GOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power

Several high-profile Republicans on Thursday pushed back on President Trump’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 Rubio (Fla.), a former presidential rival of Trump four years ago, and Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2012.

Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the highest-ranking GOP woman in Congress, and Rep. Steve Stivers (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.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (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 Graham (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 Biden, 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.

“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 Clinton, 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 Grassley (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 McCarthy (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 Wallace 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.”

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 Pelosi (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 Schiff (D-Calif.), who led the impeachment proceedings against Trump, told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Wednesday night.

“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.

Tags Adam Schiff Chris Wallace Chuck Grassley Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Joe Biden Kevin McCarthy Lindsey Graham Liz Cheney Marco Rubio Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Nancy Pelosi Rachel Maddow Steve Stivers

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video