Updated at 10:04 a.m. ET
President Trump mused about delaying this year's election based on unsupported conspiracy theorizing about the integrity of voting during the coronavirus disaster.
In a Twitter post on Thursday, Trump repeated what has become a pet theme about the prospect of inaccuracies or fraud with mail-in voting.
With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2020
Many of the president's claims about voting by mail are not accurate.
Trump also does not have the power himself to move the date of the election, which was set by an 1845 federal law placing it the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
The date could move theoretically with action by Congress — but that would require agreement both by the Democrats who control the House and the Republicans who control the Senate.
In short, it is extremely unlikely.
It wasn't immediately clear how seriously official Washington or state leaders might treat Trump's idea about moving the date of the election or whether the notion might simply lapse, as other Trump suggestions sometimes do.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., a frequent critic of the president, sought to reinforce that Trump does not have the ability to act on his own.
Let’s be clear: Trump does not have the ability to delay the election. Our elections are enshrined in the Constitution. The Constitution also says that if the date of the election is to be changed, it must be changed by Congress. https://t.co/WzVgBQqdSo— Rep. Nadler (@RepJerryNadler) July 30, 2020
The White House and the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Additionally, there is no nationwide turn to universal mail-in voting, and as much as half of the electorate is still expected to cast ballots in person. And while Trump draws a distinction between mail-in and absentee voting, there is essentially no difference.
Suggestion follows bad economic news
Trump's tweet came about 15 minutes after news of the worst-ever-recorded quarterly performance of the American economy.
Trump has trailed his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, in recent polls and is seen as needing to make up ground against him in states considered key to this year's race, including Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Biden had speculated that Trump might raise the prospect of changing the date.
In late April, Biden told donors in a fundraiser: "Mark my words, I think [Trump] is going to try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can't be held."
At the time, Trump rejected that out of hand, saying a few days later: "I never even thought of changing the date of the election. Why would I do that? November 3rd. It's a good number. No, I look forward to that election."
With reporting by NPR White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe