Issued on: 25/09/2020 – 03:33
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republicans on Thursday repudiated President Donald Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, assuring American voters the lawmakers would accept the outcome of November's election.
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Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Trump said he did not know that an "honest" election could be held on Nov. 3 "with this whole situation, unsolicited ballots."
The Republican president's rhetoric on Wednesday, which largely referred to voting by mail, set off a fury that prompted several Republicans in Congress to distance themselves from Trump.
Despite four years of incendiary statements by Trump, members of his own party have been loath to criticise him, as many feared political retribution.
"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 wrote in a morning tweet.
Like other Republicans, McConnell did not directly criticize Trump.
By midday, with the controversy raging, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told a news briefing: "The president will accept the results of a free and fair election."
But for months, Trump has cast November's election as being rigged and repeatedly attacked Democrats for promoting widespread use of mail-in ballots for voters who do not want to risk contracting the deadly COVID-19 virus by casting their ballots at potentially crowded polling centers.
In an interview on Fox News Radio, Trump called mail-in ballots "a horror show," despite studies showing no significant problems with that method of voting over the years.
Michael Waldman, president of New York University's Brennan Center for Justice, said voting arrangements were steadily advancing. In an interview with Reuters Television, he added: "The system is not broken. States are actually improving their voting rules day by day."
Democrats accused Trump of threatening American democracy and further politicising his upcoming choice to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by suggesting the yet-to-be named nominee would have a role in the election's outcome.
Some of McConnell's fellow Republicans joined the effort to quell election fears, including Senators Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who told reporters: "It will be a smooth transition regardless of the outcome."
Trump, who trails Biden in national opinion polls, has long sought to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election, asserting without evidence that mail-in voting would be rife with fraud.
"President Trump, you are not a dictator and America will not permit you to be one," said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, calling him "the gravest threat" to U.S. democracy.
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