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GOP mostly silent on Trump's refusal to leave office if he loses

A few offered mild slaps on the wrist.

By Josh Israel - September 24, 2020
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Mitt Romney

Donald Trump suggested on Wednesday that he might not accept a peaceful transition of power if he loses in the election in November. Congressional Republicans responded with either silence or mild disagreement.

Asked by a reporter, “Win, lose, or draw in this election, will you commit here, today, for a peaceful transferral of power after the election?” Trump demurred.

“We’re going to have to see what happens. You know that I have been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster,” he said.

Pressed further, Trump said, “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer frankly. There’ll be a continuation.”

In response to Trump’s threat of a possible coup, a handful of his congressional Republican allies made statements that slightly disagreed with him — but fell well short of condemnation.

“Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus. Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable,” tweeted Sen. Mitt Romney on Wednesday evening, a day after announcing that he will back Trump’s rush to confirm a Supreme Court nominee weeks before the 2020 election.

“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,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted on Thursday.

Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted on Thursday, “As we have done for over two centuries we will have a legitimate & fair election. It may take longer than usual to know the outcome, but it will be a valid one. And at noon on Jan 20, 2021 we will peacefully swear in the President.”

“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,” House Republican Conference chair Liz Cheney tweeted.

And Rep. Steve Stivers tweeted Thursday: “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.”

“The peaceful transition of power is a sacred process, deliberately outlined in the Constitution to ensure the stability of our nation. It has been respected and followed by every President in our country’s history,” Rep. John Katko wrote on Facebook Thursday. “We must continue to work to ensure the integrity of the upcoming elections, but the importance of the transition of power to our democracy is larger than any one President and any one election. I will not hesitate to fulfill my responsibility in upholding my oath to the Constitution and protecting our democracy.”

According to FiveThirtyEight, Stivers has voted with Trump nearly 95% of the time, Cheney 96% of the time, McConnell more than 94%, Rubio almost 91%, and Romney nearly 82%. Even Katko, who represents a blue-leaning district in upstate New York, voted with Trump about 75% of the time.

Sen. Lindsey Graham did not even go that far in an interview with Fox News on Thursday morning, suggesting that the decision should rest with a right-wing Supreme Court majority.

“We need a nine-person Supreme Court and people wonder about the peaceful transfer of power. I can assure you, it would be peaceful,” he said. “We may have litigation about who won the election but the court would decide and if the Republicans lose we will accept the result. But we need a full court and I think that’s possible before the election.”

This pattern of mildly disagreeing with Trump’s anti-democratic comments but then standing with him anyway is nothing new for Republican lawmakers. In a presidential election debate in October 2016, Trump said that because he believed the election was rigged against him, he might not accept the results if he lost.

“I will look at it at the time,” Trump promised. “I will keep you in suspense.”

A few GOP lawmakers responded by urging Trump to accept the results of the election, but most said nothing.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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