U.S. President Donald Trump has declined to confirm he is willing to agree to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses his November 3 bid for re-election to Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden.
“We’re going to have to see what happens,” said the president in response to a reporter’s question during a White House news conference on Wednesday evening. “I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster.”
Trump, without evidence, has repeatedly predicted massive fraud with tens of millions of mail-in ballots, which Democrats have encouraged amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We want to have -- get rid of the ballots,” continued the president, explaining if that happens “there won't be a transfer, frankly; there'll be a continuation.”
Biden, after his campaign plane landed in Delaware on Wednesday evening, was asked to respond to Trump’s remarks.
"What country are we in? I'm being facetious,” said the former vice president. “I said what country are we in? Look, he says the most irrational things. I don't know what to say."
At least one of Trump’s fellow Republicans in the U.S. Senate, expressed alarm about the president’s remark.
“Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus,” said Senator Mitt Romney of Utah on Twitter. “Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.”
Romney was his party’s nominee for president in 2012 and has been one of the few Republicans in the Senate to occasionally take issue with Trump’s rhetoric and actions.
“There is no question that he means exactly what he said,” Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on MSNBC about the president’s comment, adding that it was time for those serving in the Trump administration “to resign” in protest.
One of the country’s oldest constitutional rights groups also weighed in.
“The peaceful transfer of power is essential to a functioning democracy. This statement from the president of the United States should trouble every American,” said David Cole, the national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump said he thinks the November election "will end up in the Supreme Court and I think it's very important that we have nine justices."
The president plans to announce his Supreme Court nominee on Saturday to fill the seat of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who died this past Friday.
If the Senate confirms the president’s nominee before the election that would give the conservative wing a 6-3 majority on the court.
"This scam that the Democrats are pulling, it's a scam, the scam will be before the United States Supreme Court, and I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation," said Trump.
The president has repeatedly expressed concern about plans by a number of states, including California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Washington, to automatically dispatch mail-in ballots to all state residents for the election.
Benjamin Ginsberg, a top election lawyer who has represented four Republican presidential candidates, has been quoted this month saying Trump’s prediction of fraud with such ballots lacks evidence.
“The president’s words make his and the Republican Party’s rhetoric look less like sincere concern — and more like transactional hypocrisy designed to provide an electoral advantage,” Ginsberg wrote in a Washington Post opinion article. “And they come as Republicans trying to make their cases in courts must deal with the basic truth that four decades of dedicated investigation have produced only isolated incidents of election fraud.”