Some interesting fault lines appeared today between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Trump administration. McConnell disagreed, rightfully, between’s Trump’s drawing of a casual moral equivalence between the US and Russia and said that the Congress would not change any laws in order to support Trump’s executive order on travel to the United States by citizens of seven failed states or sponsors of international terrorism. One that struck me as particularly gratuitous was this:
TAPPER: All right, let’s move on, turn to another topic that came up during President Trump’s pre-Super Bowl interview.
Bill O’Reilly asked the president about this evidence-free claim that Hillary Clinton received three to five million illegal votes in the presidential election. Here’s how President Trump responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: People have come out and said I’m right. You know that.
O’REILLY: I know, but you have got to have data to back that up.
TRUMP: Let me just tell you, let me just tell, when you see illegals, people that are not citizens, and they’re on the registration rolls, look, Bill, we can be babies.
But you take a look at the registration, you have illegals, you have dead people, you have this. It is really a bad situation. It’s really bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Do you want to spend taxpayer money to hunt for these apparently nonexistent three to five million illegal votes?
MCCONNELL: Well, you know, this sort of thing is handled at the state level. And the Democrats always claim there is no election fraud at all. That is, of course, not true. Election fraud does occur. There is no evidence that it occurred in such a significant number that would have changed the presidential election.
And I don’t think we ought to spend any federal money investigating that. I think the states can take a look at this issue. Many of them have tried to tighten their voter rolls, tried to purge people who are dead and otherwise not eligible to vote. And I think we ought to leave that at the state level.
The Constitution clearly and in big letters gives states the authority over elections:
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing [sic] Senators.
Except that is not the case. Courts have insinuated themselves deeply into this process (note to McConnell, if you really want to start making this work how about initiating impeachment proceedings against every federal judge that interferes in a state voting case?) and, in fact, states no longer control time, place and manner of voting unless some random federal judge decides to let them. States have been blocked in their attempts to audit and clean up their voter rolls. The commonsense idea that in order to vote that you need to produce some kind of identification in order to vote is routinely ruled unconstitutional. You have municipalities knowingly registering illegal aliens. The recent recount in Michigan revealed many precincts in Detroit where more ballots were cast that there were voters on Election Day. It doesn’t matter whether fraud alters any number of elections, the issue with fraud is that it strikes at the credibility of the system.
McConnell’s hand-waving is just silly. If, as he admits, there is fraud then there is a federal interest in rooting it out.
Of course, if Trump really wants to do this, he doesn’t need McConnell’s approval. He can direct the Department of Justice to do an audit/investigation of the ballot integrity but it is sort of disappointing that the Senate majority leader would admit that there is a problem, and knows the difficult the states have in cleaning up their voting rolls, and basically say “whatever.”