Tuesday, 1 Dec 2020

Donald Trump declares victory in speech – but is this illegal? What is the Hatch Act?

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The US election 2020 has not yet concluded, with votes still being counted in multiple states, including in the battleground state Pennsylvania. However, incumbent President Donald Trump this morning announced he had already won the 2020 presidential election, and claimed there is a “fraud on the American nation” and that “we did win this election”, saying he will go to the Supreme Court to get vote counting stopped. For the record, Mr Trump has not yet won the US election and there are still millions of legitimate ballots left to count.

Speaking from the White House, he said: “We were getting ready for a big celebration. We were winning everything. We didn’t win it, we won it by a lot.

Mr Trump added: “We were just all set to get outside and just celebrate something that was so beautiful, so good, such a vote, such a success.

“The citizens of this country have come out in record numbers, this is a record, there’s never been anything like it, to support our incredible movement.”

He said “it’s also clear that we have won Georgia”, adding: “We’re up by 2.5 percent or 117,000 votes with only seven percent left – they’re never going to catch us, they can’t catch us.”

He said he has “clearly won” North Carolina and claimed there is “a lot of life” left in the Arizona race.

Mr Trump said “we had such a big night”, adding: “And we have all these announcers saying what happened, and then they said oh, because you know what happened?

“They knew they couldn’t win, so they said let’s go to court.

“And did I predict this… did I say this? I’ve been saying this from the day I heard they were going to send out tens of millions of ballots.

“I said exactly, because either they were going to win or if they didn’t win they’ll take us to court.”

Piers Morgan criticised the President, someone he said he considered a friend, writing on Twitter: “This is an attack on America democracy.

“This is completely wrong. That the President stand there tonight, at 2am at the White House and delegitimise the election without any hard evidence.

“This is an indefensible attack on US democracy.”

He added: “To tell millions of Americans ‘we will not count your votes’, that is a disgrace.”

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Voters and others who have followed the election also took to Twitter to criticise Mr Trump.

One Twitter user wrote: “Has a speech at the White House and brought his campaign team with him. Illegal. Is trying to go to the Supreme Court to stop the counting of votes. Illegal. Any red flags here for you Trump supporters???”

Another posted: “Trump really just gave a loser’s speech. Saying he will go to the Supreme Court to cancel counting of remaining votes. That’s not even possible. It’s illegal.”

A third added: “What Trump is saying now in his “victory” speech is abhorrent and most definitely illegal use of his power to try and stop the counting of votes.”

One user said: “By the way, Trump giving that speech from the White House was illegal.”

Is it illegal to declare a victory before results are out?

Some have claimed the US President broke the Hatch Act of 1939.

The act, which is a US federal law is an Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities.

The act is meant to stop the federal government from affecting elections or going about its activities in a partisan manner.

However, its main provision prohibits civil service employees in the executive branch of the federal government, except the president and vice president, from engaging in some forms of political activity.

Even if Mr Trump’s actions are not directly illegal, it undermines the US election.

Several top Republicans and conservative commentators have said they are concerned after Mr Trump’s comments.

Speaking on CNN, Rick Santorum, former Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, said he was “very distressed” by the President’s speech, saying: ”Using the word fraud… I think is wrong.”

Former New Jersey Governor and Trump adviser Chris Christie called the speech the wrong move.

He said: “It’s a bad strategic decision. It’s a bad political decision.”

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