Some in GOP say Trump has gone too far
© Getty

Congressional Republicans are expressing discomfort with Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren unveils Native American policy plan Live-action 'Mulan' star spurs calls for boycott with support of Hong Kong police Don't let other countries unfairly tax America's most innovative companies MORE’s claims that the election is “rigged” against him.

They fear his assertions will undermine Americans’ faith in the electoral process and the long-standing precedent that candidates accept the legitimacy of voting results.

ADVERTISEMENT

Even members of Congress who have endorsed Trump think his accusations of widespread voter fraud go too far. 

“If he's saying it's rigged because national media is biased then I agree with him,” a GOP lawmaker who supports Trump told The Hill, requesting anonymity to speak candidly. “If he's saying it's rigged because election officials will commit fraud, then I think he's way off base.”

With nearly every national poll showing Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Colorado candidates vying to take on Gardner warn Hickenlooper they won't back down Trump seeks to project confidence on economy at New Hampshire rally MORE ahead of Trump in the race, he is increasingly warning of a conspiracy to steal the election.

Trump has been making the claims as he seeks to recover from the release of a 2005 tape in which he brags about using his celebrity to grope and kiss women without their consent. Since the release of the tape, nearly a dozen women have come forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct.

“Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before Election Day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!” Trump tweeted on Monday.

“The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary — but also at many polling places — SAD,” he posted a day earlier.

Trump and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceLog Cabin Republicans endorse Trump Pence to travel to United Kingdom, Ireland and Iceland in September Michigan House Democrats plan vigil for Iraqi man who died after deportation MORE, are encouraging supporters to monitor polling stations on Election Day.

Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Nadler subpoenas Lewandowski, former White House official for testimony McCabe sues FBI, DOJ, blames Trump for his firing MORE (R-Ala.), the first senator to endorse Trump, said during a New Hampshire rally over the weekend that forces against the nominee are “attempting to rig this election," adding, “They will not succeed.”  

But among GOP lawmakers, Sessions is alone so far in siding with Trump.

To some Republicans, Trump’s claims of a rigged result are a sign that he is preparing for the likelihood of losing the election.

“I think he’s setting up for, in his own perverse twisted way, having some way of explaining when he goes on all the talk shows after he’s been trounced, of saying, ‘I didn’t lose,’ because he can’t fathom this because he’s a ‘winner,’” Rep. Scott RigellEdward (Scott) Scott RigellGOP rushes to embrace Trump GOP lawmaker appears in Gary Johnson ad Some in GOP say Trump has gone too far MORE (R-Va.) told The Hill in a Monday interview.

But Rigell warned that stoking doubts about the results could lead Trump’s loyal supporters to view Clinton’s presidency as illegitimate, breaking from the peaceful transitions of power that have been the norm. 

Polling suggests Trump’s rhetoric is already influencing voters. A Politico-Morning Consult survey released Monday found that 41 percent of voters think the election could be “stolen” from Trump due to widespread voter fraud. 

“There are hundreds of thousands, and perhaps more than that, that will buy what he’s selling,” Rigell said. “It’s cancerous to a republic.”

Rigell, for his part, is retiring from Congress this year and plans to vote for Libertarian nominee Gary JohnsonGary Earl JohnsonTrump's GOP challenger: 'I may be reduced' to debating Alec Baldwin Amash won't rule out Libertarian challenge to Trump Buzz grows Amash will challenge Trump as a Libertarian MORE instead of the GOP ticket.

“He’s a pathetic individual,” Rigell said of Trump.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanEmbattled Juul seeks allies in Washington Ex-Parkland students criticize Kellyanne Conway Latina leaders: 'It's a women's world more than anything' MORE (R-Wis.), who has said he will no longer defend Trump, issued a statement over the weekend emphasizing his faith in the electoral system.

“Our democracy relies on confidence in election results, and the speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said.

Trump quickly fired back at Ryan on Twitter, writing, “The Democrats have a corrupt political machine pushing crooked Hillary Clinton. We have Paul Ryan, always fighting the Republican nominee!” 

Some GOP leaders are silent on Trump’s claims. Representatives for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSocial media never intended to be in the news business — but just wait till AI takes over Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity Two-thirds of Americans support assault weapons ban: Fox News poll MORE (R-Ky.) and House Administration Committee Chairwoman Candice Miller (R-Mich.), whose panel oversees federal elections, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Neither did a spokeswoman for Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. But one of Walden’s deputies and the front-runner to replace him at the top of the House GOP campaign arm, Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), dismissed the notion of a rigged election.  

"I have full faith in our election system to conduct a fair election," Stivers said. "America leads the world in conducting fair and open elections, and I have no reason to believe this year would be any different."

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), another Trump supporter, rejected the notion that the election would be rigged. He tried to frame Trump’s rhetoric as a way of motivating supporters to the polls on Election Day. 

"He wants to make sure that, with all of the talk about Trump not winning, he wants to tell his people, 'Hey, get out there, make sure that we get every last vote out because they're gonna be working against us,’” King said Monday on the ”Imus in the Morning” radio show in a clip posted by CNN’s KFILE.  

"Now, whether that's accurate or not, I think his method, or his motive here, is to make sure that every one of his voters does get out there to compensate for any other votes that he feels may be rigged against him,” King said.  

Democrats pointed to Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold Gore2020 Democrats release joint statement ahead of Trump's New Hampshire rally Deregulated energy markets made Texas a clean energy giant Gun safety is actually a consensus issue MORE’s concession of the 2000 election as an example of how candidates should act once the system declares a winner. 

"This issue is bigger than any of us and bigger than this election. This is about each of us doing our part to ensure the continued functioning of our democracy. At some point, the good of the country must outweigh the instinct for political self-preservation,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason Reid2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care Reid says he wishes Franken would run for Senate again Panel: How Biden's gaffes could cost him against Trump MORE (D-Nev.) said in a joint statement on Monday.

Election experts say rigging the vote would be difficult due to the decentralized system that relies on thousands of state and local officials. One investigation by a Loyola Law School professor found only 31 cases of voter fraud out of more than a billion votes cast.  

Scott Wong contributed.