Washington — A handful of GOP lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are distancing themselves from President Trump’sto a peaceful transfer of power should he lose the election to Joe Biden, although most congressional Republicans have so far remained silent on the subject.
Mr. Trump on Wednesday said “we’re going to have to see what happens” when asked by a reporter in a White House news conference whether he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power. Mr. Trump also said he doesn’t think he’ll lose, saying there would not be a transfer of power but instead a “continuation,” railing against the use of mail-in ballots as he has done for months.
The president’s comments come days before he is expected to announce his nominee to the Supreme Court toleft by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. If Mr. Trump’s nominee is confirmed, conservatives will have a solid 6 to 3 majority on the court, which may help to tilt any election-related cases in the president’s favor.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indirectly referenced the president’s comments in a tweet Thursday morning.
“The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th,” McConnell wrote. “There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792.”
Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, a frequent critic of the president, quickly rebuked Mr. Trump, calling his comments “unthinkable and unacceptable.”
“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,” Romney tweeted on Wednesday evening. Despite this criticism, Romney has also said that he holding a vote for Mr. Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida also responded to Mr. Trump’s comments on Thursday morning, tweeting, “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,” Rubio wrote. “And at noon on Jan 20,2021 we will peacefully swear in the President.”
Senator Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in an interview with Fox News on Thursday morning that the transfer of power would be “peaceful.”
“Now, we may have litigation about who won the election, but the court will decide if the Republicans lose we will accept that result,” Graham said. “No matter who challenges the results of the election, eventually the Supreme Court is likely to hear that challenge. And when they rule that is that is the end of it.”
If the Republican-controlled Senate confirms a justice to the Supreme Court ahead of the election, that means that three of the nine justices would have been nominated by Mr. Trump.
GOP Senator Ben Sasse told reporters Thursday that “the president says crazy stuff,” but “we’ve always had a peaceful transition of power.”
Several Republicans in the House weighed in on Mr. Trump’s comments as well. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, an occasional critic of the president, tweeted on Thursday 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,” Cheney wrote.
GOP Congressman Steve Stivers also tweeted on Thursday that “we must all commit ourselves to the Constitution and accept the results” of the election.