Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader in the Senate, said on Monday that Trump was “100% within his rights” to consider legal challenges to the election results, and he lambasted Democrats as hypocrites.
But the reality is, while Democrats expressed disappointment at the 2016 election results, most of the party’s leadership in Congress, the White House and at the Democratic National Committee congratulated then-President-elect Trump. They also pledged to work with his team to facilitate the transition and to work with his administration where their views aligned, while promising to stand up for their values when he challenged them. Their behavior four years ago mirrors the tradition followed by most administrations before them, and underscores how Trump and his allies have broken with decades of precedent in how transfers of power are conducted.
Emily W. Murphy, Trump’s head of the General Services Administration, has refused to recognize the incoming Biden administration. The GSA’s recognition would kick off the formal transition process, and by refusing to acknowledge Biden’s victory the agency is making clear that it won’t get ahead of the President.
Yet the day after the 2016 election, then-President Barack Obama ordered the White House to ensure a smooth transition, including the GSA.
Clinton delivered a speech the day after her election loss congratulating Trump.
CNN’s KFile reviewed statements from Democratic leaders and Clinton allies in 2016 acknowledging their loss. Here’s what they said:
Sen. Chuck Schumer
In comparison with McConnell’s refusal to acknowledge Trump’s loss, Chuck Schumer of New York, the then-incoming Democratic minority leader in the Senate, took the opposite approach, and congratulated Trump.
By contrast, the then-outgoing minority leader, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, was less diplomatic. Reid was retiring and didn’t have to work with Republicans or Trump and, though he acknowledged Trump’s victory, he harshly criticized him, saying Trump was “a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate.”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi
Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California refused to acknowledge Trump’s loss on Thursday and declined to say if Biden should receive classified intelligence briefings.
In 2016, Nancy Pelosi of California was House minority leader for the Democrats and acknowledged the election results the day Trump’s victory was called.
Pelosi concluded her statement by saying: “I congratulate President-elect Trump and his family, and pray for his success.”
Then-Rep. Joe Crowley
In 2016, then Rep. Joe Crowley of New York was vice chairman of the House Democrats, and he congratulated Trump the day after the election.
Then-Secretary of State John Kerry
On November 10, 2016, one day after the race was called, then-Secretary of State John Kerry took the opposite approach: congratulating Trump and pledging a peaceful transfer of power.
“I sent a note to all of our personnel within the State Department this morning reiterating what I have said to them personally before I left the country to come here, and that is that we have a time-honored tradition of a very peaceful and constructive transfer of power within administrations when that occurs in the United States.”
Then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter
“Last night our fellow American citizens voted for a new President,” Carter said. “I am very proud of the way each and every one of you conducted yourselves during this campaign, standing apart from politics and instead focusing on our sacred mission of providing security. I am committed to overseeing the orderly transition to the next Commander in Chief.”
Former Secretary of Defense Mike Esper was fired by Trump on Monday and the President named Christopher Miller, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, as acting secretary. Neither Esper nor Miller has publicly commented on the election or the transition to the Biden administration.
Interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has refused to acknowledge Trump’s loss, echoing his claims about voter irregularities.
“We want to congratulate President-elect Donald Trump for his apparent Electoral College victory last night,” Brazile said. “After this fierce campaign, now is the time for leaders from both parties to strive in good-faith to bridge our deep political divides, and work together in service to our one United States of America.”
Clinton campaign Press Secretary Brian Fallon
In comparison, the national press secretary for Clinton’s campaign, Brian Fallon, sent out a tweet the day after the election congratulating Trump.
Sen. Jon Tester, then-head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the incoming chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is tasked with electing Republicans to the Senate, encouraged Trump to challenge the election results last Saturday after national media outlets called the election for Biden.
By contrast, Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the then-head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, took the opposite approach and said he’d be willing to work with Trump.