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Trump just confirmed he poses a real and present threat to democracy

John Avlon writes:

American democracy has been defined by the peaceful transfer of power. Donald Trump seems to have other ideas.

This is not a drill. This is not a game.

Because the President of the United States just told us that he would not commit to peacefully turning over the government to a new administration if he loses the election.

Forty-one days before the election, Donald Trump failed to affirm on Wednesday the most basic civic question any president could get. “Will you commit to making sure that there is a peaceful transferal of power after the election?”

Well, we’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump said from the White House press room podium. “I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster … get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very … there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.”

This is a threat. This is a warning. And anyone who ever called themselves a patriot or a defender of the Constitution ought to condemn it immediately. [Continue reading…]

Axios reports:

FBI Director Christopher Wray responded to a question on the security of mail-in voting to the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Thursday by saying that the agency has “not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it’s by mail or otherwise.”

Politico reports:

Congressional Republicans say that if President Donald Trump loses the election there will be a peaceful transition. But they’re not explaining how, even as the president threatens to upend the constitutional order.

While Republicans gently pushed back Thursday against Trump’s refusal this week to commit to a peaceful transition of power, most declined to say what they would do if the president refuses to leave office, dismissing it as a hypothetical situation.

But Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a vocal critic of the president, said he has faith his Republican colleagues will step up if they need to.

“There’s no question … that all the people who had sworn to support the Constitution would assure that there would be a peaceful transition of power, including the president,” Romney said.

Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) added that his party would not stand idly by if Trump tried to stay in office after losing: “Republicans believe in the rule of law and we believe in the Constitution. And that’s what dictates our election process.”

Hill Republicans argued Thursday morning that this year’s election would be no different than previous ones and reiterated that the Constitution guarantees that whoever loses must cede the presidency. But no one condemned Trump directly by name, and they declined to weigh in on whether it was appropriate for the president to suggest he won’t leave office.

“The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792.”

When asked whether he takes the president’s threat seriously, McConnell simply referred back to his tweet and said “it pretty well sums up how I feel about it.”

Hours after the GOP pushback, White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany said Trump “will accept the result of a free and fair election.”

That McConnell and his colleagues felt compelled to respond at all was notable, given their general reluctance to address Trump’s incendiary tweets and statements. But Thursday’s responses were reminiscent of 2016, when Trump similarly declined to say he would concede the election if he loses.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) called on both Trump and former vice president Joe Biden to “commit to abiding by the results, no matter the outcome.” [Continue reading…]

Michael Gerson writes:

The Atlantic’s Barton Gellman has written a horrifying account of President Trump’s well-developed plans to sabotage the legitimacy of a presidential election that seems to be going against him. The U.S. electoral system, it turns out, has disturbing gray areas and no authoritative referees, making it surprisingly vulnerable to a ruthless violator of democratic norms. Trump appears to have the means and the intention to contest mail-in ballots, to claim massive electoral fraud, to muddy outcomes in battleground states and to refuse any form of concession. It is a strategy designed not to win an election but to invalidate its results and hold on to power through fraud.

This is the context in which Trump has repeatedly refused to affirm that he would accept a loss in the 2020 election. Often it is advisable to ignore Trump’s provocations, on the theory that some bait should be left untaken. Not this time. In this case, as Gellman shows, Trump is developing a mechanism to implement his destructive madness. We may be seeing the development of a presidential coup against American democracy.

In the coming weeks, the country is likely to depend on the health and authority of three institutions. There is the judiciary, which may be the only accepted arbiter of an election outcome. There is the news media, which will need to shed light on shady maneuvering. And there is the U.S. military, which may be required to politely but firmly escort Trump off the White House grounds. [Continue reading…]

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