Critics and even Trump’s allies dismissed the notion as attempt to distract from devastating economic news.
However some legal experts warned that Trump’s repeated attacks could undermine his supporters’ faith in the election process.
Trump’s statement on Twitter came as the US endures the greatest crises of a generation: a coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 150,000 lives, a crippling recession sparked by the outbreak, and nationwide protests against police violence and racism.
On Thursday morning, the government reported the worst US economic contraction since the Great Depression: 32.9 per cent in the second quarter.
Trump, who opinion polls show trailing Democratic challenger and former vice president Joe Biden, said he would not trust the results of an election that included widespread mail voting – a measure that many observers see as critical given the coronavirus pandemic.
Without evidence, he claimed that mail voting would be rife with fraud.
“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
“Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
The US Constitution gives Congress the power to set the timing of elections.
Multiple congressional Republicans – including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and top House of Representatives Republican Kevin McCarthy – rejected the idea.
“Never in the history of the federal elections have we ever not held an election and we should go forward with our election,” McCarthy said.
Democratic US Representative Zoe Lofgren, who chairs the House committee overseeing election security, rejected any delay.
“Under no circumstances will we consider doing so to accommodate the President’s inept and haphazard response to the coronavirus pandemic, or give credence to the lies and misinformation he spreads,” Lofgren said in an email to Reuters.
Trump wrote on Twitter later on Thursday that Americans needed to know the election results on the night of the voting, not days or months later.
Mail-in ballots can sometimes take longer to count.
“Glad I was able to get the very dishonest LameStream Media to finally start talking about the RISKS to our Democracy from dangerous Universal Mail-In-Voting,” he tweeted.
But hours later, Trump said he did not want to postpone the vote despite concerns that millions of mail-in ballots could cause problems.
“I want an election and a result, much, much more than you,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“I don’t want to delay. I want to have the election. But I also don’t want to have to wait three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing, and the election doesn’t mean anything.”
Trump cited recent media reports about potential problems with mail-in ballots arriving late and said it could take weeks, months or even years to sort it out.
“Do I want to see a date change? No, but I don’t want to see a crooked election,” he said.
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