Retired Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster added to a chorus of high-level officials grappling with the comments while promising a smooth transfer of authority in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room.”
“This is very disappointing, and really, this is something that our founders feared,” McMaster told Blitzer. He referenced warnings from founding fathers James Madison and Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers on the dangers of identifying with factional political parties, instead of with the nation as a whole, as a potential road to violence.
Citing Trump’s “unfortunate” comments, McMaster continued, “We have to demand that our leaders restore confidence in our democratic principles and institutions and processes and, of course, it’s the administration who has responsibility to secure the election process.” He added that “there’s been a lot of work done, you know, within that administration, to do it after the lessons of the 2016 election.”
When asked what role the military would hypothetically have to play should Trump lose the election and refuse to concede to Democratic nominee Joe Biden in November, McMaster replied, “Absolutely no role.”
He stressed that “the military should have nothing to do with partisan politics, and nothing to do with even any talk about a transition between administrations.”
“And those who suggest that the military would have any role in transition, they are being equally irresponsible,” he added. “And I heard some of the comments, for example, by Vice President Biden, not in recent days but much earlier.”
“The President says crazy stuff. We’ve always had a peaceful transition of power. It’s not going to change,” said Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who has been an occasional critic of the President.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who rarely weighs in on controversial Trump comments, tweeted, “The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th. There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792.”
In contrast, Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican who has stood at odds with the President in the past, slammed Trump’s comments on Wednesday.
“Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus,” Romney tweeted. “Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.”
“It’s just wrong,” McMaster told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead.” “It’s making it easy for Vladimir Putin. And I think it’s really important for leaders to be responsible about this because, really, as you know Putin doesn’t create these divisions in our society, he doesn’t create these doubts, he magnifies them.”
CNN’s Manu Raju, Clare Foran, Jeremy Herb, Sarah Mucha, Eric Bradner and Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.