President Donald Trump on Wednesday refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power in the event he loses the election on Nov. 3, pointing to the Democrat’s push for widespread use of mail-in ballots.
“We’re going to have to see what happens,” the president told reporters at the White House in response to a question about whether he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”
Trump and Attorney General William Barr, among others, have long criticized the prospect of a mass mail-in election, saying that it opens the door to voter fraud. At least 100 million U.S. voters will receive either mail-in ballots or ballot request forms ahead of the 2020 election.
The president appeared to suggest that doing away with mail-in ballots would alleviate his concerns about the integrity of the election and the transition of power.
“You’ll have a very peaceful—there won’t be a transfer frankly,” the president said. “There’ll be a continuation. The ballots are out of control. You know it, and you know, who knows it better than anybody else? The Democrats know it better than anybody else.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, responded to Trump’s remarks when queried by a reporter later in the evening.
“What country are we in? I’m being facetious. I said what country are we in? Look, he says the most irrational things. I don’t know what to say,” Biden said.
The former vice president has previously said that his campaign has retained 600 lawyers to wage election-related legal battles across the United States. Trump’s former election opponent, Hillary Clinton, has urged Biden to not accept the results of the election if Trump wins.
Trump had similarly declined to commit to a peaceful transition in 2016 when he campaigned against Clinton. At a presidential debate, he responded to a question about the event of an election loss by saying he would “keep you in suspense.”
Trump also refused to prematurely commit to accepting any election results in a July interview with Fox News.
“I have to see. Look … I have to see,” Trump said. “No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either.”
The president has previously predicted that a mass vote-by-mail election would result in the outcome of the election being delayed by weeks or months. A number of state election officials are already preparing voters for this eventuality as though it is now unavoidable.
Without mentioning Trump by name, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) criticized any suggestion of a challenge to the peaceful transition of power. Romney was the only Republican senator to vote to convict Trump at the impeachment trial last year.
“Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus,” Romney wrote on Twitter. “Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.”
Days before announcing his nominee to the Supreme Court, Trump said the bench should have all nine judges for the event of a legal challenge to the election.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.