President Donald Trump flirted with the possibility of an authoritarian power grab yet again Saturday, suggesting to supporters at a campaign rally that he may not commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose the presidential election.
Speaking in Circleville, Ohio, the commander in chief pondered why he should ensure a peaceful transition when he said the previous administration treated him so unfairly: “They ask me, ‘If you lose, will there be a friendly transition?’ Well, when I won, did they give me a friendly transition? They spied on my campaign, they did all this stuff. That was not a friendly transition.”
Trump has deflected the question before when asked by reporters, saying, “We’ll see what happens.” But he has not made the case for defying a transfer of power directly to supporters before. Vice President Mike Pence has joined the president in refusing to answer the question, dodging it at the vice presidential debate last week.
Former President Barack Obama’s administration offered assistance to Trump and his transition team in taking up residence in the White House after the 2016 election, as has been the norm for past presidencies. The two met in January 2017 to discuss the changeover.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who assisted with the transition to Trump from the Obama administration, reacted with apparent exasperation last month when Trump first refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses: “What country are we in? Look, he says the most irrational things. I don’t know what to say.”
In the same Ohio speech on Saturday, Trump complained extensively about television coverage, both his own now infamous 60 Minutes interview and what he said was an overemphasis on COVID-19 coverage. Trump walked out of his recent Q&A with correspondent Lesley Stahl but later posted the entire interview to his Facebook page.
“This 60 Minutes, she asked me a question. I printed out the whole interview, I said, put it down. She said to me, ‘Why are you begging suburban women?’ You said, ‘Please love me, suburban women!’ No, I didn’t say that. I said, ‘Love me, suburban woman, because I’ve saved the suburbs,’” he said.
He also mocked those who take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously and appeared to suggest it was all part of an electoral conspiracy against him, saying, “That’s all I hear about now. Turn on TV, ‘Covid, Covid, Covid Covid Covid.’ A plane goes down, 500 people dead, they don’t talk about it. ‘Covid Covid Covid Covid.’ By the way, on November 4th, you won’t hear about it anymore ... ‘Please don’t go and vote, Covid!’”
The new coronavirus has killed more than 220,000 Americans this year and infected more than eight million.
Obama, speaking in Miami earlier in the day, blasted Trump for trying to appear “tough.”
“He thinks scowling or being mean is tough, and being rude is tough, but when 60 Minutes and Lesley Stahl is too tough for you, you ain't all that tough,” he said. “Miami, listen, if he can’t answer a tough question like what would you like to do in your second term, then it’s our job to make sure he doesn’t get a second term.”