A British journalist warns the U.S. is on a path to election-related violence -- no matter who wins.
Financial Times columnist Edward Luce told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump were actively undermining trust in November's election, and they've already tainted the results.
"We have an election here in which people on both sides believe that if the other side wins, that there will be an existential threat to the future of American democracy," Luce said. "The playing field will be tilted against them in other words, that this is a zero sum, an all-or-nothing election very different to the normal business of democracy. This is a game that has to be won, and if the other side wins, it will be because of fraud."
The president himself has for months been calling the election the most corrupt in history, and right-wing news outlets have been priming his followers that an election loss will be the result of fraud -- but those efforts have also raised questions about legitimacy on the left.
"There is exactly the same fear that, you know, if Trump wins it will be because he's allowed a pandemic to rage, where I think, if you listen to the scientists, going into COVID 2.0, a second surge as the influenza season begins, which it is beginning round about now, which is going to be escalating in the build up to Nov. 3," Luce said. "We're going to see a sort of de facto suppressed votes with the mail-in ballot, and if Trump wins it's not going to be seen as legitimate by many people on the left."
"This is a perilous moment for American democracy," he added. "This is not how things should work. You don't see the opposition as the enemy, you see them as an opponent. Americans increasingly see the other side as the enemy, and the stakes as all or nothing -- I feel a visceral sense of dread about this election in a way I never have before."
Luce warned the president has enormous power to work up a last-minute foreign policy crisis for his own political benefit, but less authority to interfere with elections at the state or county level -- where Republicans are already preparing for legal battles to challenge unfavorable results.
"There's no daylight between Bill Barr and the president on this," Luce said. "They see mail-in balloting as a fraudulent activity. They know that more Democrats than Republicans by far are planning to vote by mail this year, and, again, are teeing up not just their own base, but also a lot of Republican lawyers for a lot of cases to stop counting in swing states across the country."
If the president appears to have more votes on Election Night, even if absentee ballots have not been counted or close results must be recounted, he attorney general is prepared to make sure those preliminary results stand.
"This idea of there being a red mirage on the day of the election with the physical count, it looks like Republicans have won, you then have President Trump claiming he's won and all further counting should stop," Luce said. "Bill Barr has teed himself up to legally intervene on behalf of that claim."