President Donald Trump declined again on Wednesday to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose the November election, the integrity of which he is seeking to undermine through false attacks on mail-in ballots.
“We’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump told Brian Karem at a White House press conference after the Playboy magazine reporter asked the president if he would commit to such a peaceful transfer.
“I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster,” Trump said. “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful— There won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.”
With an unprecedented number of Americans expected to vote by mail for November’s election due to the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has for months been attacking mail-in voting both in the courts and in the media. He has shared misinformation related to voting practices, as well as debunked and unsupported claims that such ballots are tainted by widespread fraud and possibly foreign interference — a false claim he repeated earlier on Wednesday. He has also alleged, without a scintilla of evidence, that the Democrats and mainstream media are scheming to steal the election from him through such fraud.
Democrats and election observers fear Trump is attempting to sow distrust and confusion about the vote so he can question its integrity if he loses.
Speaking to reporters in Delaware, Joe Biden called Trump’s comments irrational.
“What country are we in? I’m being facetious. I said what country are we in?” said Biden. “Look, he says the most irrational things. I don’t know what to say.”
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, who on Tuesday said he would support Trump nominating a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, compared the president to a wannabe dictator.
“Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus,” he said on Twitter. “Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.”
Trump’s answer at Wednesday’s press conference falls into a long pattern of flirting with possibilities other than accepting a peaceful transfer of power should he lose to Biden.
In July, he said during a Fox News interview that he would “have to see” the results of the election before deciding whether to accept them.
“You don’t know until you see. I think it depends. I think mail-in voting is going to rig the election,” Trump said. “I really do.”
During a 2016 presidential debate against Hillary Clinton, he also declined to say if he would accept the election outcome if he lost, instead complaining that the election had been “rigged” for his opponent through unspecified voter fraud.
“I’ll keep you in suspense, OK?” he said.
Trump and Biden are set to hold their first debate on Tuesday night where one of the topics will be the integrity of the election.
Asked in June if he had thought about what might happen should Trump refuse to concede, Biden told The Daily Show With Trevor Noah that the military would intervene.
“I am absolutely convinced they will escort him from the White House with great dispatch,” Biden said.