During a Tuesday hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Attorney General William Barr was pressed on whether Donald Trump could postpone the United States elections in November. As reported by Business Insider, Barr did not explicitly say whether he believed the president could take such an action.
“Actually, I haven’t looked into that question under the Constitution,” Barr said. “I’ve never been asked the question before, I’ve never looked into it.”
According to a Business Insider fact check, Trump does not have the power to unilaterally decide to postpone or cancel the election. In order for the day to be changed, Congress reportedly must vote to modify Chapter 1 of Title 3 of the United States Code, which legislates the appointment of America’s leaders.
Others, including voting rights lawyer Marc E. Elias, have supported this notion.
“While states can set their own primary days, the federal general election is set by federal statute as the the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. This date cannot be changed by a state nor by the President.”
Barr’s claim of not having any knowledge of whether Trump has the power to postpone the election was slammed on Twitter by political host Brian Tyler Cohen, who suggested that the attorney should obviously know the answer to the question.
“He hasn’t looked into it?” he tweeted. “You think the attorney general doesn’t know that the president doesn’t have the power – under any circumstances – to move a federal election? REALLY?”
Per CNN, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden previously warned that Trump would attempt to delay November’s election. He also pointed to his attempts to undermine public confidence in the security of vote-by-mail. Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, brushed off Biden’s claims as the “incoherent, conspiracy theory ramblings of a lost candidate.”
Biden’s comments echo fears of other Democrats who have long worried that the real estate mogul may refuse to leave office if he loses his re-election bid. Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio pointed in particular to the coronavirus pandemic and claimed that Trump would attempt to use it as an excuse to move the date.
As noted by Business Insider, Trump would not likely gain benefit from canceling or postponing the 2020 election. The publication also noted that even in a scenario where the vote is pushed to another date, Trump and Mike Pence would not automatically have their tenures extended another four years.