WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump declined to commit Wednesday to providing a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election, prompting a backlash on social media from critics who said it raised questions about his willingness to relinquish power.
“Well, we’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump said when asked directly whether he would commit to a peaceful transition, assuming he lost the election.
“You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster,” Trump told reporters, referring to state where ballots are mailed automatically to registered voters. “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very a peaceful – there won’t be a transfer, frankly, there’ll be a continuation.”
Democratic candidate Joe Biden was asked about Trump’s comments Wednesday night.
“What country are we in? I’m being facetious,” Biden said, adding, “Look, he says the most irrational things. I don’t know what to say.”
In the past, including during the 2016 and 2020 elections, Trump has declined to say whether he would accept voters’ results, suggesting he wants to leave his options open to contest those results.
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Trump has also repeatedly joked at rallies that he would seek more than two terms, a line he uses to show how he “triggers” outrage about his Democratic critics.
Trump’s latest remarks drew a firestorm of criticism on Twitter. The peaceful transfer of power between U.S. presidential administration is a hallmark of the country’s stability.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not name Trump directly but said the transfer of power would continue as usual, writing on Twitter “the winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20. There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792.”
“People who are very chill about the president not committing to the peaceful transfer of power unless they ‘get rid of the ballots’ are too chill for me,” tweeted Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii. “This seems an awfully serious thing to be dismissive about. At the very least it’s a good reason to oppose him vigorously.”
GOP Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah also responded on Twitter.
“Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus,” Romney tweeted. “Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.”
Joe Lockhart, a former spokesman to President Bill Clinton, suggested that every Democratic member of Congress send a letter to the president “demanding he commit to the peaceful transition of power in writing. If he won’t, impeachment is a viable option.”
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wy., also stood by a peaceful transition.