After hesitating to make the commitment for weeks, President Donald Trump said he would accept a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election. But he continued to sow doubt on the election results and making baseless claims about Obama administration officials spying on his 2016 campaign in an NBC town hall on Thursday night.
“They spied heavily on my campaign and they tried to take down a duly elected sitting president, and then they talk about ‘will you accept a peaceful transfer?’ And the answer is, yes, I will, but I want it to be an honest election and so does everybody else,” the President said, adding, “When I see thousands of ballots dumped in a garbage can and they happen to have my name on it, I’m not happy about it.”
Presented with the claim by his own FBI director that there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, Trump again took a swipe at FBI Director Christopher Wray, saying. “Oh really? Then he’s not doing a very good job.”
Asked why he seemed to be laying the groundwork for doubt in the election results, the President claimed: “I don’t want that to happen.”
“I want it to be clean and I … I really feel we’re going to win, but I want this to be clean,” the President said.
After giving several answers riddled with election disinformation, Trump gave his final thoughts on the matter: “Peaceful transfer … I absolutely want that, but ideally, I don’t want a transfer because I want to win.”
Trump previously would not commit to providing a peaceful transition of power after Election Day, lending further fuel to concerns he may not relinquish his office should he lose in November.
“Well, we’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump had said in September when asked whether he’d commit to a peaceful transition, one of the cornerstones of American democracy.
Trump has previously refused to say whether he would accept the election results, echoing his sentiments from 2016. And he has joked – he says – about staying in office well past the constitutionally bound two terms.
But his refusal to guarantee a violence-free transition went further and is likely to alarm his opponents, already on edge given his deployment of federal law enforcement to quell protests in American cities.