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Trump casts doubt on peaceful transfer of power, splits Republicans


US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republicans on Thursday repudiated President Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power and assured American voters that the Nov 3 election outcome would be accepted.

Trump declined to embrace a peaceful transfer on Wednesday in response to a reporter’s question, and said he expected his upcoming election battle with Democrat Joe Biden to be settled by the Supreme Court.

Democrats accused Trump of threatening American democracy and further politicising his upcoming choice to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by suggesting the yet-to-be-named nominee would intervene in the election’s outcome.

Republicans invoked the guarantees of the US constitution, but did not openly condemn Trump.

“The winner of the Nov 3 election will be inaugurated on Jan 20. There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792,” McConnell wrote in a tweet.

Representative Liz Cheney, who leads the House of Representatives Republican conference, wrote on Twitter: “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.”

They were joined by fellow Senate Republicans Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney, Republican Representative Steve Stivers and others.

“It will be a smooth transition regardless of the outcome,” House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters.

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, 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.

“President Trump, you are not a dictator and America will not permit you to be one,” said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who took to the Senate floor to call the president “the gravest threat” to US democracy.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cautioned against panicking over the remarks of a president who she said admires autocratic leaders. But at a news conference, she advised Trump: “You are not in North Korea, you are not in Turkey, you are not in Russia.”

If November’s election is close, Trump could contest the results in federal courts in hopes of being awarded enough electoral college votes to retain the White House, according to political analysts.

Only one presidential election, the 2000 contest between Republican George Bush and Democrat Al Gore, has had its outcome determined by the supreme court.

Senate’s judiciary committee chairman Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally who is overseeing the process to weigh the president’s forthcoming nominee to replace Ginsburg, said he expected a peaceful transition.