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Trump prompts controversy with refusal to accept a potential election defeat

The U.S. presidential race is preoccupied Thursday with a stunning question: might President Trump refuse to abide by the results of an election he loses? So far, Trump has declined to confirm he would accept defeat, prompting widespread criticism and disbelief. But Republican lawmakers are insisting that if Trump loses, a peaceful transition of power will occur. Amna Nawaz reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The U.S. presidential race is focused tonight on a potentially critical question: Will President Trump accept the election results if he loses?

    He won't say explicitly. And that, in turn, has sparked criticism across the board.

    Amna Nawaz has the day's developments.

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    What country are we in?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden, in disbelief.

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    Look, he says the most irrational things. I — I don't know what to say.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    After President Trump's latest remarks about the election, responding to this question in the Briefing Room yesterday:

  • Question:

    Do you commit to making sure that there's a peaceful transferal of power?

  • President Donald Trump:

    We want to have — we have to have — get rid of the ballots, and you will have a very — we'll have a very peaceful — there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation.

    The ballots are out of control. You know it.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Following Mr. Trump's failure to commit to the constitutional standard for every American election since the country's founding, the Senate passed a resolution committing to a peaceful transfer of power, and lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, weighed in.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    That a president of the United States would place in doubt the idea of peaceful transition of power is — well, it's no surprise.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    A number of Republicans also spoke out to quiet concerns.

  • Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D.:

    Every single Republican up here, I believe, is absolutely behind a peaceful transfer when — when a sitting president loses.

  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.:

    Let me put it all to rest for all of you. It will be a smooth transition, no concern on the outcome.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Other members of the president's party took to Twitter to respond. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted, "There will be an orderly transition, just as there has been since 1792."

    Florida Senator Marco Rubio pledged to peacefully swear in the president in 2021. And Utah Senator Mitt Romney dismissed anything other than a peaceful transition as unthinkable and unacceptable.

    Former Wisconsin Governor Scott walker, however, backed the president, tweeting: "Smart candidates never concede anything before an election. They focus on what it takes to win."

    It's not the first time President Trump has called into question whether he'd accept election results. During a 2016 presidential debate, candidate Trump was asked this by FOX News' Chris Wallace:

  • Chris Wallace:

    Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely — sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?

  • President Donald Trump:

    I will look at it at the time. I'm not looking at anything now. I will look at it at the time.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Wallace asked him again this summer.

  • Chris Wallace:

    Can you give a direct answer you will accept the election?

  • President Donald Trump:

    I have to see. Look, you — I have to see. No, I'm not going to just say yes. I'm not going to say no, and I didn't last time either.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    As he left the White House this afternoon, the president doubled down on that message, returning to his unfounded doubt of mail-in ballots.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We want to make sure that the election is honest. And I'm not sure that it can be. I don't know that it can be with this whole situation, unsolicited ballots.

  • Crowd:

    Vote him out! Vote him out!

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Earlier at the Supreme Court, the president drew strong public reaction while paying his respects to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


    The president has said he intends to announce his pick to replace Ginsburg this weekend.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna Nawaz.

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