Delay the election? That's not what we do here

CNN/ Newswire | 7/30/2020, 4:25 p.m.

Originally Published: 30 JUL 20 16:14 ET

Updated: 30 JUL 20 17:08 ET

Analysis by Zachary B. Wolf, CNN

(CNN) -- On the one hand, this is banana republic stuff, that a President, who the evidence suggests is losing his bid for reelection, would suggest delaying the election, as Donald Trump did Thursday morning.

That's not what we do here. In the US there are presidential elections every four years, even in times of war and pandemic, and the loser accepts them.

The other living presidents get that. Most of them gathered in Atlanta on Thursday, as Trump was questioning US democracy, to hear Barack Obama's eulogy for John Lewis, who fought for the right of people to participate in US democracy.

On the other hand, this is just another Trump distraction.

His tweet came a few minutes after the government reported the US economy had its worst quarter on record. Ever. In history.

Trump's entire case for reelection is the economy. The pandemic, which he has failed to seriously address, is destroying the economy.

I've written before about Trump's wash-rinse-repeat strategy of lobbing explosive controversies in one direction to divert attention from something exploding everywhere else. Is this that? Who knows.

We know for certain that Trump cannot, on his own, delay the election.

Election Day in November is set by law, and that's controlled by Congress. Even his Senate enabler Mitch McConnell said Thursday that Election Day is set in stone.

Inauguration Day in January is set by the 20th Amendment. And the Constitution is unchangeable between now and then.

Does Trump want President Pelosi? Even if the election were delayed, an honest read of the 20th Amendment suggests the speaker of the House would become temporary president if no one qualifies for the full term at noon on January 20. There is some disagreement here, because Sen. Lamar Alexander says his understanding is the Senate president pro tempore, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, would take over. Regardless, it would not be Trump.

Back in April, when the President's son-in-law sort of teased delaying the election and then Joe Biden predicted Trump would try to move it, the Trump campaign called it the "incoherent, conspiracy theory ramblings of a lost candidate who is out of touch with reality."

Pretty much.

However! One thing that should certainly happen as we move toward Election Day is that every Cabinet member who appears before Congress or sits for an interview, and every federal official, should just be asked -- to make sure they agree with custom and law -- to acknowledge that the current presidential term ends January 20 at noon, as the Constitution states.

No harm in an insurance policy against incoherent ramblings. But when you pay very close attention to the words of administration officials, you begin to wonder.

Attorney General William Barr, for instance, was asked this very question Tuesday during his first congressional oversight hearing in more than 18 months.