President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said on Oct. 21 that Trump will accept the result of the election in the event of a loss, adding a caveat uttered by other administration officials that the election must be “free and fair.”
“If he loses the election, I’m certain the president will transfer power over,” O’Brien told Politico in an interview. “But we’ve got to make sure there’s no fraud in the election and we need to make sure it’s a free and fair election. Just like we demand of other countries overseas, we need to make the demand of ourselves.”
Trump sparked controversy when, in a September press conference, he refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election and pointed to the Democrats’ 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 later told Fox News in an interview that he would accept a Supreme Court decision adjudicating the result of a potentially contested election while again lambasting the expansion of mail-in balloting, this time calling it “a horror show.”
Then during last week’s NBC town hall, Trump said he would accept a peaceful transfer of power if he loses, though again raising questions about election integrity, this time in the face of reports of discarded mail-in ballots.
“They spied heavily on my campaign and they tried to take down a duly elected sitting president, and then they talk about ‘will you accept a peaceful transfer?’ And the answer is, yes, I will, but I want it to be an honest election, and so does everybody else,” Trump said. “When I see thousands of ballots dumped in a garbage can, and they happen to have my name on it, I’m not happy about it.”
Earlier, Trump said that “the only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged,” a statement that seems at odds with polling numbers, with the RealClearPolitics average of national polls putting Democratic nominee Joe Biden currently ahead of Trump by 7.7 points and showing Biden leading Trump all year by at least 4 points.
A recent statement by FBI Director Christopher Wray also challenged the notion of widespread, coordinated voter fraud in the upcoming election.
“Now, we have not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it’s by mail or otherwise,” Wray said in sworn testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee in September, in response to a question about the safety of voting by mail.
Biden campaign spokesman Mike Gwin told CNN the campaign is working with Democrats on Capitol Hill and voting rights groups on resisting a potential challenge of the election results by Trump.
“Donald Trump can bluster and lie all he wants, but we’re confident that this election will be decided fairly, and we’ve built the largest voter protection program in history to prepare for any contingency and fight back against any attempt by Trump to interfere with the democratic process,” Gwin told the outlet.