It was arguably the buzziest moment from an interview that made a lot of news.
“I have to see. ... No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either,” President Trump said when pressed during his recent sit-down interview with “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace on whether he’d accept November’s presidential election results.
On Sunday, the president took to Twitter to charge that “The 2020 Election will be totally rigged if Mail-In Voting is allowed to take place, & everyone knows it.”
Trump’s been warning about a “rigged” election for months – as he’s repeatedly railed against voting by mail. “Because of MAIL-IN BALLOTS, 2020 will be the most RIGGED Election in our nations history,” the president claimed in a tweet last month.
Meanwhile, days before the president’s tweet in June, a group of former government and military officials, political operatives and academics met virtually to take part in a “war game” to try and figure out what might happen in the event of such a contested election. The gathering was organized by the nonpartisan Transition Integrity Project.
The scenarios they played out included a narrow Electoral College victory by Democratic challenger Joe Biden over the president – and no clear-cut winner on election night. Participants played the roles of Biden and Trump campaign leaders, Democratic- and GOP-elected officials, the news media, and other important players – to see what would happen under such circumstances.
“All of our scenarios ended in both street-level violence and political impasse,” Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown law professor and former Defense Department official who co-organized the Transition Integrity Project, told the Boston Globe, which reported on the exercise. “The law is essentially ... it’s almost helpless against a president who’s willing to ignore it.”
But Brooks – speaking with Fox News – cautioned, “Scenario exercises don't predict the future. They explore possible futures: some of the 'what ifs.' Our scenario exercises did not end in good places, but it's important to note that this does not mean that there is something inevitable about chaos and constitutional crisis in the coming months -- just that these particular exercises suggest that these are real possibilities.”
And she emphasized, “The goal of the exercises was not to give people nightmares, but rather to identify possible inflection points to prevent or mitigate catastrophic outcomes to the 2020 presidential election. … I think the exercises led to some important insights, one being that forewarned is forearmed; in all our exercises, events unfolded very quickly in the days after the election, and those who had thought in advance about the 'what ifs' were better positioned to respond than those who had not.”
The Transition Integrity Project is currently assembling a report based on its different “war game” scenarios that were played out last month.
In response to the president’s comments in his “Fox News Sunday” interview, the Biden campaign said, “The American people will decide this election. And the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.”
Some conservatives commentators dismissed the coverage of the president’s comments as hysteria.
Former U.S. Attorney Andrew McCarthy called the premise “rubbish” in a National Review opinion piece titled “The Hysterical ‘Trump Won’t Leave’ Canard.”
“There is no rational reason to indulge the anti-Trump hallucination of a defeated president holed up in the Oval Office refusing to leave. If ever any president were to try such an inane thing after the constitutionally mandated divestment of executive authority, he or she would be escorted from the premises — hopefully, with whatever dignity could still be mustered under the circumstances,” McCarthy wrote.