Former President Donald Trump had planned well in advance (and regardless of the actual outcome) to claim he had won the 2020 presidential race on Election Night, discounting millions of votes yet to be counted as fraudulent because they were cast early or through the mail, a newly discovered recording of his staunch ally Steve Bannon demonstrates.
Bannon, who was talking to a group of his associates on October 31, 2020, days before the election, said that Trump would call himself the winner even though absentee mail-in ballots would be counted well into the evening and throughout the next day, a recording obtained by Mother Jones shows.
Trump was aware, Bannon contended, that he’d face difficult odds of winning the election, but that early numbers would indicate he was in the lead after polls closed, due to most states counting absentee ballots last.
“What Trump’s gonna do, is just declare victory,” Bannon says on the recording.”He’s gonna declare victory. But that doesn’t mean he’s a winner. He’s just gonna say he’s a winner.”
“At 10 or 11 o’clock Trump’s gonna walk in the Oval, tweet out, ‘I’m the winner. Game over. Suck on that,'” Bannon added.
Mother Jones has obtained NEW revelations about Steve Bannon:
Leaked audio shows the former White House strategist detailing Trump’s plan to declare election victory, even if he was losing. Listen: pic.twitter.com/ARr3M4qAjH
— Mother Jones (@MotherJones) July 12, 2022
Trump would add that any ballots being counted after his declaration were not trustworthy.
“When you wake up Wednesday morning, it’s going to be a firestorm,” Bannon said.
Indeed, Trump did declare victory in the early morning hours after Election Night, insinuating that changes in the ballot totals, shifting toward then-Democratic candidate for president Joe Biden, were proof that something deceptive was occuring, despite there being no evidence to back Trump’s claim.
“This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country,” Trump said on Wednesday morning that week.
In a tweet at close to 1 a.m. on November 4, Trump also claimed, without proof:
We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!
There is no evidence that any votes that were included in the final totals were cast after polls had closed.
Trump had been laying the groundwork to make such audacious claims of fraud about mail-in voting for several months prior to Election Day, sowing doubt in his supporters’ minds about the safety and accuracy of the practice, which has been in use for several decades. As a result, most of his backers voted in person, while most of President Joe Biden’s supporters utilized absentee ballots to vote, due to concerns relating to the coronavirus pandemic at the time.
Notably, in the fall primary that year, Trump himself used an absentee ballot to vote, and he voted early, in person, in the general election, two practices that he derided in his claims of fraud both before and after Election Day.
Many rightly predicted that Trump’s claims of fraud leading up to the election indicated that he was going to claim mail-in ballots were fraudulent, in order to eventually contest the election after he lost. Although the recording of Bannon cements the idea that this was Trump’s plan all along, there were also reports at the time that Trump had told other confidants in private that he planned to declare himself the winner if it looked like he was ahead on Election Night, before all of the votes had been counted.
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