Republicans Contort Over Trump's Transfer Of Power Dodge
Most Republicans on Capitol Hill simply ignored President Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, saying either Trump won't lose or that everything will be fine if he does.
But a substantial number of the Grand Ol' Party deflected Thursday by pointing to the other side -- not to Joe Biden, though, to Hillary Clinton.
Clinton, they said, had given Biden advice that amounted to something similar, although she never spoke at all about the transition of power -- only that Biden should not concede in a close election before making sure all votes are counted.
Nevertheless, Republicans on both sides of the Hill raised Clinton's rather than criticize Trump for failing to assure a peaceful transition.
"You know what I've told some folks -- What is the response to Hillary Clinton saying Joe Biden under any circumstances shouldn't accept the outcome of the election?" Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) told reporters on the Hill.
"You know the advice apparently given to Senator Biden, Vice President Biden, by Secretary of State Clinton? You should never concede. What does that mean? What does any of this talk mean?" Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said.
"I would have the same concern when Hillary Clinton advised Biden not to concede the election,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said.
"I'm concerned of what I'm hearing on the other side. I'm concerned the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, has gone on television," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said before being reminded that Joe Biden is the nominee. "The last time. The Democratic nominee from the last election has gone on television, advising the current Democratic nominee."
There were others with the same talking point.
But what Clinton actually said in August was that Democrats should be as relentless as Republicans in litigating disputes, especially over mail-in ballots. If there is a close contest as Election Day winds down, and the Trump administration has been "messing up absentee balloting," Clinton said, "Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances, because I think this is going to drag out."
Trump, however, was explicitly asked about the transition.
"Win, lose or draw in this election, will you commit here today for a peaceful transfer of power, after the election?" a reporter asked at Trump's Wednesday night news conference.
"Well, we're gonna have to see what happens," Trump said. "You know that I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster."
“Get rid of the ballots,” Trump added, saying "We’ll have a very peaceful -- there won’t be a transfer, frankly. We’ll have a continuation. The ballots are out of control.”
Federal Election Commissioner Beverly Weintraub was not at all shy about criticizing Trump's statements. "In case anyone is unclear on the concept, in the United States of America, we do not 'get rid of' ballots. We count them. Counting the ballots –- *all* the ballots –- is the way we determine who leads our country after our elections. The only way," she tweeted.
Some Republicans who did not use the Clinton talking point simply contorted themselves.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) first told reporters that she didn't have time to speak, but then offered, "We always have a peaceful transition."
Reminded that "The President didn't say that there would be one, though," Blackburn hedged a bit. "We are hopeful that everything will go well," she said.
South Dakota Republican Sen. Mike Rounds also offered the everything-will-be-fine defense, ducking the specifics of what Trump said.
"Do you think that he should have committed, win, lose or draw?" Rounds was asked.
"I didn't hear that. And so I, I'm not, I haven't seen that part of it," Rounds said.
"I could play the sound if you'd like," a reporter offered.
"No, that's okay," Rounds said. "But I can tell you this: I don't have any second thoughts about the fact that we will have, a peaceful, a peaceful process, and I hope it's both ways."