The Slatest

Trump Says He Wants a “Beautiful Transition” but Insists Won’t Lose “Except if They Cheat”

President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he concludes his remarks during a campaign rally at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport on September 25, 2020 in Newport News, Virginia.
President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he concludes his remarks during a campaign rally at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport on September 25, 2020 in Newport News, Virginia. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Donald Trump told supporters he was eager for a “smooth, beautiful transition” of power but at the same time insisted the only way he would lose the election in November is if Democrats cheat. “We’re not going to stand for it,” he told a largely maskless crowd in Newport News, Virginia, where he held and outdoor rally Friday night. After sparking widespread outrage for refusing to decisively commit to a peaceful transition of power if Joe Biden wins the election, Trump seemed to try to tone down that concern while at the same time continuing to claim the election could be rife with fraud. “I want a smooth, beautiful transition,” the president said. “But they don’t add the other part: But it’s got to be an honest vote.” He later added: “This is a disaster waiting to happen … We’re not going to lose this except if they cheat, that’s the way I look at it.”

Trump called on his supporters to become de facto election observers. “We can’t let them cheat,” he said. “Our country is at stake.” The president told supporters that “If you see anything, you just have to report it.” He went on to reiterate that “the only way we’re going to lose is if there’s mischief … and it’ll have to be on a big scale.” The widespread use of mail-in ballots means some states may not be able to report a decisive result on the night of the election and that would ruin it for those like him who like the dramatic effect of television coverage. “I like watching television, and have, ‘The winner is …’” he said. “Right? You might not hear it for months because this is a mess.”

Although Trump said his team wants a “very friendly transition” he also assured that “we don’t want to be cheated and be stupid and say, ‘oh, let’s transit — we’ll go and we’ll do a transition’ and we know that there were thousands and thousands of ballots that made the difference through cheating,” he said. At one point on Friday he called it “this ballot scam.” It marked at least the third time this week Trump has seemed to put conditions on a transition of power. Some key Republican leaders have tried to dismiss any concerns as baseless but many have also raised questions about the validity of mail-in ballots.