After a reporter asked the president: “Win, lose or draw in this election, will you commit here today for a peaceful transferal of power after the election?” Trumped deferred, repeating his unsubstantiated claim that mail-in voting could lead to widespread voter fraud.
“We're going to have to see what happens," Trump said during the White House news conference. "You know that I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster."
The reporter, Brian Karem of Playboy, pressed the president, noting the anti-police riots that have plagued some American cities over the summer.
“Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won't be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation,” Trump said, referring to mail-in ballots. “The ballots are out of control. You know it, and you know who knows it better than anyone else? The Democrats know it better than anyone else.”
Trump also stressed the need to quickly appoint his soon-to-be-announced pick to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court to avoid a four-four split on a potential election-related issue.
In July, Trump told Fox News’ Chris Wallace he wouldn’t commit to accepting the results of the 2020 election prematurely.
“I’m not going to just say yes, I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time, either,” he said.
Questioned about Trump’s comments, Democratic nominee Joe Biden rhetorically asked “What country are we in? He says he most irrational things.”
Trump has been consistently trailing Biden in the polls although some battleground states like Florida and North Carolina show him tied or in the lead.
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, of Utah, also criticized the president’s words, writing in a tweet, “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.”
Massive protests have taken over Belarus for the last two months after Aleksandr Lukashenko held onto power in what has been deemed by the U.S. a clearly rigged election.
On Wednesday, the State Department said the U.S. no longer considers Lukashenko the country’s “legitimately elected” leader and urged a new “free and fair election.”
Election experts do say that voting by mail is more susceptible to fraud than casting a ballot in person, but they’ve seen no evidence of widespread fraud or that absentee balloting favors Democrats. But the massive increase in absentee balloting places an extra burden on already stressed-out state and county election officials and on a U.S. Postal Service facing financial and manpower deficits.
Fox News' Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.