Donald Trump again attacked the integrity of the American voting system Friday by warning that the country may “never know” the results of the upcoming presidential election because of mail-in ballots.

The astonishing comment was the president’s latest evidence-free claim that casting mail-in ballots is “fraudulent” — before a single vote has even been cast in this year’s general election. Americans are likely to use mail-in voting more than ever to avoid the risk of contracting Covid-19 at polling stations in November.

A large volume of mail-in ballots would be a “tremendous embarrassment to our country,” Trump insisted in a speech in Virginia to the conservative Council for National Policy

Trump voted by mail last week in Florida’s primary.

Critics say Trump’s assault on mail-in ballots is his attempt to sway the vote in his favour by reducing the number of voters, especially supporters of his rival, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden — and to establish a fake justification for rejecting results in the event of his loss.

“You’ll never have an election count on November 3rd,” Trump declared. “You’re not going to be able to know the end of this election, in my opinion, for weeks, months — maybe never. It may be years, but maybe never,” he added. “Because once you go past the first week, you’re never going to know.”

The president claimed that after a week of counting votes, “they” are going to be “taking them and hiding them.” He didn’t identify who “they” are.

“I don’t like this mail-in ballot deal,” he said earlier. “It’s so mixed up, so fraudulent.” 

Trump also inaccurately indicated that speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi would replace him if the election isn’t settled when his term is up.

“You know, there’s a theory that if you don’t have it by the end of the year, crazy Nancy Pelosi would become president. You know that, right?” Trump asked. “I don’t know if it’s a theory or a fact [but] ... that’s not good,” he added.

“That’s part of their whole act,” Trump noted, reinforcing conspiracy theories that there is some kind of plot against him. “Put that in the hopper. Add that to everything else,” the president said. “It’s a disgrace.”

Ellen Weintraub, a member of the Federal Election Commission, warned earlier this month that there’s a “substantial chance” election winners, including for the presidency, won’t be called the night of the vote. The commissioner urged voters to be patient while extra care is taken to tally all the votes “accurately” in order to “ensure that everyone’s vote counts.”

Weintraub assured voters, however, that mail-in voting is “absolutely” reliable, noting that one-quarter of all votes in the 2016 presidential election were cast with mail-in ballots (which can also be dropped off at polling stations or in drop boxes, she pointed out). 

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