Group including Trump's own former top adviser launches $6 million ad to counter 'misinformation' on counting votes

Jon Ward
·Senior Political Correspondent
·4-min read

A group that includes President Trump’s own former director of national intelligence is launching a $6 million advertising blitz starting on Election Day that’s intended to counter “misinformation” coming from the president about counting votes.

“Let our election officials do their jobs and count every vote — just like the law requires. Because this election, it isn’t up to the candidates; it’s up to us. Keep counting,” the ad says.

The ad will run first on airwaves in Washington, D.C., starting Tuesday, as the final day of voting takes place and election officials in all 50 states prepare to turn toward ensuring an accurate vote count. It will run in English and Spanish for the rest of the week nationally across CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Telemundo and Univision.

Former director of national intelligence Dan Coats testifies during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 29, 2019. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats testifies during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Jan. 29, 2019. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The National Council on Election Integrity is backing the ad. The council includes Dan Coats, who was director of national intelligence in the Trump administration from 2017 to 2019, as well as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former CIA Director Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, former Virginia Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock, former Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and retired Marine Gen. James Cartwright, who is a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, among many others.

Although the ad never calls out the president by name, the primary source for this “misinformation” is Trump, who has made several comments in recent days complaining that the winner of the presidential contest should be known the night of the election on Nov. 3.

“I don’t think it’s fair that we have to wait for a long period of time after the election,” Trump said Sunday. He added that “as soon as that election’s over, we’re going in with our lawyers.”

In a follow-up statement to Yahoo News, however, council spokesman Michael Beckel did mention Trump as a source of misinformation.

“This new ad campaign is designed to counter misinformation about the vote-counting process from all sources, including the president. All Americans, including President Donald Trump, need to remember that November 3 is the last day for votes to be cast — not the last day for votes to be counted. The Constitution and state election laws require us to count every vote, including legally cast absentee votes,” Beckel said.

“While some, including President Donald Trump, have attacked the options Americans have to exercise their right to vote, these attacks are not based in fact. The National Council on Election Integrity is working to ensure that every American’s vote is counted, which we do by allowing election officials to do their jobs without outside interference.”

Trump has been making comments like this for over a week, saying that the country “must have a final total on Nov. 3.” But his own party has made sure that most mail votes won’t even start to be counted in three key swing states until after Election Day.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during his campaign event at Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport on November 1, 2020 in Opa Locka, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
President Trump at a campaign event in Opa-locka, Fla., on Sunday. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Republicans in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan blocked efforts to give election clerks sufficient time ahead of Election Day to open mail ballots as they arrived, even though a multitude of election experts from across the political spectrum were calling on them to do so, knowing there would be a historic number of mail-in ballots that would need to be counted.

Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, Frank LaRose, told Yahoo News in August that if these three states — which decided the 2016 election — did not allow mail ballots to be counted, or prepared for counting, before Election Day, it would create a “really terrible situation.”

Michigan gave clerks one day before Election Day to open mail ballots. Wisconsin and Pennsylvania did nothing. Republicans control the state legislatures in all three states, and only the state legislatures could have changed the law and allow mail ballots to be opened and counted — or prepared for counting — as they came in. This is how most states handle mail-in ballots.

It is likely that mail ballots will skew toward Democrats, based on polling, meaning that if the election comes down to any of these three states, Trump might hold a lead there on election night because most mail ballots will not have been counted.

An attempt to stop these valid ballots from being counted could cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election, and experts say any effort not to count them would be baseless and flimsy from a legal standpoint. But Trump’s rhetoric, amplified by top campaign officials, suggests he might try to do so anyway.

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