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Trump says he'll accept peaceful transfer, 'but I want it to be an honest election'

Trump says he'll accept peaceful transfer, 'but I want it to be an honest election'
© ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images

President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE on Thursday said he will accept a peaceful transfer of power after the next election, but he offered the caveat that he wants it to be an "honest election" and cast further doubt on the reliability of mail ballots.

"Peaceful transfer? I absolutely want that. But ideally, I don’t want to transfer, because I want to win," Trump said during an NBC News town hall.

But he then went on the attack, accusing Democrats of failing to participate in a peaceful transfer when they "spied heavily on my campaign" and "tried to take down a duly elected sitting president." The Obama administration did investigate members of Trump's campaign team over concerns about potential ties to Russia.

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"And then they talk about, 'Will you accept a peaceful transfer?' " Trump said. "The answer is yes, I will. But I want it to be an honest election. And so does everybody else."

Trump had previously refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, drawing rebukes from Republicans.

The president has for months railed against mail-in ballots, which are becoming increasingly preferred during the pandemic, suggesting the election will be "rigged" or "fraudulent" because of them.

Trump repeated some of those claims on Thursday, citing a vague case where "thousands of ballots [were] dumped in a garbage can" and referencing a case in Ohio where roughly 50,000 voters received inaccurate absentee ballots.

Experts have repeatedly said there is no evidence of meaningful voter fraud involving mail-in ballots, and Trump's own FBI director has said there is no evidence of a "coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election whether it’s by mail or otherwise."

Trump's repeated attacks on the integrity of the election have raised alarms among lawmakers and watchdogs. He escalated his rhetoric last month when asked if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

“We’re going to have to see what happens, you know, but I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots. The ballots are a disaster,” Trump told reporters at a White House briefing.