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Bernie Sanders Issues Warning About Prospect of Trump Refusing to Leave Office

The Vermont senator made the remarks during his first major public speech since bowing out of the presidential race.

In an address to the country, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has issued a stark warning about the threat posed by President Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power after the November election. Trump, who has made spurious claims of voter fraud and election-rigging against Democrats for months, recently ramped up his efforts to discredit the election results by suggesting he will refuse to concede if he loses. “This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy. And democracy must win,” Sanders said. We air excerpts from his speech.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! As we end this segment, let’s hear from President Trump speaking to delegates at the Republican National Convention last month.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election. We’re going to win this election. We’re going to win this election. … What they’re doing is using COVID to steal an election. They’re using COVID to defraud the American people, all of our people, of a fair and free election. And we can’t do that.

AMY GOODMAN: On Thursday afternoon, independent Senator Bernie Sanders spoke out, responding to Trump’s remarks.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I think it is terribly important that we actually listen to and take seriously what Donald Trump is saying. Several weeks ago, speaking at the Republican National Convention, Trump said — and I quote — “The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election,” end of quote. What is remarkable about that statement is that he made it at a time when almost every national poll had him behind and when he was trailing in polls in most battleground states.

Think about what that statement means. Think hard about what that statement means. What he is saying is that if he wins the election, that’s great, but if he loses, it’s rigged, because the only way — the only way he can lose is if it’s rigged. And if it’s rigged, then he is not leaving office. Heads, I win; tails, you lose. In other words, in Trump’s mind, there is no conceivable way that he should leave office.

AMY GOODMAN: And this is how independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont ended his address.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: In this unprecedented moment what can we as a people do in the struggle to preserve American democracy?

First, it is absolutely imperative that we have, by far, the largest voter turnout in American history and that people vote as early as possible. As someone who is strongly supporting Joe Biden, let’s be clear: A landslide victory for Biden will make it virtually impossible for Trump to deny the results, and is our best means for defending democracy.

Second, with the pandemic and a massive increase in mail-in voting, state legislatures must take immediate action now — now — to allow mail-in votes to be counted before Election Day, as they come in. In fact, 32 states allow for the counting or processing of absentee ballots — verifying signatures, for example — before Election Day. All states should do the same. The faster all ballots are counted, the less window there is for chaos and conspiracy theories.

Third, the news media needs to prepare the American people to understand there is no longer a single Election Day and that it is very possible that we may not know the results on November 3rd.

Fourth, social media companies must finally get their act together and stop people from using their tools to spread disinformation and to threaten and harass election officials.

Fifth, in the Congress and in state legislatures, hearings must be held as soon as possible to explain to the public how the Election Day process and the days that follow will be handled. As we count every vote and prevent voter intimidation, everything possible must be done to prevent chaos, disinformation and, yes, even violence.

Lastly, and most importantly, the American people, no matter what their political view, must make it clear that American democracy will not be destroyed.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Bernie Sanders, speaking in Washington, D.C., Thursday in his first major public speech since bowing out of the presidential race.

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