WASHINGTON (Axios): Rarely have national security officials, governors, tech CEOs and activists agreed as broadly and fervently as they do about the possibility of historic civil unrest in America.
The ingredients are clear for all to see — epic fights over racism, abortion, elections, the virus and policing, stirred by misinformation and calls to action on social media, at a time of stress over the pandemic.
Look across America this week:
Portland, Oregon — already suffering from fires and protests — is bracing for a showdown today between right and left wing activists, with “far-right groups from around the country bringing guns, flags, bulletproof vests,” the N.Y. Times reports.
President Trump was booed — with chants of “Vote him out!” — as he paid respects to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court steps.
With today’s 5 p.m. Supreme Court announcement, Trump will put America on the cusp of a hardened conservative majority. For the third night in a row, a revived racial-justice movement took to streets across the country to protest the lack of charges against police in the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville. CNN showed demonstrations from L.A. to Sacramento to Philadelphia to Boston.
The bottom line: Everyone from Facebook to YouTube to the U.S. military is taking precautions for post-election civil unrest exploding.
Meanwhile, President Trump maintained Friday night that he supports a “smooth, beautiful transition” of power after the November election but suggested that he may not quickly accept the results of the election, claiming that the only way he would lose is if there’s “mischief.”
Trump’s comments at a rally in Newport News, Va., followed bipartisan backlash he sparked this week by refusing to commit to a peaceful transition should he lose to Democratic rival Joe Biden. The president has voiced concern about mail-in ballots in some states, asserting they may prevent an “honest vote.”
“I want a smooth, beautiful transition,” Trump said during the rally on Friday night. “But they don’t add the other part: But it’s got to be an honest vote.”
He then added, “This is a disaster waiting to happen.”
During another portion of the rally, Trump claimed that the only scenario where he loses to Biden is if there is “mischief” involved, though he did not elaborate on details.
“We’re not gonna lose this except if they cheat,” Trump said. “That’s the only way we’re gonna lose is if there’s mischief … and it’ll have to be on a big scale,” he added. “We do want a very friendly transition, but we don’t want to be cheated and be stupid and say, ‘Oh let’s trans – we’ll go and we’ll do a transition,’ and we know that there were thousands and thousands of ballots that made the difference through cheating. We’re not gonna stand for it,” he said.
Trump’s caveated remarks about supporting a peaceful transfer of power are the latest in the president’s repeated claims without evidence that the practice of absentee voting contains rampant fraud.
Biden blasted Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transition in an interview with NBC News on Friday, saying, “This is a typical Trump distraction, he’s trying to make everybody wonder whether or not the election will be legit.” Amid the coronavirus pandemic, states are relying more heavily on mail-in ballots, which Trump noted Friday could lead to a delayed election result.
Mail-in ballots can be counted after Election Day in some states if they are postmarked no later than Nov. 3. “I could be leading, and then they’ll just keep getting ballots and ballots and ballots and ballots,” Trump told the crowd ini Virginia. “They’re talking about five, six, seven states that have this problem. So if we’re waiting for one state, does that mean the whole nation, the whole world is going to wait for one state?”