Trump won’t com­mit to peace­ful trans­fer of power

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - FROM THE COVER -

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Wed­nes­day again de­clined to com­mit to a peace­ful trans­fer of power if he loses the Nov. 3 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

“We’re go­ing to have to see what hap­pens,” Trump said at a news con­fer­ence, re­spond­ing to a ques­tion about whether he’d com­mit to a peace­ful trans­fer of power. “You know that I’ve been com­plain­ing very strongly about the bal­lots, and the bal­lots are a disaster.“

It is highly un­usual that a sit­ting pres­i­dent would ex­press less than com­plete con­fi­dence in the Amer­i­can democ­racy’s elec­toral process. But he also de­clined four years ago to com­mit to hon­or­ing the elec­tion re­sults if his Demo­cratic op­po­nent, Hil­lary Clin­ton, won.

His cur­rent Demo­cratic chal­lenger, Joe Bi­den, was asked about Trump’s com­ment af­ter land­ing in Wilm­ing­ton, Delaware, on Wed­nes­day night.

“What coun­try are we in?” Bi­den asked in­cred­u­lously, adding: “I’m be­ing face­tious. Look, he says the most ir­ra­tional things . ... But it doesn’t sur­prise me.”

Trump has been press­ing a months­long campaign against mail­in vot­ing this Novem­ber by tweet­ing and speak­ing out crit­i­cally about the prac­tice. More states are en­cour­ag­ing mail­in vot­ing to keep vot­ers safe amid the coronaviru­s pan­demic.

The pres­i­dent, who uses mail­in vot­ing him­self, has tried to dis­tin­guish be­tween states that au­to­mat­i­cally send mail bal­lots to all reg­is­tered vot­ers and those, like Florida, that send them only to vot­ers who re­quest a mail bal­lot.

Trump has base­lessly claimed wide­spread mail vot­ing will lead to mas­sive fraud. The five states that rou­tinely send mail bal­lots to all vot­ers have seen no sig­nif­i­cant fraud.

Trump on Wed­nes­day ap­peared to sug­gest that if states got “rid of ” the un­so­licited mail­ing of bal­lots there would be no con­cern about fraud or peace­ful trans­fers of power.

“You’ll have a very peace­ful — there won’t be a trans­fer frankly,” Trump said. “There’ll be a con­tin­u­a­tion. The bal­lots are out of con­trol, you know it, and you know, who knows it better than any­body else? The Democrats know it better than any­body else.”

The Bi­den campaign re­sponded Wed­nes­day: “The Amer­i­can peo­ple will de­cide this elec­tion. And the United States gov­ern­ment is per­fectly ca­pa­ble of es­cort­ing tres­passers out of the White House.”

The Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union also protested Trump’s re­marks. “The peace­ful trans­fer of power is es­sen­tial to a func­tion­ing democ­racy,“Na­tional Le­gal Direc­tor David Cole said. “This state­ment from the pres­i­dent of the United States should trou­ble ev­ery Amer­i­can.”

Trump made sim­i­lar com­ments ahead of the 2016 elec­tion. When asked dur­ing an Oc­to­ber de­bate whether he would abide by the vot­ers’ will, Trump re­sponded that he would “keep you in sus­pense.”

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