U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose this year’s presidential race, while suggesting that the election will be challenged in court.
“We’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump said during a press briefing at the White House when asked if he would make sure there is “a peaceful transferal of power” after the election in November.
He went after mail-in ballots, which many parts of the country have expanded to allow people to vote safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster,” said Trump, who has claimed that a wider use of mail-in ballots would lead to massive voter fraud, while U.S. election experts and media have argued there is no evidence of meaningful fraud in vote by mail.
The president went on suggesting he would win the election if there is no expansion of mail-in voting.
“Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation,” he added.
Trump is currently trailing 2020 Democratic presidential nominee and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden nationally by 10 points, according to a pair of polls released on Wednesday. Surveys showed tight races in a number of key battleground states, where the two rivals have made frequent campaign stops.
During a White House event earlier on Wednesday, Trump said he believes the country’s highest court would have to weigh in on the election.
“I think this will end up in the Supreme Court,” the president said. “And I think it’s very important that we have nine justices.”
Trump is considering candidates to fill the seat vacated by the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last week at age 87 due to complications of metastatic pancreas cancer. Five women are on his shortlist.
He will announce the Supreme Court nominee on Saturday afternoon and has said he wants a full Senate vote before Election Day, which falls on Nov. 3, a move intended to fire up his supporters.
Republicans, who have a 53-47 advantage in the Senate, appear to have enough votes to confirm the pick that would cement a 6-3 conservative majority on the nine-justice bench. Only two Republican senators have said they opposed taking up a Supreme Court nominee prior to the election.
“I think we should go very quickly. You see the Republicans are very united,” Trump said. “I think it’s better if you go before the election because I think this — this scam that the Democrats are pulling — it’s a scam — this scam will be before the United States Supreme Court. And I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation.”
In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in a disputed recount of votes in Florida with a 5-4 ruling, effectively handing that year’s presidential election to Republican presidential candidate and then governor of Texas George W. Bush, who won 271 electoral votes, one more than a majority. However, Bush lost the popular vote to Democrat Al Gore.
Biden campaigned in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Wednesday. Trump will also visit the city on Thursday before traveling to Jacksonville, Florida, for a rally.
Responding to Trump’s remarks on the election on Wednesday, Biden said “Look, he says the most irrational things. I don’t know what to say.”