Re­ject­ing Trump, both par­ties’ lead­ers see or­derly elec­tion

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - NEWS - By Lisa Mascaro, Aamer Mad­hani and Kevin Freking

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.”

Long­time Repub­li­can Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, chair­man of the Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee, said, “Well, we’ve al­ways had a peace­ful trans­fer of power. That’s one of the hall­marks. And I think this year will be no ex­cep­tion.”

Bi­den, the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, was in­cred­u­lous, “What coun­try are we in?” he said late Wed­nes­day of Trump’s com­ment. “Look, he says the most ir­ra­tional things. I don’t know what to say about it. But it doesn’t sur­prise me.”

On Capi­tol Hill, Trump’s pos­si­ble re­fusal to ac­cept the elec­tion re­sults has been dis­cussed pri­vately for weeks as law­mak­ers con­sider op­tions. One se­na­tor said re­cently it was the big­gest topic of pri­vate dis­cus­sions.

“We have a lot of lawyers at work,” Pelosi said.

Two House Democrats, Reps. Mikie Sher­ill of New Jer­sey and Slotkin of Michi­gan — both mem­bers of the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee — are for­mally ask­ing mem­bers of Trump’s Cabi­net to go on record and com­mit to up­hold­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion and peace­ful tran­si­tion.

Gen. Mark Mil­ley, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, re­sponded in a let­ter to the law­mak­ers last­month that he sees “no role” for the mil­i­tary to in­ter­vene in a dis­puted elec­tion.

But De­fense Sec­re­tary Mark Esper de­clined to re­spond to the law­mak­ers’ ques­tions. Sim­i­lar queries have been sent to At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr and Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Chad Wolf. They have yet to re­spond.

Slotkin said Thurs­day it is im­por­tant to get se­nior mil­i­tary and DHS of­fi­cials clearly “on the record.” It is those of­fi­cials, she said, “that will de­ter­mine what hap­pens af­ter Nov. 3rd.”

Mean­while, Repub­li­cans are rush­ing to fill the va­cancy on the Supreme Court cre­ated by Ruth Bader Gins­burg’s death, partly to en­sure a Trump-friendly court ma­jor­ity to re­solve any post­elec­tion law­suits by their party or Trump him­self.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is among lead­ing Repub­li­cans push­ing the im­por­tance of the court’s role. And Gra­ham sug­gested on Fox that the Supreme Court could end up all but declar­ing the win­ner. Democrats ob­ject strongly. “He wants to be named pres­i­dent for life?” Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren, D-Mass., ex­claimed at the Capi­tol. That’s how a “dic­ta­tor” op­er­ates, she said. “That’s not how a democ­racy works.”

By Thurs­day, the White House sought to clar­ify Trump’s words

“The pres­i­dent will ac­cept the re­sults of a free and fair elec­tion,” said Press Sec­re­tary Kayleigh McE­nany.

But the press sec­re­tary also said anew that Trump wants to “get rid of mass, mail-out vot­ing.” And Trump him­self said he was not sure there could be an “hon­est” elec­tion as he left the White House on a cam­paign trip to North Carolina.

The pres­i­dent, who uses mail-in 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 them. Five states that rou­tinely send mail bal­lots to all vot­ers have seen no sig­nif­i­cant fraud.

PA­TRICK SEMANSKY — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks to mem­bers of the press on the South Lawn of the White House in Wash­ing­ton, Thurs­day, Sept. 24, 2020, be­fore board­ing Ma­rine One for a short trip to An­drews Air Force Base, Md. Trump is trav­el­ing to North Carolina and Florida.

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