Donald Trump was roundly rebuked by Republicans after he refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses to Joe Biden in November’s US election.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader who rarely censures Mr Trump, wrote on Twitter that there would be an “orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792” — a reference to the re-election of George Washington.
His comment came amid a storm of anger about Mr Trump’s response to a question on Wednesday, when asked if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power in the event that he lost the November ballot. Mr Trump replied: “We’re going to have to see what happens.”
Mitt Romney, the Utah senator and former Republican presidential nominee, attacked Mr Trump, saying the peaceful transition of power was what separated the US from authoritarian regimes.
“Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power. Without that, there is Belarus,” he tweeted. “Any suggestion that a president might not respect this constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.”
Some of Mr Trump’s closest allies, including Lindsey Graham, the Republican chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, also pushed back against his remarks, saying Republicans would accept losing the White House, and would accept any Supreme Court ruling in favour of Mr Biden.
Liz Cheney, the number three Republican in the House of Representatives, also rebuked Mr Trump. “The peaceful transfer of power is enshrined in our constitution and fundamental to the survival of our republic,” said Ms Cheney, who is viewed as a possible future presidential contender.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, chastised Mr Trump, saying it was “very sad” that he was undermining US democracy, adding that the country was not North Korea or Russia.
“You are in the United States . . . it is a democracy,” she said. “So, why don’t you just try for a moment to honour our oath of office to the constitution.”
Mr Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, asked: “What country are we in?” when asked about the controversy. “He says the most irrational things,” he said of the president.
Mr Trump has long refused to say that he would accept the outcome of the election. He has claimed that the expected rise in postal ballots because of the pandemic was an “out of control” disaster that would help Mr Biden. But he went further on Wednesday by not committing to a peaceful transfer.
Americans are expected to vote by post in far larger numbers this year because of the pandemic. But Christopher Wray, the FBI director who was appointed by Mr Trump, recently told Congress there was no evidence that the US electoral process had ever been tarnished with the kind of widescale fraud that Mr Trump has alleged has occurred in the past.
“We have not seen a danger of a co-ordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election,” Mr Wray said.
Mr Trump’s remarks on Wednesday came after he said he wanted the Senate to approve his upcoming Supreme Court pick before the election because he thought the court would have to rule on a contested result.
“This will end up in the Supreme Court, and I think it’s very important that we have nine justices,” he said about the election.
Mr Trump will on Saturday unveil his choice for the ninth seat on the court, which became vacant after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He is pushing Mr McConnell to hold a vote on his nominee before the election but some Republicans believe holding the vote afterwards would motivate more of their Republicans to head to the polls on November 3.
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