WASHINGTON — Top Republican lawmakers on Thursday dismissed President Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the 2020 election, seeking to deliver reassurances that the process outlined in the Constitution will be orderly and legitimate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., tweeted Thursday, “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.”
Although McConnell didn’t directly name Trump, it was clear he was responding to the president, who was asked at a White House news conference Wednesday evening if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power after the election.
"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," Trump said. "You know that I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster."
When pressed again on the issue, the president said, "We'll want to have — get rid of the ballots and you'll have a very — we'll have a very peaceful — there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, a frequent critic of Trump, tweeted Wednesday after the news conference, “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.”
On Thursday, one of Trump’s Republican rivals in 2016, Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida, tweeted, “As we have done for over two centuries we will have a legitimate & fair election 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.”
In the House, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, said on Twitter that the peaceful transfer of power is “enshrined in our Constitution and fundamental to the survival of our Republic.”
“America’s leaders swear an oath to the Constitution. We will uphold that oath,” she said.
Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, echoed his colleague and said on Twitter Thursday that “nothing defines our Constitutional Republic more than the peaceful transition of power.”
“Regardless of how divided our country is right now, when elections are over and winners are declared, we must all commit ourselves to the Constitution and accept the results,” he said.
Few other Republican lawmakers called Trump out, however.
Meanwhile, Democrats pounced on the president's comments, with some describing his words as chilling and others calling him a fascist.
“President Trump: You are not a dictator, and America will not permit you to be one,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on Twitter Wednesday night.
“He is openly calling for fascism. We need to say it out loud. That includes reporters. This year 247-of-248 republicans in Congress voted to keep trump in office. They did it because they value their power more than democracy itself. Never forget it,” tweeted Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.
Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tweeted, “How can you watch this and not see democracy being discarded for fascism?”
In an interview on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-N.Y., said Trump’s remarks “cross a very bright line.”
“There is no question he means exactly what he said, and people fail to take it seriously at our national peril,” Schiff said. “This is a moment that I would say to any Republican of good conscience working in the administration, it is time for you to resign.”