President Donald Trump said Thursday he isn’t sure the election could be ‘honest’ – just minutes after his press secretary asserted that he would accept the results of the election so long as it was ‘free and fair.’
Trump’s comments – which once again raised unproven charges about mail-in ballots – came as the White House and congressional Republicans sought to explain his refusal Wednesday to commit to a peaceful transfer of power following the elections.
‘We want to make sure the election is honest but I’m not sure that it can be,’ Trump said, once again raising doubts about an election he has warned will be ‘rigged.’
It came after White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany provided a conditional statement to the press – saying Trump ‘will accept the results of a free and fair election.’
Trump was asked as he left the White House on a trip to North Carolina and Florida whether the election was only legitimate if he wins.
‘We have to be very careful with the ballots. The ballots that’s a whole big scam. They found I understand eight ballots in a wastepaper basket in some location,’ Trump said.
He was likely referencing an FBI announcement about an investigation into potential irregularities at the Luzerne County Board of Elections. Investigators said they have uncovered nine discarded mail-in ballots.
‘Some of those ballots can be attributed to specific voters and some cannot. All nine ballots were cast for presidential candidate Donald Trump,’ said U.S. Attorney David J. Freed.
Trump also mentioned ‘a lot of ballots in a river,’ and said: ‘They throw them out if they have the name trump on it, I guess. But they had ballots.’
Trump continued his attack on mail-in ballots, using the latest information from the FBI as fuel. ‘The other ones had the Trump name on it and they were thrown into a waste paper basket. We want to make sure the election is honest but I’m not sure that it can be,’ he said.
‘I don’t know that it can be with this whole situation, unsolicited ballots. They’re unsolicited millions being sent to everybody. We’ll see.’
Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump will accept the results of a ‘free and fair’ election – a day after the president refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.
McEnany was grilled repeatedly Thursday about the president’s statement – which raised enough concerns that it prompted early pushback from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, and Sen. Marco Rubio.
‘The president will accept the results of a free and fair election, he will accept the will of the American people,’ McEnany repeated.
‘The president will accept the results of a free and fair election he will accept the will of the American people,’ said White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany Thursday
Asked if Trump would accept the results even in the event that he loses, McEnany refused to engage. ‘I’ve answered your question. He will accept the results of a free and fair election,’ she said.
She also sought to help dig the president out of his comments from Wednesday by taking swipes at the reporter who asked it, Brian Kerem of ‘Playboy’ magazine, a CNN contributor.
‘You are referring to the q asked by the Playboy reporter, right?’ McEnany said, quizzed by an ABC reporter Thursday.
She noted that the reporter had asked Trump if he would accept a peaceful transfer ‘win, lose or draw.’
‘I’m not entirely sure if he won why he would accept a transfer of power,’ she quipped. ‘That is mainly the deranged with of that reporter,’ she said.
McEnany also blasted the use of mail-in ballots – raising questions about what type of elections Trump considers free and fair.
Her comments on the topic – which she raised at the top of her briefing Thursday, came after Republicans asserted Thursday that if Joe Biden is elected president in November there will be an ‘orderly transition’ after Donald Trump refused to commit to ‘peacefully’ leaving office if he loses.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted early Thursday that ‘The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th.’
‘There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792,’ he continued.
Even amid McEnany and Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting, which Trump says is filled with fraud, FBI Director Chris Wray testified Thursday: ‘We have not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it’s by mail or otherwise.’
McEnany and Senate Republicans – who all were forced to comment on the president’s statement – pointed to comments by Hillary Clinton in August where he urged Biden not to concede the election.
‘Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances, because I think this is going to drag out, and eventually I do believe he will win if we don’t give an inch, and if we are as focused and relentless as the other side is,’ she told her former communications director Jennifer Palmieri in an interview with Showtime’s ‘The Circus.’
Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances, because I think this is going to drag out, and eventually I do believe he will win if we don’t give an inch, and if we are as focused and relentless as the other side is,”
GOP lawmakers were forced to speak out in defense of U.S. election integrity after the president would not directly answer a question on if he intends to peacefully transition power in January should he be elected out of office after his first term.
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said Thursday that ‘we will peacefully swear in the President’ as per the usual timeline for swearing in a new president after an election year.
‘As we have done for over two centuries we will have a legitimate & fair election,’ the Republican senator tweeted the morning after Trump made the questionable comments.
‘It may take longer than usual to know the outcome,but it will be a valid one,’ he continued, in a likely reference to mail-in ballots holding up the outcome. ‘And at noon on Jan 20,2021 we will peacefully swear in the President.’
Senate Republicans had to defend U.S. election after Donald Trump refused to commit Wednesday to peacefully transfer power if he loses in November
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed ‘there will be an orderly transition’
Republican Senator’s Marco Rubio of Florida (left) and Mitt Romney of Utah (right) also weighed in on the questionable comments
‘[W]e 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,’ he said in reference to mail-in ballots potentially holding up the results
‘Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power,’ Romney said Wednesday evening. ‘Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable’
Mitt Romney also lashed out on Twitter Wednesday evening.
‘Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus,’ the Utah Republican said in reference to the European country experiencing mass protests as its president sought a sixth term and was secretly sworn in despite the opposition candidate claiming they received 60-70 per cent of the votes.
‘Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable,’ Romney continued in his tweet.
He told reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday that ‘there’s no question’ Republicans would step up and make sure the transition followed through if Trump resisted.
‘All the people who have sworn to support the Constitution would assure there would be a peaceful transition of power including the president,’ he said.
Romney added that he doesn’t believe there is ‘any scenario’ where Trump would not peacefully step aside and hand power over if elected out.
‘I’m absolutely confident there will be a peaceful transition if there’s a new president or if not, we’ll have a continuation,’ he said.
President Trump was asked during a press briefing Wednesday evening if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power after the November election – and declined to do so.
‘Well, we’ll have to see what happens,’ said Trump, when pressed on the matter at the White House.
It was a similar comment to those he made in 2016 when asked similar questions.
Romney’s comments about the refusal came just days after he said he would agree to vote to confirm whomever Trump nomination to take the Supreme Court seat left vacant by Ruth Bader Ginsburg instead of waiting until after the election.
Trump would not say if he would leave office peacefully if he loses. ‘[W]e’ll have to see what happens,’ he 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,’ he continued
Many worried Romney’s criticism of the president – and the fact that he was the only Republican to indict the president on one article of impeachment – would lead him to defect from the rank and file of the Party.
After refusing to go along with a pledge to vacate the Oval Office if he loses the election, the president attacked Democrats Wednesday and delivered swipes that appeared to be directed at mail-in voting, the subject of his frequent attacks at the White House and at campaign rallies.
Wyoming’s at-large Republican Representative Liz Cheney vowed to ‘uphold’ her oath to the Constitution as she defended U.S. election integrity.
‘The peaceful transfer of power is enshrined in our Constitution and fundamental to the survival of our Republic,’ she tweeted Thursday. ‘America’s leaders swear an oath to the Constitution. We will uphold that oath.’
‘Win lose or draw in this election will you commit here today for a peaceful transferal of power after the election?’ Trump was asked at the top of his press briefing.
‘Well, we’ll have to see what happens,’ Trump replied – entertaining the question, but also refusing to commit.
His questioner pointed to ‘rioting’ in U.S. cities, and asked if Trump would commit to making sure there is a peaceful transfer of power after the election.
‘You know that. I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster,’ he said, in a likely reference to mail-in ballots. Trump regularly says they are rife with fraud, although a handful of states use them for elections.
Trump was asked about a peaceful transfer as police clashed with protesters marching through the streets of Louisville after a grand jury chose not to indict three officers in the death of Breonna Taylor on Wednesday afternoon
‘Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful – there won’t be a transfer frankly, there’ll be a continuation,’ Trump said.
He continued: ‘The ballots are out of control. You know if. And you know who knows it better than anybody else, the Democrats,’ he said.
Trump’s refusal for a straight answer came the same day The Atlantic published an article titled ‘The Election that Could Break America,’ which played out scenarios where Trump would refuse to accept results amid court cases and recounts, and rejects the outcome even if rival Joe Biden appears to have won or be within sight of prevailing in the Electoral College.
Trump’s campaign is ‘discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority,’ according to the piece, by author and former Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman.
Biden was at a loss for words when asked how he felt about the president’s comments.
‘What country are we in?’ the former vice president queried to reporters.
‘I’m being facetious,’ he clarified. ‘I said, what country are we in? Look, he says the most irrational things. I don’t know what to say.’
‘Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful – there won’t be a transfer frankly, there’ll be a continuation.’ – President Donald Trump
The president made the comment as some of his fiercest critics have accused him of making moves toward authoritarianism. Biden said this summer trump will ‘try to steal’ but said he is convinced the military ‘will escort him from the White House with great dispatch.’
The president faces the backdrop of ongoing investigations by prosecutors in New York that could implicate the president if he were to leave office.
On Wednesday, a New York judge ruled that Eric Trump must comply with a subpoena in a probe that extends to Trump Organization statements when obtaining financing for projects.
Trump concluded the briefing saying he had to take an ’emergency phone call’ and turned the podium over to coronavirus advisor Dr. Scott Atlas.
McEnany on Thursday declined to say what the call was about but said Trump gets many important calls.
She began her briefing with an attack on Democrats: ‘Make no mistake. Democrat radicals want to shatter norms and disregard precedent for the sake of the very norms and precedent they claim must be safeguarded.’
She brought up ‘court-packing,’ impeachment, and calls to abolish the Electoral College. She called them ‘tactics they are using to sow chaos and discord’ and said they are endorsing a ‘mass mail-out ballot system’ that would likely lead to a ‘week long delay.’
She said they are doing so because ‘they cannot win on the merits.’
The clash over a peaceful and orderly transfer comes as Biden leads Trump by 7 percentage points nationally, according to a Real Clear Politics average of multiple polls.