Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell joined other Republicans to reject US President Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power following the November 3 election, defending the US system of constitutional democracy.
“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 wrote in a tweet.
Several other legislators came out strongly in favour of the peaceful transition of power following the Republican president’s comments on Wednesday, although none criticised him directly.
“The peaceful transfer of power is enshrined in our Constitution and fundamental to the survival of our Republic. America’s leaders swear an oath to the Constitution. We will uphold that oath,” Representative Liz Cheney, who leads the House of Representatives Republican Conference, wrote on Twitter.
Senator Marco Rubio, a former Republican presidential candidate, asserted the upcoming election contest between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden will be legitimate, fair and in line with more than two centuries of American practice.
“It may take longer than usual to know the outcome, but it will be a valid one,” Rubio wrote on Twitter.
In a tweet, Republican Representative Steve Stivers wrote: “Nothing defines our Constitutional Republic more than the peaceful transition of power. I’ve taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and I will uphold that oath.”
On Wednesday, Trump, responding to a reporter’s question, refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose in November.
“We’re going to have to see what happens,” he told reporters, saying the outcome could end up at the country’s highest court.
Al Jazeera’s Heidi Zhou Castro said Trump had “ignited a firestorm” with his comments on the transition of power, but appeared unwilling to back down.
“Rather than trying to defuse the situation he’s fanning the flames,” she said after the president spent Thursday continuing to cast unsubstantiated doubts on the integrity of the polls.
In the White House, spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Trump would “accept the result of a free and fair election.”
Not all Republicans have expressed alarm at Trump’s remarks.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally who is overseeing the process to weigh the president’s forthcoming Supreme Court nominee, said he expected a peaceful transition.
“I can assure you it will be peaceful,” Graham told Fox News. “Now we may have litigation about who won the election, but the (Supreme) Court will decide and if the Republicans lose, we will accept that result. But we need a full court.”
Trump, who trails Biden in national opinion polls, has long sought to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election, claiming without evidence that mail-in voting would be rife with fraud.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Trump repeated his unsubstantiated claims, saying he did not know that an “honest” election could be held “with this whole situation, unsolicited ballots.”
Michael Waldman, president of New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, said there was no problem with the voting arrangements.
“The system is not broken,” the told Reuters. “States are actually improving their voting rules day by day.”
A record number of Americans are expected to vote by mail this year because of the risk posed the coronavirus pandemic, with Democrats hoping postal voting will help motivate large numbers of voters who oppose Trump.
In 2016, Trump also raised questions about whether he would accept the results of the election, which he went on to win.
But Democrats said Trump’s latest remarks were more disturbing.
“Chilling is too mild a word,” Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine who caucuses with the Democrats, told CNN. “It’s really an invitation to violence.”
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer predicted voters would not allow Trump to become a dictator. “This man has no honesty, honour, values or faith in the American system,” he said in a CNN interview.
Biden, speaking to reporters on Wednesday, said Trump’s comments on the transition of power were “irrational”.
The former vice president’s campaign said it was prepared for any “shenanigans” from Trump, and reiterated comments from July that “the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House”.
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