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Trump Says Acceptance of Election Loss Will Depend on How “Honest” Results Are

Trump has repeatedly suggested that his loyalists would be justified in committing violence if he loses the election.

Former President Donald Trump attends his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 2, 2024, in New York City.

During a campaign stop this week in Waukesha, Wisconsin, former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee in this year’s presidential election, indicated that he wouldn’t accept the election results if he loses.

When questioned by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about whether he’d concede should he lose the election to his Democratic opponent President Joe Biden, Trump framed the issue as being about honesty and pushed false talking points about election fraud.

“If everything’s honest, I’ll gladly accept the results,” Trump told the publication. “I don’t change on that. If it’s not, you have to fight for the right of the country.”

In that same interview, Trump insisted that he had actually won Wisconsin in the 2020 election.

“If you go back and look at all of the things that had been found out, it showed that I won the election in Wisconsin,” Trump wrongly claimed. “It also showed I won the election in other locations.”

In reality, Trump lost to Biden in the state by a very slim margin, with a difference of just over 20,000 votes. Several recounts and reviews of the election found no evidence that fraud had affected its outcome.

Trump’s recent comments echo alarming statements he made in a recently published interview with Time. In that interview, he was asked whether he would endorse violence from his loyalists should he lose the election against Biden again.

“If we don’t win, you know, it depends,” Trump responded. “It always depends on the fairness of the election.”

Trump then showcased the authoritarian manner in which he would rule should he win a second term.

He proposed, for example, expanding on the U.S.’s existing migrant prisons and using the U.S. military to deport undocumented people. He also suggested that he would pardon hundreds of his loyalists who attacked the U.S. Capitol after his 2020 election loss; abuse his presidential powers to order U.S. Attorneys to prosecute his political rivals (and fire those who didn’t heed his orders); and withhold government funds “at his personal discretion” to block funding of programs he opposed or to potentially retaliate against jurisdictions that disagreed with his actions.

Critics have lambasted Trump over his recent comments to Time and the Journal Sentinel, noting that he seems to be signaling to his most ardent loyalists that he would welcome violence in his name.

“Trump wants to give skeptical voters a reason to set aside their misgivings. That’s why he won’t directly call for violence,” opined Political Wire’s Taegan Goddard. “But make no mistake: He’s already telling his supporters to get ready to take matters into their own hands.”

“[Trump’s] ongoing lies continue to undermine faith in our democracy, divide the public, and invite more violence. Be warned,” advised former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich on social media.

“The basis of Trump’s constant warnings about election integrity apparently is that there is no way he could lose an election fairly. … To Trump, the only kind of ‘honest’ election is one in which he is the victor,” MSNBC’s Clarissa-Jan Lim said in a recent online column.

The Biden campaign has also responded to Trump’s comments, with spokesperson James Singer stating:

In his own words, [Trump] is promising to rule as a dictator on ‘day one’, use the military against the American people, punish those who stand against him, condone violence done on his behalf and put his own quest for power ahead of what is best for America. Bottom line: Trump is a danger to the constitution and a threat to our democracy.

Voters will likely respond negatively to Trump in the remaining months of the campaign if these and other anti-democratic comments he has made are frequently highlighted between now and November. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll from late February, more than one in five respondents (21 percent) listed “political extremism and threats to democracy” as the top issue affecting their vote, coming in first place among other issues listed in the poll.