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McConnell, other Republicans split with Trump on peaceful transfer of power

Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu
·3-min read

By Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu

WASHINGTON, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell joined other Republican lawmakers in rallying to the defense of constitutional government on Thursday, after President Donald Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power following the Nov. 3 election.

"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 tweet.

Several other lawmakers came out strongly in favor of a peaceful transition of power following the Republican president's comments on Wednesday, though none criticized him directly.

"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," Representative Liz Cheney, who leads the House of Representatives Republican Conference, wrote on Twitter.

Senator Marco Rubio, a former Republican presidential candidate, asserted that the upcoming election contest between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden will be legitimate, fair and in line with more than two centuries of American practice.

"It may take longer than usual to know the outcome, but it will be a valid one," Rubio wrote on Twitter.

In a tweet, Republican Representative Steve Stivers wrote, "Nothing defines our Constitutional Republic more than the peaceful transition of power. I've taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and I will uphold that oath."

On Wednesday Trump, responding to a reporter's question, refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose in November, and said he expected the election battle to end up before the Supreme Court.

"We're going to have to see what happens," he told reporters.

Not all Republicans expressed alarm at Trump's remarks.

"In the spring, stores sold out of hand sanitizer and toilet paper. This fall, they sold out of ammo," tweeted Representative Thomas Massie, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally who is overseeing the process to weigh the president's forthcoming Supreme Court nominee, said he expected a peaceful transition.

"I can assure you it will be peaceful," Graham told Fox News. "Now we may have litigation about who won the election, but the (Supreme) Court will decide and if the Republicans lose, we will accept that result. But we need a full court."

Trump, who trails Biden in national opinion polls, has long sought to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election, claiming without evidence that mail-in voting would be rife with fraud. "The ballots are a disaster," Trump said on Wednesday.

A record number of Americans are expected to vote by mail this year to avoid the coronavirus pandemic, and Democrats hope mail-in ballots will help to motivate large numbers of voters who oppose Trump.

In 2016, Trump also raised questions about whether he would accept the results of the election, which he went on to win.

But Democrats said Trump's latest remarks were far more disturbing.

"Chilling is too mild a word," Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine who caucuses with the Democrats, told CNN. "It's really an invitation to violence."

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer predicted that voters would not allow Trump to become a dictator. "This man has no honesty, honor, values or faith in the American system," he said in a CNN interview.

Biden, speaking to reporters on Wednesday, said Trump's comments on the transition of power were "irrational."

The former vice president's campaign said it was prepared for any "shenanigans" from Trump, and reiterated comments from July that "the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House." (Reporting by Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu; Writing by David Morgan; Editing by Mary Milliken and Jonathan Oatis)