Trump questions the legitimacy of the elections in a climate of high tension

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The president avoids committing himself to a peaceful transition, while the Republicans in the Senate distance themselves from the president, but see litigation possible in the Supreme

The US elections on November 3 have become a tinderbox. The country must choose its next ruler amid the worst health and economic crisis in 100 years, with racial protests at their sharpest since 1968, and Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump has chosen to pour gasoline on the fire. The president has been sowing doubts for weeks about the reliability of the system and about voting by mail, which is expected to be massive due to the pandemic, but on Wednesday he went further and avoided committing himself to a peaceful transition of power if he loses.

At a press conference at the White House, a journalist posed the question directly to Trump on up to two occasions and both times he responded evasively. “We’ll see what happens, you know I’ve complained a lot about the ballots by mail, it’s a complete disaster,” he said, thus questioning one of the proudest signs of identity in American history, that of the people who have been around for more than 200 years changing ruler peacefully.

“Heroes and philosophers, brave and vile men, from Rome and Athens have tried to make this particular transfer of power work effectively; no people have done it more successfully, or for longer, than the Americans, ”wrote Theodore White in The making of a president, the great classic about the 1960 elections, which brought John F. Kennedy to power.

Trump already cast doubts on the system in the 2016 campaign, when forecasts pointed to his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, as the winner. The differences with then, however, are alarming: who speaks thus is no longer that incendiary candidate, a real estate tycoon star of reality television, but the president of the country. And it does so, in addition, at a turbulent moment for civil society, after a summer of racial protests and riots that have caused deaths in cities such as Portland (Oregon) or Kenosha (Wisconsin).

Hours after his intervention, in Louisville (Kentucky), two policemen were wounded by gunshot wounds and there were dozens of detainees in the demonstrations after the decision of a grand jury to exonerate the three agents who entered the house of African-American Breonna Taylor with a search warrant and was shot. The protest demonstrations spread to other cities.

The journalist made reference to that social tension. “There are people causing disturbances, do you promise to ensure that there will be a peaceful transition of power?” And Trump replied: “We want to get rid of those ballots [del voto por correo, las que señala, sin base, que son fraudulentas] and we will have a peaceful transition, well, there will be no transition, there will be a continuation, ”he said, considering himself the winner of the elections. “The ballots are out of control and the Democrats know it better than anyone,” he added.

With the pandemic, most states have relaxed the requirements to vote by mail and up to 78% of the US electorate – a record – can do so. Many experts agree that, for this reason, it is likely that the winner will not be known that night, but when all those mail ballots are counted days later. That uncertainty is a minefield in the current polarizing climate. The leader of the Republicans in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, avoided overriding Trump, but called for calm and assured on his Twitter account: “The winner of the November 3 election will take office on January 20 and there will be a transition ordered from power as there has been every four years since 1792 ”. Utah senator and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, also a Republican but a regular critic of Trump, called “unthinkable and unacceptable” any suggestion by a president not to respect “this constitutional guarantee.”

What neither Republicans nor Democrats rule out is that the result ends up being settled in the Supreme Court, as happened in 2000, when Democrat Al Gore questioned George W. Bush’s victory over the conflict in the Florida count. Senator Lindsey Graham, loyal to Trump, said on Fox that “a dispute over who has won the election was possible. “But the court will decide, and if we Republicans lose, we will accept that result,” he stressed.

For this reason, the replacement of progressive judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last Friday, is essential for the president and his party. The highest judicial authority is made up of nine members and, if it remains at eight for months, it could lead to a tie and lockdown situation. In addition, choosing a substitute – the president has already advanced that it will be a woman – will allow him to reinforce the conservative majority of the highest judicial authority, which was already five to four.

“I think this will end up in the Supreme Court and it is very important that we have nine justices,” he said. “Is better [confirmar a una nueva magistrada] before the elections, because I believe that this fraud that the Democrats are preparing will end in front of the US Supreme Court, “he added. This Saturday she will announce her nominee to fill the vacancy of Bader Ginsburg, a very controversial decision because it breaks the tradition that a president about to face re-election – and who, therefore, may not repeat a term – should not appoint a life. It is the premise that the Republicans themselves defended at the time before the Barack Obama Administration.

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