WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said he worries President Donald Trump will try to “steal” the November election but he is confident soldiers would escort Trump from the White House if he loses and does not recognize the result.
“It’s my greatest concern, my single greatest concern: This president is going to try to steal this election,” Biden said in an interview broadcast late on Wednesday on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”
Biden did not specify how he thought Trump, a Republican, might cheat. But the former vice president cited Trump’s opposition to mail-in voting and said Democrats would have lawyers present at voting locations across the country to look out for Republican efforts to suppress the vote.
Tim Murtaugh, communications director for Trump’s re-election campaign, responded to Biden’s comments. “This is just another brainless conspiracy theory from Joe Biden as he continues to try to undermine confidence in our elections,” he said.
“President Trump has been clear that he will accept the results of the 2020 election,” he added.
Trump has repeatedly attacked voting by mail, proclaiming without evidence that the expected increase in mail-in voting would lead to widespread fraud in the Nov. 3 contest.
Biden said recent comments by former senior military officials criticizing Trump’s response to nationwide protests over police brutality made him confident the U.S. military would intervene if Trump refused to accept the election results.
“I’m absolutely convinced they will escort him from the White House with great dispatch,” Biden said.
Biden has often said publicly he worries Trump would try to cheat. But his rhetoric has escalated recently as most national polls show the former vice president leading the president, while Trump has stepped up criticism of voting by mail.
During the 2016 presidential election campaign, Trump refused to say during a final debate with Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton that he would concede if Clinton won.
Election experts and officials expect a surge in mail-in voting this November due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, and warn the process could be marred by chaos of the type already seen in primary elections held in states during the viral outbreak.
Large number of mail ballots not delivered in time to be cast or counted could lead to legal challenges over election results. Counting mail ballots also take more time because a voter’s identity must first be validated, raising the prospect that the election outcome won’t be known well past Election Day, experts say.
A growing number of former senior military leaders have criticized the president over his handling of the civil unrest following the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a black man whose death in custody of the Minneapolis police set off protests for police reform and racial justice.
Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis accused the president earlier this month of trying to divide America and roundly denounced a militarization of the U.S. response to civil unrest.
The current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Mark Milley, on Thursday said he made a mistake by joining Trump as he walked to a church for a photo opportunity last week after authorities dispersed protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets near the White House.
(Reporting by Jason Lange; additional reporting by Jeff Mason. Editing by Soyoung Kim and Alistair Bell)