President Donald Trump refused Wednesday to commit to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the 2020 election to Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
“Well, we’ll have to see what happens. You know that. I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster,” Trump said at a news conference at the White House. It appeared Trump was referring to mail-in ballots, which he has repeatedly condemned, without evidence, as susceptible to massive fraud.
The president had been asked by a reporter if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power, “win, lose or draw.”
When the reporter noted that “people are rioting,” Trump replied: “Get rid of the ballots, and you’ll have a very – you’ll have a very peaceful – there won’t be a transfer, frankly, there’ll be a continuation.”
“The ballots are out of control,” Trump said, adding, “The Democrats know it better than anybody else.”
The Biden campaign issued the following statement in response to Trump declining to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he were to lose the election: “The American people will decide this election. And the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.”
The Trump campaign pushed back on criticism of the president’s answer. “The premise of the question the President was asked assumed that he would lose, which he naturally disagrees with, meaning there will not be a change in administration,” said spokesman Tim Murtaugh.
Minutes after he discussed the potential outcome of the election, the president abruptly left the briefing room, telling the press, “I have to leave to take an emergency phone call.”
The White House did not immediately respond to request for details on Trump’s departure.
Trump in his brief time at the rostrum also discussed his upcoming announcement of a nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“I think it will be a great nominee, a brilliant nominee,” Trump said, noting that he had already committed to selecting a female judge for the Supreme Court.
Ginsburg, the Court’s senior liberal associate justice, died Friday evening at age 87 due to complications from pancreatic cancer.
Trump and most Senate Republicans, especially Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have signaled eagerness to have Ginsburg’s seat filled before the Nov. 3 election.
Doing so would likely cement a conservative majority on the nine-member bench, which could alter the trajectory of U.S. law for decades to come.
It could also play a central role in the near term. With the coronavirus pandemic spurring massive changes to vote-by-mail rules in numerous states, the 2020 election has already become a battlefield of partisan litigation.
The president has already predicted that the high court will decide the winner.
“I think this well end up in the Supreme Court and I think it’s very important that we have nine justices, and I think the system’s going to go very quickly,” Trump said at the White House earlier Wednesday.
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