Jared Kushner Won't Rule Out That Trump Could Try to Delay the Election - 2020-05-12
As the coronavirus crisis has crippled the U.S., a nagging fear has emerged among Democrats: that President Donald Trump, seeing his lagging poll numbers, will use the public health crisis as a reason for delaying the presidential election. With the virus delaying—and, in New York, briefly canceling—state primary elections, the thinking goes that if the coronavirus lockdowns continue, or a new wave emerges in the fall, Trump or other Republican leaders could seize the opportunity and use the postponed primaries as a precedent to keep Trump in the White House a bit longer. "Mark my words," Trump's Democratic opponent Joe Biden said in April. "I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can't be held." And while Trump himself hasn't called for any delay to the election yet, one of his top advisers signaled Tuesday that the idea, at the very least, isn't a total nonstarter.
Trump son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner was asked about the possibility of delaying the election Tuesday by TIME journalist Brian Bennett during a TIME100 Talks interview. And though Kushner acknowledged that the consequential move was "not [his] decision to make," the First Son-in-Law didn't dismiss the notion outright. "That's too far in the future to tell. Nothing that I'm aware of now," Kushner said about any possible plans to delay the election. When Bennett asked him if he could offer a commitment that the election would take place on November 3 as scheduled, Kushner again demurred. "It's not my decision to make, so I'm not sure I can commit one way or the other. But right now that's the plan," Kushner said. "Hopefully, by the time we get to September or October or November, we've done enough with the testing and with all the different things we're trying to do, to prevent an outbreak of the magnitude that would make us shut down again."
Of course, though he may be in charge of everything from peace in the Middle East to the distribution of personal protective equipment, setting the election date is one thing in the U.S. government that Kushner can't actually control. Neither can Trump, for that matter, as the possibility of moving elections instead rests with state officials and Congress. "While the Executive Branch has significant delegated authority regarding some aspects of election law, this authority does not currently extend to setting or changing the times of elections," the Congressional Research Service wrote in a 2004 report, though they did note Congress could potentially enact a statute that would give the president such a power. (Should Trump somehow manage to postpone the election indefinitely anyway, the laws of succession would also mean that come January 20, the U.S. would be led by Acting President Nancy Pelosi.) But Trump hasn't been one to shy away from shirking democratic norms nonetheless, keeping Democrats' fears alive that he could undermine the election by either delaying it in open defiance of the Constitution, or disputing its results in the event that Biden wins. "There's nothing to indicate that they would play it straight," John Podesta, co-chair of former President Barack Obama's 2008 transition team, told NBC News in April. "One of the challenges will be, which I think with Trump you have to anticipate, is what if he doesn't accept the results?"