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Key Republicans Push Back on Trump Hesitance to Assure Peaceful Transfer of Power

FILE - Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, left, and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, both wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus walk on Capitol Hill, in Washington, May 19, 2020.
FILE - Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, left, and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, both wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus walk on Capitol Hill, in Washington, May 19, 2020.

Leading Republicans are stressing the importance of a peaceful transition of power in the U.S., a day after President Donald Trump declined to commit to one if he loses his bid for re-election to Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden.

“We’re going to have to see what happens,” said the president in response to a reporter’s question during a White House news conference on Wednesday evening. “I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster.”

Trump, without evidence, has repeatedly predicted massive fraud with tens of millions of mail-in ballots, which Democrats have encouraged amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We want to have -- get rid of the ballots,” continued the president, explaining if that happens “there won't be a transfer, frankly; there'll be a continuation.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday tweeted “The winner of the November 3 election will be inaugurated on January 20th. There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792.”

Florida Senator Marco Rubio said “at noon on January 20, 2021 we will peacefully swear in the President.”

Congresswoman Liz Cheney said Thursday on Twitter “The peaceful transfer of power is enshrined in our Constitution and fundamental to the survival or our Republic.”

Longtime Republican Senator Lindsay Graham told Fox and Friends “If Republicans lose, we will accept the result.”

Trump’s Democratic rival Biden also responded to Trump’s remarks on Wednesday.

"What country are we in? I'm being facetious,” said the former vice president. “I said what country are we in? Look, he says the most irrational things. I don't know what to say."

FILE - Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden departs after voting early in Delaware's state primary election at the New Castle County Board of Elections office, in Wilmington, Delaware, Sept. 14, 2020.

One of the country’s oldest constitutional rights groups also weighed in.

“The peaceful transfer of power is essential to a functioning democracy. This statement from the president of the United States should trouble every American,” said David Cole, the national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump said he thinks the November election "will end up in the Supreme Court and I think it's very important that we have nine justices."

The president plans to announce his Supreme Court nominee on Saturday to fill the seat of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who died this past Friday.

If the Senate confirms the president’s nominee before the election that would give the conservative wing a 6-3 majority on the court.

"This scam that the Democrats are pulling, it's a scam, the scam will be before the United States Supreme Court, and I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation," said Trump.

The president has repeatedly expressed concern about plans by a number of states, including California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Washington, to automatically dispatch mail-in ballots to all state residents for the election.

Benjamin Ginsberg, a top election lawyer who has represented four Republican presidential candidates, has been quoted this month saying Trump’s prediction of fraud with such ballots lacks evidence.

“The president’s words make his and the Republican Party’s rhetoric look less like sincere concern — and more like transactional hypocrisy designed to provide an electoral advantage,” Ginsberg wrote in a Washington Post opinion article. “And they come as Republicans trying to make their cases in courts must deal with the basic truth that four decades of dedicated investigation have produced only isolated incidents of election fraud.”

VOA's Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report from Wilmington, Delaware.