Fact Check: No, Trump Does Not Reject ‘Peaceful Transition of Power’

U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee

CLAIM: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) claimed Trump “refuses to commit to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the election.”

VERDICT: FALSE. Trump has made clear that he will leave office if he loses — provided the election is legitimate, free and fair.

Durbin used this familiar, but false, talking point in his opening statement at Monday’s confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Like the other Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Durbin used most of his speech to attack the president — not to comment on the nominee.

“For the first time in the history of the United States,” Durbin claimed, “an incumbent president refuses to commit to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the election.”

As Breitbart News reported in a recent fact check:

The issue arose again in a press briefing, when perennial gadfly Brian Karem of Playboy asked Trump about it — as if he had not answered the question already.

Trump responded by talking about all the problems with the voting process — and noted that he did not expect to leave, because he expected to win.

But the entire controversy is contrived: Trump has already answered the question — several times.

The Washington Post reported in June, in an article titled “Trump says he’ll ‘go on and do other things’ if he loses in November“:

President Trump shrugged off an accusation from Joe Biden that he would try to steal the election, saying if he doesn’t win he’ll “go on and do other things.”

“Certainly if I don’t win, I don’t win. I mean, you know, go on and do other things,” Trump said during a Fox News interview that aired Friday afternoon.

“I think that would be a very sad thing for our country,” he added.

The Post noted that Trump had given similar answers before, notably in response to Chuck Todd of NBC News.

The media’s insistence on asking the question over and over again reprises a tactic used in the 2016 election, when journalists repeatedly asked Trump whether he disavowed white supremacist David Duke, even after he had done so several times.

The purpose appeared to be to suggest that Trump had not done so — and to associate Trump with Duke, regardless.

Likewise with the question about a “peaceful transition” — coming, as it does, as the far-left uses violence on a nightly basis in an effort to force political change.

Democrats arguably refused to accept a peaceful transition of power in 2016, launching abusive investigations into “Russia collusion” that led, indirectly, to the impeachment process.

Both the Trump campaign and Joe Biden’s campaign are gearing up for legal fights over the results of the election, as problems loom with mail-in voting in several states. Neither side will simply accept defeat if the results are questionable.

Notably, Hillary Clinton has already urged Biden not to concede defeat “under any circumstances.”

Regardless, defending the right to a free, fair, and legitimate election can hardly be equated to rejecting a peaceful transition of power.

The Constitution requires Trump to leave office in 2025 if he is re-elected to a second, and final, term.

The day after Karem asked his question, White House press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany made the president’s position clear (again) — while noting that it was Democrats who ought to be asked the same.

From the White House transcript:

Q    Yeah, Kayleigh, I’m wondering if you can just clean up or clarify something the President said yesterday.  If he loses this election, can you assure us that there will be a peaceful transfer of power?

MS. MCENANY:  You are referring to the question asked by the Playboy reporter, right?

Q    I’m referring to — with the President being asked if there would be a peaceful transfer of power, and he did not say yes.

MS. MCENANY:  Yeah, I believe —

Q    So I’m asking you: Will there be a peaceful transfer of power if he loses this election?

MS. MCENANY:  I believe that question asked by the Playboy (inaudible) — in fact, I think I have it right here.  He was asked —

Q    I’m asking this question.

MS. MCENANY:  He was asked — “win, lose, or draw” — whether he would accept the transfer of power.  I’m not entirely sure, if he won, why he would accept a transfer of power.  That is maybe the deranged wish of that reporter, but that’s not how governing works.

Q    But I’m asking a very direct and very simple question.  If the President loses this election, will this White House, will this President assure us that there will be a peaceful transfer of power?  It’s a very simple question.  We’ve been doing it since 1800.

MS. MCENANY:  The President will accept the results of a free and fair election.

But I think that your question is more fitting to be asked of Democrats who have already been on the record saying they won’t accept the results of an election.

In fact, I have several of them here for you.  South Carolina Democrat Jim Clyburn has said that Trump “is not going to win fairly.”  Senator Barbara Boxer has said that the only way Trump will win is to “steal it.”  That’s according to Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer.

The Washington Post has noted — they have a headline: “Democrats may not trust the results of the election if Trump wins.”

And then you have that beautiful quote from Hillary Clinton that “Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstance.”

So I think your fitting is more ques- — more a fitting — a fitting question for Democrats.

Durbin might have been given some leeway if he said “refused,” i.e. past tense — which could refer to his response to Karem’s question.

But the present tense — “refuses” — makes Durbin’s statement provably false.

Durbin is simply repeating a false claim in an attempt to motivate Democratic voters — and perhaps in an attempt to justify calls for Trump to be forcibly removed from office if the election is too close to call.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His newest e-book is The Trumpian Virtues: The Lessons and Legacy of Donald Trump’s Presidency. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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