President Donald Trump will not command the loyalty of the military should he lose the election and try to co-opt them to back any challenge of the results, the chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services has said.
Trailing in the polls to his Democratic rival Joe Biden, Trump did not commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses on November 3, telling reporters “we’re going to see what happens.”
The president also again cast aspersions on the integrity of mail-in voting which, without evidence, he claims will lead to widespread fraud.
His opponents fear Trump is laying the groundwork for a challenge to the results that could involve the military. But Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) told CNN that defense leaders assured him they would not serve Trump after the inauguration on January 20 if he loses.
The armed services chairman told the network that military leaders told him they “serve one president at a time,” and while he does not expect Trump to go quietly, after January 20 “all the layers of government will no longer serve him, they will serve Joe Biden—if he wins and if he is sworn in—and there is nothing he can do about that.”
“The second thing is: Does he try to order the military to defy that? What the military has made clear to me is they will not follow an unlawful order. Period,” Smith told CNN.
“For instance, if the president had ordered them into a city, as he was threatening to do, they were prepared to say no, that is not a lawful order, we have no lawful reason to go there.
“Their oath is to the Constitution. Much to Donald Trump’s chagrin, it is not to him. It is to the laws and Constitution of our country and they will uphold that oath.”
Newsweek has contacted the White House for comment.
Utah Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican critic of Trump’s, compared any resistance to a peaceful transition of power to an authoritarian regime, tweeting “without that, there is Belarus.”
Despite Trump’s equivocation, prominent Republicans rushed to insist there would be a peaceful change of administration.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tweeted: “There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792.”
Meanwhile, Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Fox News: “If Republicans lose we will accept the result. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Joe Biden, I will accept that result.”