President Trump on Thursday said he would accept a hypothetical Supreme Court ruling declaring Democratic nominee Joe Biden the winner in November's election, a small concession as Republicans rebuked his refusal a day earlier to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.
Trump appeared on Brian Kilmeade's Fox News Radio show, where the host sought to smooth over the president's comments late Wednesday, which caused an uproar.
"Oh that I would agree with," Trump said when Kilmeade suggested that Trump would accept a Supreme Court ruling declaring the outcome of a contested election. But the president immediately began casting doubt on the result.
"I think we have a long way before we get there. These ballots are a horror show," he added.
The president has for months claimed that the widespread use of mail ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic will result in a "rigged" and "fraudulent" election. He has taken particular issue with some states sending ballots directly to voters to expand access, though experts have highlighted that there is little historical evidence of meaningful fraud associated with voting by mail.
Experts have noted that any election disputes would have to go through lower courts and may not even reach the Supreme Court. But Trump has in recent days argued his forthcoming nominee for the court should be confirmed quickly so they can help decide a contested election.
Trump's repeated attacks on the integrity of the election have raised alarms among lawmakers and watchdogs. He escalated his rhetoric late Wednesday when asked if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power.
“We’re going to have to see what happens, you know, but I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots. The ballots are a disaster,” Trump told reporters at a White House briefing.
Several Republicans on Thursday morning rejected Trump's comments, though they did not name the president in any of their criticism.
The president complained to Kilmeade that he was the victim of a double standard. He noted that Hillary Clinton, his opponent in 2016, has cautioned Biden not to concede on election night, suggesting that was similar to his refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.