In a tweet that existed only briefly, like a soap bubble in a toilet bowl, Donald Trump just accused Ted Cruise of illegally winning the Iowa caucus, which is to say Ted Cruz broke the law.
This is not a small thing to throw at a political rival in an election year!
The tweet was quickly deleted and then replaced by a version that omits the word “illegally,” perhaps because some lawyer advised Trump that publicly accusing someone of criminality is itself a great legal liability. Bad!
FEC regulations are sprawling and opaque, as is Donald Trump, so it’s hard to tell exactly which law he alleged Cruz violated. But his followup tweets give us some idea:
During primetime of the Iowa Caucus, Cruz put out a release that @RealBenCarson was quitting the race, and to caucus (or vote) for Cruz.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2016
Many people voted for Cruz over Carson because of this Cruz fraud. Also, Cruz sent out a VOTER VIOLATION certificate to thousands of voters.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2016
Trump concludes that the results from Iowa should be “nullified” entirely:
Based on the fraud committed by Senator Ted Cruz during the Iowa Caucus, either a new election should take place or Cruz results nullified.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2016
Candidates—especially salty ones—routinely accuse each other of such and such misdeed and general sliminess. And it does seem like Cruz engaged in some middle school election trickery to sabotage Ben Carson’s already shitty victory prospects at the caucus. But accusing your rival of actually breaking the law is much more rare and generally stupid unless you’ve very sure it happened. Given that Trump deleted his claim after only seven minutes, he’s probably not very sure at all.