On CNN's State of the Union, host Jake Tapper talked with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about the Trump administration's latest favorite talking point: voter fraud. Specifically, voter fraud via voting by mail. In this case, Meadows came out swinging against the notion that states should send ballots to all registered voters. In perhaps the most mind-blowing exchange, Tapper (accurately) pointed out that there is no proof of "widespread voter fraud," and Meadows said, "there's no evidence that there's not, either." Then, Meadows added: "That's the definition of fraud, Jake."
How did we get there? Let's check out the now-viral Sunday morning clip below.
While already talking about voter fraud, Tapper asked Meadows to get specific, using voting by mail in Florida versus Pennsylvania as examples, as Trump, as well as First Lady Melania Trump, requested their absentee ballots to vote in Florida just last week. In fact, Trump even voted absentee for Florida's March primary.
"Can you tell me the difference between voting by mail in Florida and, say, voting by mail in Pennsylvania?" The CNN host asked Meadows on Sunday morning. "What's the difference?"
Meadows sidestepped the question, saying he wasn't familiar with Pennsylvania's system, but claimed he and Trump don't have problems with what he described as "no-excuse absentee" voting. He went on to say that he does have a problem with "sending millions of ballots across the country to sometimes empty mailboxes," noting that he doesn't want his vote to be "disenfranchised." Obviously, the word "disenfranchised" coming from the mouth of any Republican is a bold move given the systemic disenfranchisement of Black and brown voters across the nation, but the back and forth didn't jump on that particular word choice.
Meadows further suggested the "problem" is that people are "looking at just sending out ballots," using California as an example. Tapper cut in there and argued that California has already done that for the majority of its population, at about 75%, as well as Oregon, Utah, and Washington state, without problems.
"Now there are four states that are adding to the sending out ballots to every registered voter. I understand that that's a concern that you're claiming," Tapper stated.
Meadows countered this by asking Tapper, "Isn't it a concern to you?" He continued by claiming that voter rolls are "inaccurate" with "people just moving around" and, in his words, "the people that die off."
Tapper again cut off this argument, this time simply saying: "But there's no evidence of widespread voter fraud."
To which Meadows offered up the response that has now gone viral for its absolutely head-scratching, empty wordplay: "There's no evidence that there's not either. That's the definition of fraud, Jake."
Here is that clip.
CNN’s @jaketapper: “There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud.” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows: “The… https://t.co/TVQ2Nqv634— State of the Union (@State of the Union) 1597586081.0
Though Trump relentlessly claims that voting by mail and absentee voting are not only markedly different but that universal vote by mail would lead to the most corrupt and inaccurate election ever, no evidence supports these assertions. And in fact, voting by mail and absentee ballots are basically the same. Even still, it's a dangerous talking point in that it stews distrust in our voting system—especially during a global pandemic, where voting by mail (as well as earlier voting, more locations to vote in person, and so on) may help people in voting safely.
Trump, for example, recently went on a Twitter frenzy about Nevada's state legislature passing a bill to mail ballots to voters amid the pandemic. Trump is also relentless about dismantling the U.S. Postal Service, which can have devastating results on not just voting, but daily life for people who rely on the USPS to get medications, bills, paychecks, and other necessities.