Washington, 24 September 2020 (dpa/MIA) – The top Republican in the US Congress has vowed an “orderly transition” of power after November’s presidential election, a day after President Donald Trump declined to explicitly commit to a peaceful handover.
Trump was asked by a reporter if he would commit to a peaceful transition – in the event that he lost – and he declined. “We’re gonna have to see what happens,” the president answered during a White House press briefing Wednesday.
The Republican president, who is trailing in the polls, has also been increasingly indicating he will fight the election results in the courts, while accusing the rival Democrats of carrying out a “scam” and possible fraud.
“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,” McConnell, the Senate majority leader, tweeted on Thursday.
The remark stands as a rare internal Republican rebuke of the president, who remains immensely popular among the party’s base, but is regularly accused by critics of violating democratic norms.
Top members of Congress from both parties have been expressing alarm about the president’s remarks, which come just 40 days before the election.
Nancy Pelosi, the highest ranking Democrat in Congress, said that she had “confidence in the American people” to send a clear result in the November election.
“That the president of the United States would place in doubt the idea of the peaceful transfer of power, well it’s not a surprise,” said Pelosi, the speaker of the House, referencing her long-running concerns about Trump.
Joe Manchin, a centrist Democrat in the Senate who has tried to work with Republicans and the Trump administration, spoke out harshly, warning that the president “wants autocracy,” in a move that signalled growing frustration.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 candidate for president, was one of the first to lash out at Trump, tweeting: “Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus.”
Pressed by reporters, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, said that Trump’s concern was about voting by mail, a method of casting ballots that is being expanded this year, in large part because of the coronavirus pandemic.
McEnany alleged mail-in ballots could be used for fraud – though experts say in the past there have only been negligible incidents of serious tampering, even if the prospect is not impossible.
“The president will accept the results of a free and fair election,” McEnany said, still hedging. “He will accept the will of the American people.”
She noted that top Democrats have also made comments regarding their concerns, including some who have said Trump could only win in November by cheating.
Votes are tallied at the state and local level, not by the federal government.
In 2016, when Trump first ran for office, he pledged to accept the election results only if they were clear cut, and if he emerged victorious.
Trump is increasingly eyeing court challenges to the election, a course of action taking on new meaning as he now prepares to swiftly fill a Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last week.
Democrats are trying to get the nomination process deferred to after the election, but they likely lack the votes in the Senate to delay any confirmation process.
Trump, a Republican, is currently trailing Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the polls.
“He says the most irrational things. I don’t know what to say about this, but it doesn’t surprise me,” Biden told reporters about the president’s latest remarks.
With the country already reeling from months of unrest, stemming from protests against police brutality and racism, the idea of a less-than-peaceful transition of power has made some more concerned.