’s baseless claims of massive voter fraud. So Kayleigh McEnany appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show Tuesday night with a defiant message: This evidence is real, it’s from real people, and we’re not backing down.

Except the appearance only reinforced the true lack of evidence that the Trump team has produced.

Hannity asked McEnany two questions, and in each case, she responded with a talking point that has been roundly debunked for weeks.

First came a zombie claim about birth dates being listed as “Jan. 1, 1900” in Detroit-based Wayne County.

Hannity had played video of a witness saying, “I found it highly unusual that every military ballot that was logged into the system had a birth date of January 1, 1900.” McEnany quickly seized on that claim as genuine evidence of potential fraud.

“You mentioned the one individual who saw ballots in Detroit being backdated to birth dates of January 1, 1900,” she said, before holding up an affidavit. “We have affidavits like this where they actually list out — all of the circles are different ballot numbers. They have written a specific ballot number down that was dated January 1, 1900, for someone who didn’t have a birth date. So, these are fact-driven. They are real people.”

McEnany’s version of events was decidedly not fact-driven.

The idea that ballots were “backdated” to 1900 first emerged almost a month ago. The Trump campaign and its allies have repeatedly cited the affidavit as part of its legal efforts in Michigan, where it has repeatedly lost.

What’s more, the explanation for the birth dates is simple. Chris Thomas, the former director of elections for Michigan, explained in his own sworn affidavit that the software used by election workers required a birth date to be recorded, but that the birth date was not immediately available to the election workers, and Jan. 1, 1900, was the placeholder used.

“This is standard operating procedure and a standard date used by the State Bureau of Elections and election officials across the state to flag records requiring attention,” Thomas wrote.

A judge ruled against the Trump campaign and said its witnesses “did not have a full understanding of the [Detroit] absentee ballot tabulation process.”

As the Detroit Free Press has reported, those birth dates were later updated in the system as the information became available.

One thing you’ll notice if you click on that link above is the focus of the article and its date. The article was responding to the very same claim from McEnany — made on the very same Fox News show, no less — and it was from Nov. 12. Nearly four weeks later, even though the affidavit failed to give the Trump campaign any traction in court, it’s still the first thing McEnany cited. She even brought a visual, clearly planning to make this her talking point.

But it wasn’t the only long-debunked claim she made. Responding to the very next question, McEnany recycled the claim that Joe Biden did mysteriously better in the metro areas in the swing states that mattered.

“All across the country, we hear stories like this,” she said, “but most specifically in those four cities where Joe Biden somehow overperformed Hillary [Clinton], though he underperformed her in every other metro.”

McEnany then specifically cited “Detroit and Atlanta and Milwaukee and Philadelphia” — the major metropolitan areas in Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

This claim might be even worse than the first one.

As The Washington Post’s Philip Bump detailed in an interactive map a few weeks ago, Biden’s performance in these four metro areas lagged behind most other metro areas. Since then, more results have come in, but the takeaway is the same: There was nothing remarkable about Biden’s performance in these metro areas. And in fact, as the conservative National Review’s Dan McLaughlin has succinctly detailed, their results contradict the idea that there was some kind of massive fraud:

Biden improved his margin of victory compared to Hillary in 31 out of 36 urban counties — and Philadelphia was one of the five in which he didn’t. In 29 of the cities, the Democratic margin of victory grew on a percentage basis. Of the twelve cities in which Biden overperformed Hillary by enough that his margin of victory grew by 10 percent or more (as a percentage of the 2016 electorate), only one (Atlanta) was in a swing state, and one other (Omaha) in a swing district. Biden’s improvements in Milwaukee and Detroit were distinctly subpar, and in Detroit, Trump improved his own share of the vote enough to be the first Republican to break 30 percent of the vote in Wayne County, Mich., in 32 years.

USA Today ran its own numbers a few days later, given that the claim wouldn’t die and that votes were still being counted, and it found there were only three metro areas in which Biden underperformed Clinton, and one of them was still Detroit.

So it’s very wrong for McEnany to cite “those four cities where Joe Biden somehow overperformed Hillary,” especially since that didn’t happen in Detroit. And it’s even more wrong to say that he mysteriously underperformed her in every other metro area, given that he did so in only a handful. Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia were all also on the low end of Biden’s performances, relative to Clinton.

I’ve argued that this is maybe the biggest hole in the Trump campaign’s claims of fraud. It has focused so much on these metro areas in its lawsuits, but Biden’s biggest improvements on Clinton’s margins were in the suburbs around them. And comparing these metro areas to other ones undermines the idea that they were unique targets for fraud.

Two claims, both debunked starting about four weeks ago and on multiple occasions since then, with one of them being part of a court case that has already failed. And yet these were the two things McEnany made a point to cite in her latest media appearance.

Of course, it’s not even the first time McEnany has recycled failed claims. She did the same thing on Fox in mid-November, citing a Post-it note that a judge had already dismissed as inadmissible hearsay.

The fact that McEnany keeps dredging up the same failed arguments pretty much says it all when it comes to the Trump team’s actual evidence.