Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Thursday that President Trump “will accept the results of a free and fair election,” downplaying his refusal the day before to commit to a peaceful transfer of power without categorically stating whether he would accept the results.
“He will accept the will of the American people,” she added.
During a daily press briefing, Ms. McEnany was pressed on Mr. Trump’s remark, which he made Wednesday evening in response to a question about the possibility that he might lose the November election at a time of widespread unrest in American cities.
Ms. McEnany would not further characterize the president’s views, but sought to turn against Democrats the outrage and alarm triggered among both parties by the president’s comments.
“I think that your question is more fitting to be asked of Democrats who have already been on the record saying they won’t accept the results of an election,” she said, quoting party leaders who have in fact warned that Mr. Trump might try to claim victory illegitimately.
She cited an August comment from Mr. Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, that former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. “should not concede under any circumstances.” But Mrs. Clinton was referring only to election night itself, warning that a final accurate tally may not be known until days or weeks later, in part because of potentially late-arriving mail-in votes Mr. Trump is seeking to discredit.
She also repeatedly noted that the reporter who had asked Mr. Trump yesterday about a power transfer works for Playboy magazine. The White House has previously complained about that reporter, Brian Karem, and even unsuccessfully sought to revoke his press pass. It is unclear why Mr. Trump continues to call on him in briefings.
Ms. McEnany also condemned protesters who jeered Mr. Trump as he visited Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s coffin atop the Supreme Court steps on Thursday. “The chants were appalling, but certainly to be expected when you’re in the heart of the swamp,” she said.