Trump says he wants 'friendly transition' but must be 'an honest vote'

President TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE maintained Friday night that he supports a "smooth, beautiful transition" of power after the November election but suggested that he may not quickly accept the results of the election, claiming that the only way he will lose is if there's "mischief."

Trump’s comments at a rally in Newport News, Va., followed bipartisan backlash he sparked this week by refusing to commit to a peaceful transition should he lose to Democratic rival Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race On The Money: Democrats get to the hard part Health Care — GOP attorneys general warn of legal battle over Biden's vaccine mandate MORE. The president has voiced concern about mail-in ballots in some states, asserting they may prevent an "honest vote."

“I want a smooth, beautiful transition,” Trump said during the rally on Friday night. “But they don’t add the other part: But it’s got to be an honest vote.”

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He then added, “This is a disaster waiting to happen.” 

During another portion of the rally, Trump claimed that the only scenario in which he will lose to Biden is if there is "mischief" involved, though he did not elaborate on details.

"We're not gonna lose this except if they cheat," Trump said. "That's the only way we're gonna lose is if there's mischief ... and it'll have to be on a big scale," he added.

"We do want a very friendly transition, but we don't want to be cheated and be stupid and say, 'Oh let's trans — we'll go and we'll do a transition,' and we know that there were thousands and thousands of ballots that made the difference through cheating. We're not gonna stand for it," he said.

Trump’s caveats about supporting a peaceful transfer of power are the latest in the president’s repeated claims without evidence that the practice of absentee voting contains rampant fraud.

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Biden blasted Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transition in an interview with NBC News on Friday, saying, "This is a typical Trump distraction. He's trying to make everybody wonder whether or not the election will be legit."

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, states are relying more heavily on mail-in ballots, which Trump noted Friday could lead to a delayed election result. Mail-in ballots can be counted after Election Day in some states if they are postmarked no later than Nov. 3.

“I could be leading, and then they’ll just keep getting ballots and ballots and ballots and ballots,” Trump told the crowd ini Virginia. “They’re talking about five, six, seven states that have this problem. So if we’re waiting for one state, does that mean the whole nation, the whole world is going to wait for one state?”

“I like watching television and have ‘The winner is,’ right?” he added. “You might not hear it for months because this is a mess.”

Trump added that the larger number of mail-in ballots would be “very hard to watch.”

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The president had previously resisted saying he would accept a peaceful transition if he loses in November, telling reporters at a White House briefing on Wednesday that “we’re going to have to see what happens.” 

These comments drew harsh criticism from Democrats, with House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Democrats get to the hard part Biden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week Stefanik in ad says Democrats want 'permanent election insurrection' MORE (D-Calif.) saying at a press conference on Thursday that Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transition is “no surprise,” adding that Trump has “been contemptible of science and governance.” 

“We want a peaceful transfer of power,” Pelosi told reporters. “It’s very sad that you even have to ask that question.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants CEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' MORE (R-Ky.) on Thursday pushed back on the idea that Trump would refuse to peacefully hand off power if he loses, saying in a tweet, "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."

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany echoed these remarks at a press briefing Thursday, asserting that “the president will accept the results of a free and fair election.”