WASHINGTON — Democrats — and even one key Republican — are attacking President Donald Trump’s noncommittal Thursday to a peaceful transition of power as dangerous and un-American.
During a White House press briefing, Trump demurred after being asked if he would commit to a peaceful transition should he lose November’s election.
“Well, we’re going to have to see what happens,” the president said.
Trump then repeated his complaints about mail-in voting, which will be more prevalent this year to prevent crowding at the polls during the coronavirus pandemic. He has said, without evidence, that mail-in ballots will result in widespread fraud.
“Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation,” the president said.
Few congressional Republicans had made any public comments about Trump’s remarks as of Thursday morning, but Sen. Mitt Romney, who was the GOP presidential nominee in 2012, was quick to criticize the president.
“Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus,” Romney said in a tweet. “Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.”
A handful of other Republicans, meanwhile, sought to assure voters there would be a peaceful handover while they avoided directly criticizing Trump.
“The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky wrote on Twitter. “There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792.”
“As we have done for over two centuries we will have a legitimate & fair election,’ Rubio tweeted. “It may take longer than usual to know the outcome, but it will be a valid one. And at noon on Jan 20,2021 we will peacefully swear in the President.”
Some Democrats have feared that Trump, who trails Joe Biden in the vast majority of nationwide polls, would seek to delegitimize the election results and remain in office. Despite winning in 2016, Trump falsely claimed he only lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton because millions of illegal immigrants had voted. He has often joked about staying in office beyond two-term limit. And in July, he floated the idea of delaying this year’s election.
Trump also predicted Wednesday that the election would end up in the Supreme Court, one reason he says he’s rushing to fill the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat before Nov. 3.
Wednesday’s comments were not the first opportunity the president had to dismiss concerns that he might not willingly leave the White House should he lose — he made similar remarks n in a July interview with Fox News.
That sort of rhetoric has Democrats sounding the alarms.
Asked about Trump’s comments, Biden said Wednesday: “What country are we in? Look, he says the most irrational things. I don’t know what to say.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said, “One way or another, there’ll be a peaceful transition of power, and President Trump will not get his wish.”
“The American people are wedded to democracy,” Schumer added. “We believe in democracy, and the kind of thing Trump is talking about just will not happen.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia said America is “careening toward authoritarianism.”
“This thinly veiled threat from the sitting President should send shivers down the spine of every freedom-loving American,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Michigan.
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont said: “What we heard from President Trump tonight rings of rhetoric we hear from dictators around the world. A refusal to accept a peaceful transition of power & a thinly veiled suggestion to ‘get rid of’ legitimately cast votes.