US President Donald Trump declined on Wednesday to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the November 3 elections to Democratic rival Joe Biden and said he expected the election battle to end up before the Supreme Court.
“We’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump, a Republican, told reporters at the White House when asked whether he would commit to transferring power.
The president, who trails Biden in national opinion polls, has repeatedly cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election, asserting without evidence that mail-in voting would lead to fraud and a “rigged” outcome.
“The ballots are a disaster,” Trump said.
Democrats have encouraged voting by mail as a way to cast ballots safely during the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of Americans, including much of the military, have cast absentee ballots by mail for years without problems.
In 2016, Trump also raised questions about whether he would accept the results of the election. He went on to win the presidency.
Biden, speaking to reporters in Delaware, said Trump’s comments on the transition of power were “irrational.”
His campaign said it was prepared for any “shenanigans” from Trump, and reiterated comments from July that “the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.”
Mitt Romney, a rare Trump critic among Republican senators, said on Twitter: “Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus. Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.”
Trump is moving quick to nominate a successor to liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Friday, said he thinks the election “will end up in the Supreme Court and I think it’s very important that we have nine justices.” Trump plans to announce his nominee on Saturday.
A Senate confirmation vote before the election would seal a 6-3 conservative majority on the court, potentially spelling trouble for Democrats should it be called on to decide any legal dispute over the results of the election.
“This scam that the Democrats are pulling, it’s a scam, the scam will be before the United States Supreme Court, and I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation,” Trump said.