House reaffirms commitment to peaceful transfer of power in nearly unanimous 397-5 vote

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly adopted a resolution reaffirming its commitment to the peaceful transfer of power over objections from a handful of Republican allies of President Trump.

Introduced by Rep. Eric Swalwell, California Democrat, the resolution was easily approved by a vote of 397-5. A nearly identical version offered in the Senate passed by unanimous consent last week.

Neither resolution names the president, although each was offered after he raised constitutional concerns by refusing to commit to leaving office if he loses to Democratic rival Joseph R. Biden.

“As the United States of America, the federal government has always had a peaceful transition of power, and it is a collective responsibility of this body to ensure that continues,” Mr. Swalwell said on the House floor before Tuesday’s vote. “Everyone in America knows that this is what makes us American. Everyone, that is, except President Trump.”

In addition to reaffirming the House’s commitment to the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, the resolution says it “intends that there should be no disruptions by the President or any person in power to overturn the will of the people of the United States.”

Mr. Trump said last week he will need to “see what happens” before deciding if he will relinquish power in the event he is defeated by Mr. Biden in November and voted out of office.

All five votes opposing the House resolution were cast by Republicans: Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Clay Higgins of Louisiana, Steve King of Iowa and Tom Massie of Kentucky.

Mr. Gaetz, a frequent defender of Mr. Trump, said he supports the peaceful transfer of power but has reasons for opposing the House resolution affirming as much.

“This resolution is a way for Democrats to attack the president and disguise the fact that they will refuse to accept the election results unless they win,” Mr. Gaetz said on the House floor.

Election Day is on Nov. 3, although millions of more Americans are expected to vote by mail this fall as opposed to in-person at polling places because of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly attacked the integrity of the electoral process in recent weeks and has claimed increased mail-in voting will result in rampant fraud. Election officials disagree.

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The White House declines to clean up Trump’s comments on a peaceful transfer of power

“I wonder if you can just clean up or clarify something the president said yesterday,” ABC News’s Jonathan Karl asked White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany the following afternoon. “If he loses this election, can you assure us that there will be a peaceful transfer of power?”

It’s worth noting Karl’s slip-up there: He’s done this long enough to know that one of the roles press secretaries generally play is to “clean up” politically problematic remarks for the president. Which is to say, he expected that McEnany would want to spin the comments, reframe them in a way that didn’t suggest that Trump was embracing a refusal to accede in the event of a loss.

But McEnany is not a typical press secretary, just as Trump is not a typical president.

“You are referring to the question asked by the Playboy reporter, right?” McEnany replied. When Karl reiterated his question, McEnany again referred to the questioner’s publication, pointedly, emphasizing the word “Playboy.” She then said that the original question reflected the reporter’s “deranged wish” that Trump would leave the White House.

This isn’t a cleanup effort obviously. Instead, it’s an effort to disparage the question to which Trump was responding, by shaming the men’s magazine for which the reporter worked. Trump’s view of Playboy is not as hostile as McEnany’s response of course, given that he’s appeared on its cover, participated in one of its adult-themed videos and warmly embraced its employees.

“It’s a very direct and very simple question,” Karl continued. “If the president loses this election, will this White House, will this president assure us that there will be a peaceful transfer of power?”

“The president will accept the results of a free and fair election,” McEnany finally replied. She went on to disparage Democrats as being the ones unlikely to accept the election’s results.

“Are the results legitimate only if the president wins?” NBC News’s Peter Alexander asked.

“The president will accept the results of a free and fair election,” McEnany replied, emphasizing “free and fair” as robustly as she did “Playboy” a short while earlier. “He will accept the will of the American people.”

This might seem like a successful clean-up of Trump’s remarks. There you go: He’ll accept the election results. Easy-peasy. But it’s impossible not to understand why McEnany emphasized “free and fair” so pointedly, particularly given where the briefing went next.

“Yesterday when the president said, ‘Get rid of the ballots, there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation,’ which particular ballots is he talking about wanting to get rid of and why does he think that would help him get elected?” a reporter asked.

“The president wants to get rid of mass mail-out voting,” McEnany replied. “And that’s not because it — he’s said clearly that that could go either way, it could damage either candidate’s chances because it’s a system that’s subject to fraud.”

She went on to outline evidence which she suggested supported that idea: ballots found

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