Donald Trump: ‘I Would Accept a Clear Election Result, But Reserve My Right to Contest in the Case of a Questionable Result’

Trump Debate Saul LoebAFPGetty

“I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election — if I win,” Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump told a rally in Newark, Ohio on Thursday.

“Of course I would accept a clear election result, but I would also reserve my right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result,” he continued.

“I will follow and abide by all the rules and traditions of all of the many candidates who came before me, always,” he added.

“Bottom line,” he concluded, “we’re going to win.”

Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, however, claimed Thursday that reserving his “right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result” was contrary to American political tradition, despite her own vigorous support for Al Gore’s exercise of that right in the contested 2000 Presidential election.

As the New York Times reported Thursday:

But Mrs. Clinton and her running mate, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, both said Mr. Trump’s defiant comments were far beyond the political mainstream. Mrs. Clinton, who called Mr. Trump’s remarks “horrifying” during the debate, repeated that criticism on board her campaign plane in Las Vegas, and said Mr. Trump was bucking centuries of American tradition.

“We are a country based on laws, and we’ve had hot, contested elections going back to the very beginning,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters. “But one of our hallmarks has always been that we accept the outcomes of our election.”

Mr. Kaine went further in a series of television interviews, saying Mr. Trump was trying to take down a “central pillar” of the political system because he is on track for defeat.

Mr. Kaine said he hoped voters would give the Democratic ticket “a mandate” in the election so that Mr. Trump cannot cast doubt on the outcome.

At the third and final presidential debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday, debate moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump, “Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely — sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?”

“I will look at it at the time. I’m not looking at anything now. I’ll look at it at the time,” Trump responded.

“What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense. OK?” the GOP nominee added.

Media pundits have declared that Donald Trump’s answer to Chris Wallace’s question at Wednesday’s third and final presidential debate about accepting the results of the 2016 presidential election was “a major mistake.”

Hillary Clinton supporters agree with the media pundits, while Donald Trump supporters disagree.

Early returns from two focus groups of  the all-important undecided voters suggest they disagree with the media pundits.

By a 10 to 5 margin, a CNN focus group of undecided voters said Trump won the debate. A Frank Luntz focus group of Nevada undecided voters said that Trump won by a 14 to 12 margin.

The media appear to be in lock-stop, using Hillary Clinton’s talking points that Trump’s answer represented a dangerous threat to our democratic traditions.

But Trump’s response, though he did not specifically use that term, was all about the rule of law.

Rather than accept an unfavorable outcome, as initially reported on election night, as Richard Nixon did when he conceded in the razor-thin presidential election of 1960 to John F. Kennedy, Trump simply said he would keep his options open–exactly what Democrat Al Gore did in 2000, when he withdrew his election night concession to George W. Bush and challenged the election results for more than a month until the famous Bush v. Gore decision was handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Dan Balz at the Washington Post, now owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, wrote of Trump’s debate night response:

Asked directly by moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News whether, if he lost, he would accept the outcome of the election as legitimate, he hedged. He would decide at the time, he would “keep you in suspense.” It was, as Wallace suggested, an unprecedented departure in the history of the country. It was also a major mistake. Yet Trump seemed not to care at all.

Brit Hume began his post-debate analysis on Fox News by declaring:

The headline out of this debate as far as I can tell is his refusal to say he would accept the results of the election.

That doesn’t happen in America. It’s newsworthy, it’s controversial, it is a big deal, and so the question is that something that will help him? I doubt it.

“This was his best performance to date,” Hume added. “I think he stepped on it by refusing to say he would accept the results of the election,” he concluded

Hume’s colleague at Fox News, former Walter Mondale speechwriter Charles Krauthammer, called Trump’s response “political suicide.”

Tim Alberta and Eliana Johnson, writing at the NeverTrump National Review made the same point:

But any points Trump might have scored down the debate’s home stretch were negated when Wallace broached the topic Trump has hammered in recent days: a “rigged election.” The Republican nominee refused to say he would accept the results on November 8, promising only that he would examine them “at the time.” When Wallace reminded Trump of America’s tradition of peaceful transitions of power, and pressed for a more specific answer, Trump replied: ”I’ll keep you in suspense.” At that point, Clinton chimed in to underline the moment: “That’s horrifying.”

Several media outlets reporting on Trump’s speech in Newark, Ohio Thursday blared a headline saying Trump would accept the outcome of the election if he won, but buried his statement that he would accept a clear electoral result, while reserving the right to challenge a contested result far down in their stories.

Here’s the full transcript of the question and answer from Wednesday’s third and final presidential debate, followed by Hillary Clinton’s response:

WALLACE: Mr. Trump, I want to ask you about one last question in this topic. You have been warning at rallies recently that this election is rigged and that Hillary Clinton is in the process of trying to steal it from you.

Your running mate, Governor Pence, pledged on Sunday that he and you — his words — “will absolutely accept the result of this election.” Today your daughter, Ivanka, said the same thing. I want to ask you here on the stage tonight: Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely — sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?

TRUMP: I will look at it at the time. I’m not looking at anything now. I’ll look at it at the time.

What I’ve seen — what I’ve seen is so bad. First of all, the media is so dishonest and so corrupt, and the pile-on is so amazing. The New York Times actually wrote an article about it, but they don’t even care. It’s so dishonest. And they’ve poisoned the mind of the voters.

But unfortunately for them, I think the voters are seeing through it. I think they’re going to see through it. We’ll find out on November 8th. But I think they’re going to see through it.

WALLACE: But, sir, there’s…

TRUMP: If you look — excuse me, Chris — if you look at your voter rolls, you will see millions of people that are registered to vote — millions, this isn’t coming from me — this is coming from Pew Report and other places — millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn’t be registered to vote.

So let me just give you one other thing. So I talk about the corrupt media. I talk about the millions of people — tell you one other thing. She shouldn’t be allowed to run. It’s crooked — she’s — she’s guilty of a very, very serious crime. She should not be allowed to run.

And just in that respect, I say it’s rigged, because she should never…


TRUMP: Chris, she should never have been allowed to run for the presidency based on what she did with e-mails and so many other things.

WALLACE: But, sir, there is a tradition in this country — in fact, one of the prides of this country — is the peaceful transition of power and that no matter how hard-fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign that the loser concedes to the winner. Not saying that you’re necessarily going to be the loser or the winner, but that the loser concedes to the winner and that the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?

TRUMP: What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense. OK?

“Well, Chris, let me respond to that, because that’s horrifying. You know, every time Donald thinks things are not going in his direction, he claims whatever it is, is rigged against him,” Hillary Clinton began her response:

The FBI conducted a year-long investigation into my e-mails. They concluded there was no case; he said the FBI was rigged. He lost the Iowa caucus. He lost the Wisconsin primary. He said the Republican primary was rigged against him. Then Trump University gets sued for fraud and racketeering; he claims the court system and the federal judge is rigged against him. There was even a time when he didn’t get an Emmy for his TV program three years in a row and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged against him.

TRUMP: Should have gotten it.


CLINTON: This is — this is a mindset. This is how Donald thinks. And it’s funny, but it’s also really troubling.


CLINTON: So that is not the way our democracy works. We’ve been around for 240 years. We’ve had free and fair elections. We’ve accepted the outcomes when we may not have liked them. And that is what must be expected of anyone standing on a debate stage during a general election. You know, President Obama said the other day when you’re whining before the game is even finished…


WALLACE: Hold on. Hold on, folks. Hold on, folks.

CLINTON: … it just shows you’re not up to doing the job. And let’s — you know, let’s be clear about what he is saying and what that means. He is denigrating — he’s talking down our democracy. And I, for one, am appalled that somebody who is the nominee of one of our two major parties would take that kind of position.

TRUMP: I think what the FBI did and what the Department of Justice did, including meeting with her husband, the attorney general, in the back of an airplane on the tarmac in Arizona, I think it’s disgraceful. I think it’s a disgrace.

WALLACE: All right.

TRUMP: I think we’ve never had a situation so bad in this country.


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