Latest on 2020 election and SCOTUS battle

By Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:00 p.m. ET, September 25, 2020
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9:34 a.m. ET, September 25, 2020

White House chief of staff: Trump "commits to peaceful transfer as long as it's a fair election"

From CNN's Allie Malloy 

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows speaks with reporters at the White House on September 17 in Washington, DC.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows speaks with reporters at the White House on September 17 in Washington, DC. Alex Brandon/AP

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Friday claimed that President Trump “commits to a peaceful transfer as long as it’s a fair election” but did not determine how the president determines what is “fair”.

“We want to make sure that every vote counts but that only the vote from one voter to the ballot box is what gets counted and nothing less, nothing more. So that’s what he’s referring to,” Meadows attempted to explain on CBS This Morning.

“That’s what we’re committed to. We’re seeing some very problematic rulings by judges in certain states across the country. Hopefully we’ll be able to make sure that this election goes off like every other election and that the winner on November 3rd will certainly be the new president sworn in on January 20th,” Meadows added.

When pressed further by reporters on the north lawn, Meadows said: “Here’s what we want to make sure of — is that laws are not changed by a few judges making… don’t change laws that are on the books just so that you can extend the election time. Most states, North Carolina and others, have a very long time for them to be able to cast ballots either in person or by mail leading up to November 3rd. So to suggest that we should have November 3rd plus a week or plus two weeks… is not something that I think is necessary.”

9:37 a.m. ET, September 25, 2020

GOP downplays Trump's refusal to commit to peaceful transition of power

From CNN's Manu Raju, Clare Foran and Jeremy Herb

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Donald Trump's stunning refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power was mostly dismissed by Republicans on Capitol Hill, with many downplaying the remarks as merely rhetoric and others deflecting questions about a comment that Democrats fear could threaten a fundamental principle of American democracy.

"The President says crazy stuff. We've always had a peaceful transition of power. It's not going to change," said Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who has been an occasional critic of the President.

While Republicans insisted there would be a peaceful transition, many did not go so far as to explicitly criticize his remarks after Trump on Wednesday would not commit to providing a peaceful transition of power after Election Day, lending further fuel to concerns he may not relinquish his office should he lose in November.

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday insisted there will be a peaceful transition, but also suggested he is not concerned by the remarks.

"Let me be very clear to you: It'll be peaceful," McCarthy said, adding, "no questions, no qualms, no concerns, it's going to be peaceful."

Trump's comments amounted to a familiar pattern on Capitol Hill: Stoking a controversy, and putting Republicans in a jam. But this time, he stoked fears about a basic tenet of democracy, forcing Republicans to weigh in and insist the election results will be adhered to — even if many didn't want take him on by name.

The No. 2 Senate Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, told CNN that he and other Republicans would stand up to Trump if he tried an extra-constitutional power grab.

"Republicans believe in the rule of law, we believe in the Constitution, and that's what dictates what happens (in) ... our election process and so yes," Thune said when asked if he is confident that Republicans would not permit a non-peaceful transfer power to occur.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rarely weighs in on controversial Trump comments, but did so on Thursday, although he didn't single out the President.

"The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th. There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792," McConnell, who is running for reelection this cycle in Kentucky, tweeted Thursday morning.

Mitt Romney of Utah, the lone Senate Republican to break ranks and vote to convict during the President's impeachment trial, however, went the furthest and was sharply critical of the President's message, though he did not refer to him by name in his response.

"Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus. Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable," Romney tweeted Wednesday evening, referencing the disputed presidential elections in Belarus.

Read more Republican reactions here.