President Donald Trump’s refusal Wednesday to guarantee that he would accept the results and exit the White House if he is defeated caused an explosion of outrage and put congressional Republicans on the defensive about what would otherwise be a fundamental assumption of a democratic system.
It also ratcheted up tensions amid a burgeoning Supreme Court fight that is sure to further embitter both sides of the political spectrum, as Trump has said he wants a successor to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in place in time to adjudicate possible legal disputes over contested election results.
But for months Trump has raised doubts about the integrity of this year’s elections, accusing Democrats of going to great lengths to skew results in their favor and making it a recurring theme in his reelection campaign — while providing little evidence to back up his grievous assertions.
He’s also off-handedly mused on a handful of occasions about getting more than the constitutionally permitted eight years in office because of the time in his first term “stolen” from him due to former special counsel Robert Muller’s investigation — comments that also raised concerns about Trump’s commitment to the limits of presidential terms.
White House press secretary Kaleigh McEnaney on Thursday declared that the president “will accept the result of a free and fair election,” though Trump himself has claimed he will lose only if he is cheated out of victory.
It’s familiar ground for Trump, who in 2016 also took a wait-and-see approach to questions about whether he would accept the results of the election that ultimately went his way and has frequently adopted a never-say-never position to legislation, personnel moves and other decisions.
Here are some of Trump’s most notable statements casting doubt on the coming Nov. 3 election.
Sept. 24, from the White House lawn
“We have to be very careful with the ballots,” Trump said, when asked whether the election results are legitimate only if he wins. “The ballots, that’s a whole big scam.”
“We want to make sure the election is honest, and I am not sure that it can be. I don’t know that it can be with this whole situation of unsolicited ballots.”
Sept. 23, during a White House press briefing
“We’re going to have to see what happens,” the president said, when asked whether he’d commit to a peaceful transfer of power, “win, lose, or draw.” “You know, I’ve been complaining about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster.”
“And the ballots are out of control,” he continued. “You know it. And you know who knows it better than anybody else? The Democrats.”
Earlier in the day, during a meeting with state attorneys general and Republican senators to discuss looming litigation against major tech companies.
“I think this scam that the Democrats are pulling, it’s a scam [and] this scam will be before the United States Supreme Court,” Trump said. “And I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation.”
Sept. 13, during a Nevada campaign rally
“The Democrats are trying to rig this election because that’s the only way they’re going to win,” he said.
Aug. 24, during his Republican National Committee acceptance speech
“The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election,” Trump said.
Aug. 2, in a televised interview with Axios journalist Jonathan Swan
“There is no way you can go through a mail-in vote without massive cheating,” Trump said, when asked what it would look like if a sitting president didn’t accept the election results.
“You could have a case where this election won’t be decided on the evening of November 3rd. This election could be decided two months later. It could be decided many months later. ... You know why? Because lots of things will happen during that period of time, especially when you have tight margins. Lots of things can happen. There’s never been anything like this.”
Aug. 17, at a rally in Wisconsin
“The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged, remember that,” Trump said. “It’s the only way we’re going to lose this election. So we have to be careful.“
“The only way they’re going to win is that way, and we can’t let that happen.”
July 30 via Twitter
“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” Trump wrote . “It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
Trump tried to clarify his tweet later that day, saying, “Do I want to see a day change? No, but I don’t want to see a crooked election,” before doubling down in a tweet hours later.
“Must know Election results on the night of the Election, not days, months, or even years later!” Trump wrote .
July 19 interview on “Fox News Sunday”
Asked directly by host Chris Wallace whether he would accept the results of the election, Trump said he’d “have to see” and “it depends.”
“I’m not going to just say yes,” Trump said. “I’m not going to say no.”
“Are you suggesting that you might not accept the results of the election?” Wallace asked in a follow up.
“No. I have to see,” Trump said.