Trump warns of 'rigged' election as Giuliani makes racially charged claims


Donald Trump’s campaign allies joined his baseless accusation of a “rigged election” on Sunday, with Rudy Giuliani speaking in racially charged terms amid growing fears of a violent backlash from supporters of the Republican presidential nominee.

Trump himself furthered the charge, tweeting: “The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary – but also at many polling places – SAD.”

A request for clarification from the Trump campaign about which polling places he meant was not immediately returned.

The move appeared to be a concerted effort to deflect attention from allegations of sexual harassment or assault by nine women, following the release of a video in which Trump boasted about groping.

The ninth woman to accuse Trump of sexual misconduct, Cathy Heller, told the Guardian on Saturday that at an event at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Florida resort in 1997, the businessman “took my hand, and grabbed me, and went for the lips”.

Trump, who said in the second presidential debate he had never done the things he boasted about, has denied all the claims and blamed a media conspiracy.

At campaign events over the weekend, as controversy over the groping claims continued, Trump described US democracy as “an illusion” and repeated his calls for people to watch polling stations, which have raised concerns of illegal voter intimidation on election day and possible violent unrest after the result is known.

Allies including running mate Mike Pence and top adviser Giuliani, a former mayor of New York, backed up his claim.

Pence dodged Trump’s outright accusation, telling NBC’s Meet the Press: “So many Americans feel like this election is being rigged.” For months, the Indiana governor has tried to bridge Trump’s extreme positions with the more conventional wing of the Republican party. His support for the “rigged election” claim puts him well outside the mainstream.

Pence did say he and Trump would “absolutely accept the results of the election”.

On Saturday, House speaker Paul Ryan said he did not have any doubts about the American electoral system. “Our democracy relies on confidence in election results, and the speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity,” his spokeswoman AshLee Strong said.

On Sunday, as Trump attacked Ryan via Twitter, representatives for the Republican National Committee and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

But on Sunday, Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker and a periodic adviser to Trump, embraced Trump’s more conspiratorial tone, blaming the press for the nominee’s plummeting poll numbers. “Fourteen million people picked Donald Trump,” he told Fox News. “Twenty TV executives decided to destroy him.”

He claimed: “Without the unending, one-sided assault of the news media, Trump would be beating Hillary Clinton by 15 points.”

Since last week, when a 2005 video leaked to the Washington Post showed Trump bragging about groping women without consent, the candidate’s poll numbers have collapsed.

On Sunday, a NBC/WSJ poll showed Clinton ahead nationally with 48%, Trump with 37% and the Libertarian and Green party candidates with 7% and 2% respectively. In a new Washington Post/ABC poll, Clinton had only a four-point lead, but nearly 70% of voters said Trump had probably sexually harassed women.

A CBS poll showed Clinton up 46%-40% in 13 key states, with a 15-point advantage among women.

Trump, who spent the week launching tirades at Clinton, journalists and his own party, continued on Sunday to portray himself as the victim. He tweeted: “Polls close, but can you believe I lost large numbers of women voters based on made up events THAT NEVER HAPPENED. Media rigging election!”

In another post, he said: “Election is being rigged by the media, in a coordinated effort with the Clinton campaign, by putting stories that never happened into news!”

He goes head-to-head with Clinton in the final presidential debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday evening.


Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks in Bangor, Maine. Photograph: Sarah Rice/Getty Images

Giuliani at first argued that the candidate was merely speaking about bias in journalism, telling CNN’s State of the Union: “When he talks about a rigged election, he’s not talking about the fact that it’s going to be rigged at the polls. What he’s talking about is that 80% to 85% of the media is against him.”

But then he jumped from media criticism into racially charged territory, saying “there have been places where a lot of cheating going on”, citing two cities with large black populations, Philadelphia and Chicago.

Giuliani claimed, without evidence, that Pennsylvania Democrats bussed voters in from Camden, New Jersey, and that “dead people generally vote for Democrats”. To back up his claims of voter fraud, he said the Republican president of the New York Yankees had stopped bussing voters around the deeply Democratic city’s boroughs.

“To tell me that I think the election in Philadelphia and Chicago is going to be fair, I would have to be a moron to say that,” Giuliani said. “I would have to dislearn everything I learned in 40 years of being a politician.”

The claims about Philadelphia appear to be drawn from a conspiracy theory born in 2012 after Mitt Romney failed to win a single vote in 59 almost wholly black precincts of its 1,687 total. Obama won 85% of the city, 52% of Pennsylvania, and 93% of black voters nationwide.

Conversely, he could not win a single vote in whole counties in deeply conservative Utah that year. John McCain failed to win votes in Chicago and Atlanta precincts in 2008.

Philadelphia’s Republican party and an investigation by the city’s Inquirer newspaper found claims of fraud or wrongdoing were baseless, and larger studies have found cases of in-person voter fraud have been exceedingly rare over the last six years.

Giuliani and Trump, however, have continued to argue that it does exist, and blamed “inner cities”, which Giuliani said Republicans “don’t control”.

That phrase has offended many African Americans, who hear in it a outdated and hyperbolic vision of their lives that does not match with rising quality of life for many minorities.

Trump has repeatedly said that black and Hispanic Americans are “living in hell”. When a black voter asked him in the second debate whether he would serve “all” Americans as president, he began speaking of “inner cities”, unprompted by anything in the man’s question.

Gingrich also said, without evidence, that fraud had taken place in cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago and St Louis, telling ABC’s This Week that Ryan knows only “honest elections” in his midwest state of Wisconsin.

Gingrich said he thought Ryan should “go and look at the history of Philadelphia, including four years ago, the intimidation”.

Some of Trump’s own supporters have said they intend to go to polls to intimidate voters. Steve Webb, a 61-year-old Ohio voter, told the Boston Globe this week: “Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure. I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”

Trump says Clinton may have taken drugs before debate

Giuliani tried to downplay such remarks about a “coup” and “bloodshed”. “You can find just as many wacko nuts on her side,” he said.

Asked if he believed that every one of the women accusing Trump of sexual misconduct was lying, Giuliani told CNN: “No, I believe my friend Donald Trump when he tells me he didn’t do it. I know Donald. I have been with him for 28 years. I have never seen him do anything like that.”

Some analysts have warned that, by stoking anger and fuelling conspiracy theories, Trump poses an unprecedented threat to America’s democratic stability. His supporters have become increasingly hostile and abusive towards the media.

On Saturday, Milwaukee county sheriff David Clarke, a backer of Trump, tweeted: “It’s incredible that our institutions of gov, WH, Congress, DOJ, and big media are corrupt & all we do is bitch. Pitchforks and torches time.”

A narrow Clinton victory would put pressure on Republican leaders such as Ryan to quickly declare the result free and fair. The supreme court, forced to rule on the disputed 2000 election between George W Bush and Al Gore, is currently depleted by the death of Antonin Scalia, raising the prospect of a 4-4 split.

Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, a senator for Virginia, accused Trump of looking for a scapegoat as he faces defeat.

“Donald Trump has kind of started to go wilder and wilder,” he said on ABC. “I think after – by all accounts – losing the first two debates, he started to make wild claims, kind of scorched earth claims about the election being rigged. He shouldn’t be engaging in those scare tactics.”

He added: “We have to keep putting out a message, and we need to call on everybody to speak out about the fact that we run elections and we run them well here. And we ask the GOP leaders also to stand up for the integrity of the American electoral process.”

Additional reporting by Ben Jacobs



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