On October 23rd, 2023, Donald Trump reposted a meme on his Truth Social account accusing Democrats of stoking Black Lives Matter protests and using the COVID-19 pandemic to steal the 2020 election. The post said, “Look at the Democrat R****ds Kneel to King Fentanyl George Floyd. It was all a scam folks. George Floyd. The ScamDEMic. All of it. The Democrats allowed Senior Citizens to die in nursing homes, and allowed BLM to destroy our cities just so they could cheat in the 2020 Election and Remove President Trump.” 

This post, while especially shocking, is an illustrative example of Trump’s rhetoric around elections on Truth Social. CREW reviewed more than 13,000 of Trump’s Truth Social records from January 1, 2023 to April 1, 2024 and found he has consistently spread lies about the 2020 and 2024 presidential elections. He may be casting doubt on the 2020 election in order to lay the groundwork for disputing the 2024 election results in the same way he did four years ago. 

After the 2020 election, 62 lawsuits challenged the results of the election, and 61 of them failed. That was the conventional, democratic chance to air concerns about the fairness of the process and they were resoundingly shut down in the courts. That should have been the end of the story, but instead, Trump refused to accept the results and to this day continues to push the Big Lie that he won the 2020 election. 

In the face of these threats, government officials and others must continue setting the record straight that the 2020 election was free and fair, and must take steps now to ensure that our democracy is resilient. Election officials and attorneys general across the country should be prepared to face pressure campaigns like they did in 2020, and Congress should take action now to protect voting rights so that these lies do not disenfranchise voters.

Over the 456-day period CREW reviewed, Trump posted about or referenced the “rigged” 2020 election 526 times. The conspiracy theories he has shared are wide-ranging, far-fetched and dangerous. 

For example, last August, Trump promoted a fringe theory alleging that a cellular network connecting election equipment nationwide was used to fraudulently flip votes. In December, he re-posted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s praise for a Russian textbook’s claim that there was fraud in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Last September, he shared someone’s reply to his post calling to “Shut the government down until we have an agreement to: FIX 2020 ELECTIONS” and claiming that “JANUARY 6 WAS NOT AN INSURRECTION… BUT NOVEMBER 4 AT 4:00 AM WAS!!!” Earlier this year, he called Facebook the “Enemy of the People” for “cheat[ing] in the last Election.”

One theory Trump has cited often, based on a report he shared six times and deemed “fully verified,” outlines an “avalanche of irregularities” in five swing states. The document’s author and origin are unnamed and much of its evidence disproved. A more well-known lie he has frequently shared on Truth Social is the debunked “2,000 Mules” conspiracy theory, which he referenced eight times.

He has repeatedly called for retribution for this supposed 2020 fraud, saying to “START ARRESTING THE POLL WORKERS AND WATCH HOW FAST THEY TELL YOU WHO TOLD THEM TO CHEAT,” and those involved “should all be ARRESTED for cheating and Election Fraud…GET TOUGH REPUBLICANS.” He has even raised grievances about the 2016 election. In one post, he asked if a former FBI official who was investigating his ties to Russia will “get the Death Penalty for treason.” 

Trump has attempted to leverage these conspiracy theories to attack fair voting rules and advocate for changes that will benefit him in the upcoming election. In one post, Trump endorsed a long list of election changes that included “standing armies of election police” and abolishing mass mail-in and electronic voting, adding that without them “we will never have free and fair elections — The USA will quickly fade away into OBLIVION!” 

His Truth Social activity shows a particular focus on mail-in voting, which he attacked in 100 separate posts, accusing Democrats of “ballot harvesting” or “ballot stuffing” 26 times and calling on Republican governors to end mail-in voting. He regularly cited a Rasmussen poll that claims that “one-in-five voters who cast mail-in ballots during the 2020 presidential election admit to participating in at least one kind of voter fraud,” calling it “THE BIGGEST STORY OF THE YEAR” and saying that “REPUBLICANS MUST DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.” Yet, the poll doesn’t hold up to scrutiny

Trump has also used Truth Social to pressure Republican governors to pull out of the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a bipartisan consortium that helps election officials keep voter rolls clean and prevents exactly the kind of fraud he claims to be concerned about. Trump’s recent fixation on ERIC was born out of a years-long campaign by Republican election lawyer Cleta Mitchell to pressure secretaries of state to withdraw from the group. Nine states have left ERIC since 2022.

Trump is already spreading misinformation about 2024, including claims that are extreme and dangerous. For example, last March he shared a post claiming “Dems used Covid to install mass mail-in ballots to rig ‘20 & it’s looking like they’re trying to start WW3 to change our election rules in ‘24.”

He is also spreading the belief that the Biden administration is letting immigrants into the country illegally to vote in the next election. In December, he posted, “It’s becoming more and more obvious to me why the ‘Crazed’ Democrats are allowing millions and millions of totally unvetted migrants into our once great Country. IT’S SO THEY CAN VOTE, VOTE, VOTE.”

In March, he re-posted a video claiming that Democrats are plotting to “Flood the country with untold millions of illegals…Keep them in the country at all costs, even when they commit violent crime like murder and rape…Wage a massive, heavily funded lawfare campaign to change state voting laws that legalize mass mail in ballots, no signature verification and no proof of citizenship requirements…Lock in the permanent voting majority…[to] enshrin[e] generational fealty to the Democrat party.” He promoted the open-border conspiracy theory nine times on Truth Social.

Trump has persistently claimed that legal actions and investigations targeting him are “election interference.” He posted that phrase more than 350 times. In June of last year, he posted, “THE DOJ & FBI ARE RUNNING THE DEMOCRATS 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN” and claimed the DOJ is using “full Gestapo force to shut down opposition and Interfere in our Elections.” 

He often attacks individuals involved in prosecuting him, like by saying that “Fani Willis and her ‘Lover’ perpetrated a conspiracy to Make Money, CHEAT & Interfere with the Presidential Election of 2024” or that “D.A. Bragg, working in close coordination with Crooked Joe Biden’s people/campaign, has no case against me…ELECTION INTERFERENCE.” He has posted or reposted about those involved in investigating him hundreds of times on Truth Social—New York Attorney General Letitia James 124 times, New York State Supreme Court Judge Engoron 134 times, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg 97 times, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis 156 times, and Special Counsel Jack Smith 174 times. In one post, he re-truthed that Letitia James and Judge Engoron be “PLACED UNDER CITIZENS ARREST FOR BLATANT ELECTION INTERFERENCE AND HARASSMENT.” 

Trump’s attacks on elections may seem like a chaotic grasping at straws, but his words clearly hold power. It is an unmistakable effort to create uncertainty around our elections and the way they are run, and states have already begun to make changes to reflect his sentiments. Trump’s frequent posting of election lies pose an ever-greater threat to our country.

What should be done

Similar to Trump’s January 6th lies, the response must be to both set the record straight that the 2020 election was free and fair and to pass reforms to ensure that these lies cannot do real harm to either voting rights or the administration of the 2024 election or future elections. 

Set the record straight and pursue accountability for the Big Lie

Trump and his allies had the chance to make their case that the election was rigged and unfair, and courts repeatedly shut those arguments down. Allowing Trump’s federal election cases to proceed will help set the record straight about the facts of the election and provide criminal accountability for Trump. Trump has been charged with four crimes related to January 6th and the Big Lie by the Department of Justice, but the case is currently on hold as the Supreme Court determines whether he has legal immunity for actions taken as president. The Court must follow the Constitution and refuse to grant Trump blanket presidential immunity, which would provide a green light for presidents to act with impunity and would further destabilize our democracy. 

Beyond Trump, states should continue investigating and, where appropriate, prosecuting the “fake electors” who signed false electoral certificates claiming that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election. Groups like CREW will also continue to call out the companies and industry groups that are backing the members of Congress who are pushing the Big Lie.

Prepare for election schemes and protect voting rights

Congress deserves credit for passing the bipartisan Electoral Count Reform Act (ECRA) in 2022, which will limit the ability to implement “fake elector” schemes in the future by clarifying the role of the vice president in election certification and raising the bar to object to the results. But while passing the ECRA was a crucial first step to prevent a repeat of Trump’s 2020 attempts to remain in power despite losing a free and fair election, on its own it is woefully insufficient and fails to grapple with the full scope of the crisis.

Congress must prioritize passing transformative voting rights and election protection legislation like the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to prevent the Big Lie from disenfranchising voters this year and for years to come. These bills would protect voters from discrimination based on race, establish minimum standards to ensure all voters can participate in fair and open elections, support and protect election workers and make clear that interference with officials who are tabulating, canvassing, and certifying election results is a federal crime.

In response to an avalanche of threats against election workers fueled by election deniers, both states and the federal government should also take steps to protect election workers and election places. Some states have already done so, including Maine’s requirement for election workers to undergo de-escalation training, and Arizona and California’s inclusion of election officials in address confidentiality programs, but there is more work to be done. State and federal governments should fund increased security at polling places and security training for all election workers. Election workers should further be protected by criminalizing acts of intimidation or harassment against election workers, as Missouri and Nevada have done. 

To provide guardrails against future presidential abuses of power, like Trump’s attempts to use the Department of Justice to overturn the 2020 election results based on the Big Lie, Congress should pass the Protect Our Democracy Act (PODA) which would, among other things, provide transparency into the relationship between the DOJ and the White House and strengthen protections against political interference in law enforcement decisions. PODA passed in the House on a bipartisan basis in December 2021, but most of the bill was never taken up by the Senate. 

As Trump’s dangerous and persistent claims about the 2020 election show us, the time to reform our legal frameworks and protect our democracy is now.

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