Rejecting Trump, both parties’ leaders see orderly election
WASHINGTON » President Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election drew swift blowback Thursday from both parties in Congress, and lawmakers were already turning to unprecedented steps to ensure he can’t ignore the vote of the people.
Congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, rejected Trump’s suggestion that he’d “see what happens” before agreeing to any election outcome.
Many other lawmakers — including from Trump’s own Republican Party — vowed to ensure voters’ wishes are followed ahead of Inauguration Day in January. And some Democrats were taking action, including formally asking Trump’s defense secretary, national security adviser and attorney general to declare they’ll support the Nov. 3 results.
“The President can’t successfully refuse to accept the results of the election without a number of very senior officials aiding him,” said Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, a former CIA analyst, one of two congresswomen behind letters to the nation’s top national security officials.
Meanwhile, McConnell, the GOP Senate leader, said in a tweet: “The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th.” He said, “There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792.”
Said Pelosi, “Calm down, Mr. President.”
“You are in the United States of America. It is a democracy,” she said, reminding Trump this is not North Korea, Russia or other countries with strongman leaders he admires. “So why don’t you just try for a moment to honor our oath of office to the Constitution of the United States.”
Trump’s attacks on the upcoming vote — almost without modern precedent in the U.S. — are hitting amid the tumult of the campaign, as partisan tensions rage and more Americans than ever are planning to vote by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s not the first time he has sowed doubts about the voting process. But his increased questioning weeks in advance of any result is setting off alarms ahead of an Election Day like almost no other. Even without signs of illegality, results could be delayed because of the pandemic, leaving the nation exposed to groups or foreign countries seeking to sow discord.
Trump is fanning the uncertainty as he floats theories the election may be “rigged” if he loses, echoing warnings he made ahead of the 2016 voting — even though past elections have not shown substantial evidence of fraud from mail-in voting.
During a Wednesday news conference, Trump said, “We’re going to have to see what happens,” responding to a question about committing to the results. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”
Reaction to his comment was strong from Capitol Hill — from both parties.
Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally and the GOP chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told “Fox & Friends” on Thursday, “If Republicans lose we will accept the result. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Joe Biden, I will accept that result.”
Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a member of the House GOP leadership, tweeted: “The peaceful transfer of power is enshrined in our Constitution and fundamental to the survival of our Republic. America’s leaders swear an oath to the Constitution. We will uphold that oath.”