President Donald Trump would not commit to providing a peaceful transition of power after Election Day, lending further fuel to concerns he may not relinquish his office should he lose in November.
"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," Trump said when asked whether he'd commit to a peaceful transition, one of the cornerstones of American democracy.
Trump has previously refused to say whether he would accept the election results, echoing his sentiments from 2016. And he has joked — he says — about staying in office well past the constitutionally bound two terms.
But his refusal to guarantee a violence-free transition went further and is likely to alarm his opponents, already on edge given his deployment of federal law enforcement to quell protests in American cities.
His reluctance to commit to a peaceful transition was rooted in what he said were concerns about ballots, extending his false assertion that widespread mail-in voting is rife with fraud.
"You know that I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster," Trump said at a press briefing at the White House, presumably referring to mail-in ballots, which he has baselessly claimed will lead to voter fraud.
"(G)et rid of the ballots and you'll have a very … there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation," he added, saying "the ballots are out of control."
Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican who has stood at odds with the President in the past, slammed Trump's comments.
"Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus," Romney tweeted. "Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable."
Trump has previously said his rival Joe Biden would only prevail in November if the election is "rigged," and suggested earlier in the day it was likely the results of the election would be contested all the way to the Supreme Court.
National polls currently show Trump trailing Biden, though surveys of electoral battleground states are tighter.