Dear Reader,

Sometimes, a story comes along that just can’t wait. That’s why we’ve decided to move up the online publication date for The Atlantic’s next cover story, by our staff writer Barton Gellman.

There is a pervasive and justifiable fear that Donald Trump will reject the election results if he loses to Joe Biden. But as Gellman documents in his authoritative and chilling story, the situation is far more dire than anyone, Biden included, might imagine. Gellman is a three-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, and one of the world’s finest investigative reporters. Given what he has learned, I wanted our readers to have access to his story, which will appear on the cover of our November issue, as soon as possible.

“The worst case,” Gellman writes, “is not that Trump rejects the election outcome. The worst case is that he uses his power to prevent a decisive outcome against him.” Merely by refusing to concede, Trump could keep the electoral result in doubt through the 79-day period between Election Day and the day the next president is to be inaugurated. Gellman’s reporting shows that Republicans are already discussing plans to bypass the popular vote and directly appoint electors to the Electoral College. This could lead the country to a precipice: Two men could show up to be sworn in on Inauguration Day. “One of them,” Gellman writes, “would arrive with all the tools and power of the presidency already in hand.”

Gellman’s report is a warning about the fragility of our entire system of governance. “An election cannot be stolen unless the American people, at some level, acquiesce,” he writes.

As readers of The Atlantic know, our magazine has been focused on threats to American democracy and to the American idea itself. This story is among the most urgent we have ever published, and I hope you will understand why I felt the need to share it with you now. I urge you to read Gellman’s story, and to share it with everyone in your life who is not only interested in the outcome of this election, but concerned about the future of our democracy.

Jeffrey Goldberg
Editor in Chief