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GOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power

Several high-profile Republicans on Thursday pushed back on President TrumpDonald TrumpDemocrats, activists blast reported Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report MORE’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses in November, though all stopped short of rebuking the president directly.

The criticisms, in a series of tweets that didn’t mention Trump by name, came from lawmakers like Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDemocrats cool on Crist's latest bid for Florida governor Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (Fla.), a former presidential rival of Trump four years ago, and Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe American Rescue Plan was a step toward universal basic income Cheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Florida's restrictive voting bill signed into law MORE (Utah), the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2012.

Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyGOP is consumed by Trump conspiracy theories National Review editors defend Cheney from party attacks Ohio GOP censures Republican lawmaker over Trump MORE (Wyo.), the highest-ranking GOP woman in Congress, and Rep. Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversThe Hill's Morning Report - Census winners and losers; House GOP huddles Ohio sets special election to replace retiring Rep. Steve Stivers The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP draws line on taxes; nation braces for Chauvin verdict MORE (Ohio), who previously headed the House GOP’s campaign operation, were among other Republicans who took to Twitter to reject Trump's decision not to embrace a peaceful transfer of power 40 days before the election.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week GOP is consumed by Trump conspiracy theories The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture MORE (R-Ky.), who frequently refuses to weigh in on Trump's controversial comments, maintained that there would be an “orderly” transition in January.

"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," McConnell said in a tweet.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamLindsey Graham: GOP can't 'move forward without President Trump' House to advance appropriations bills in June, July The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-S.C.), a Trump loyalist who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said on Fox News: “If Republicans lose we will accept the result. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit On The Money: Five takeaways on a surprisingly poor jobs report | GOP targets jobless aid after lackluster April gain MORE, I will accept that result.”

GOP lawmakers also predicted that any transition of power would go smoothly, even if it may take longer than usual for the election results to be finalized due to a potential surge in mail-in ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“As we have done for over two centuries we will have a legitimate & fair election,” Rubio tweeted Thursday. “It may take longer than usual to know the outcome, but it will be a valid one. And at noon on Jan 20, 2021 we will peacefully swear in the President.”

Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney who has sometimes publicly clashed with Trump over foreign policy and some of his personal attacks, reiterated that Inauguration Day would be a peaceful one.

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“The peaceful transfer of power is enshrined in our Constitution and fundamental to the survival of our Republic,” Cheney tweeted. “America’s leaders swear an oath to the Constitution. We will uphold that oath.”

Romney, who gave a 2016 speech warning about the dangers of a Trump presidency, suggested America would become Belarus if Trump loses in November and refuses to step down. Police in the Eastern European country recently arrested hundreds of people protesting against the swearing-in of authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko.

“Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus,” Romney tweeted. “Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.”

In defending Trump, some Republicans on Capitol Hill sought to turn the tables on Democrats. They seized on the words of former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMcConnell: Taliban could take over Afghanistan by 'the end of the year' Hillary Clinton: There must be a 'global reckoning' with disinformation Pelosi's archbishop calls for Communion to be withheld from public figures supporting abortion rights MORE, who publicly urged Biden not to concede to Trump “under any circumstances” because she thinks the election results are "going to drag out" due to ballots cast by mail.

“I would have the same concern when Hillary Clinton advised Biden not to concede the election,” Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley asks Blinken to provide potential conflicts involving John Kerry Overnight Defense: Gillibrand makes new push for military sexual assault reform | US troops begin leaving Afghanistan | Biden budget delay pushes back annual defense policy bill Gillibrand makes new push for military sexual assault reform MORE (R-Iowa) told reporters. “We have a Constitution and the Constitution says when the presidency ends. … It isn’t very good advice from Hillary Clinton to advise Biden about that.”

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) told reporters he had no concerns about Trump’s remarks, saying he was “very comfortable there will be a peaceful transition of power.”

"There will be a smooth transition," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week GOP is consumed by Trump conspiracy theories National Review editors defend Cheney from party attacks MORE (R-Calif.) said before pivoting to Clinton and questioning Biden's health during a combative news conference in the Capitol.

"It would be nice to see Joe Biden come out. There's times I worry about his health for the number of days that he puts a lid on it before 10 a.m. talking to the American public and denying us the ability to know what he believes or wants to say when he wants to be the leader of the free world. But you have the former nominee tell him, 'never concede,' ” McCarthy said. 

The distancing from several high-profile GOP lawmakers came after Trump on Wednesday refused to commit to ensuring a peaceful transfer of power in January if he’s defeated by Biden. And he quickly tried to cast doubt on the reliability of mail-in ballots, even as election officials have declared that they are safe.

"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.

Trump has repeatedly declined to say if he will accept the election results if he loses to Biden on Nov. 3.

When asked during an interview with Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceRepublicans hammer Biden on infrastructure while administration defends plan GOP senator: Two sides 'far apart' on infrastructure compromise Biden economic adviser frames infrastructure plan as necessary investment MORE of Fox News in July whether he would accept the election results, Trump said he would "have to see" and dismissed polls showing him trailing Biden as "fake."

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Trump has, without evidence, attacked voting by mail as susceptible to widespread fraud for months. Trump himself has also cast an absentee ballot by mail twice this year to vote in Florida primary elections.

Democrats have expressed alarm over Trump’s latest indication that he won’t accept the election results and called on the party to start making preparations now.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week Five takeaways on a surprisingly poor jobs report On The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to 498K, hitting new post-lockdown low | House to advance appropriations bills in June, July MORE (D-Calif.) said it was "no surprise" from Trump and said it was "very sad" that reporters felt compelled to ask about a scenario in which Trump refused to accept the election results.

"I remind him, you are not in North Korea. You are not in Turkey. You are not in Russia, Mr. President," Pelosi said at a press conference in the Capitol. "You are in the United States of America. It is a democracy."

"So why don't you just try for a moment to honor your oath of office, to the Constitution of the United States?" Pelosi said.

“There is no question he means exactly what he said. And people fail to take it seriously at our national peril,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump backs Stefanik to replace Cheney Gender politics hound GOP in Cheney drama Senate Intel vows to 'get to the bottom' of 'Havana syndrome' attacks MORE (D-Calif.), who led the impeachment proceedings against Trump, told MSNBC’s Rachel MaddowRachel Anne MaddowSchumer works to balance a divided caucus's demands Matt Taibbi: Rachel Maddow has become the new Bill O'Reilly Ocasio-Cortez eyeing T over 10 years for infrastructure MORE on Wednesday night.

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“I think the Biden campaign and certainly, those of us in Congress, are making every effort to push back, to prepare for these contingencies, to be ready to be engaged to save our democracy if and when the president seeks to throw out the ballots, get rid of the ballots as he was saying, and if Republican operatives around the country start to try to seek electors notwithstanding the popular vote in those states,” Schiff said.

When asked about Trump’s comments, Biden responded: “What country are we in?”

"He says the most irrational things," Biden said. "I don't know what to say to that. It doesn't surprise me."

— Updated at 12:10 p.m.