Trump refuses to commit to peaceful transfer of power if he loses election

The US president’s comments come as violence flared in US cities after decision on Breonna Taylor

US president Donald Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power after November's election — an unprecedented statement by a US president — as fresh protests erupted in the United States overnight over the killing of Breonna Taylor.

Asked during a White House press conference if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power in light of the recent unrest in various cities, Mr Trump replied: "Well we're going to have to see what happens."

In an apparent reference to postal voting, which is expected to be used widely by voters in the election due to coronavirus, Mr Trump said during a news conference: “I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots… Get rid of the ballots, and you’ll have a very peaceful,” he said, trailing off. “There won’t be a transfer, there’ll be a continuation. The ballots are out of control.”

His comments come as violence flared in US cities and two police officers were shot in Louisville Kentucky, after a grand jury indicted one of three police officers involved in the Breonna Taylor shooting, but refrained from charging anyone directly for her killing.


One of the officers was undergoing surgery last night and was in a stable condition, while the other was also being treated in hospital and was stable, Louisville police chief Robert Schroeder said. Neither has life-threatening injuries, he said.

A suspect was in custody. “I am very concerned about the safety of our officers,” he added, “the safety of our officers and the community we serve is of the utmost important.”

Six months after the 26-year-old African-American woman was shot six times by police officers in her apartment, Det Brett Hankison was charged with wanton endangerment. But the charges were in connection with shots he fired into neighbouring apartments, not with Ms Taylor's killing directly.

The two other officers, who engaged in a shoot-out with Ms Taylor's boyfriend Kenneth Walker after entering her apartment, were cleared.

People took to the streets of New York, Washington DC, Chicago and Atlanta last night, as well as in Louisville, Kentucky, the site of ongoing protests since the killing of Ms Taylor earlier this year.

Wednesday's long-awaited judgment served to refocus attention on the issue of police conduct and racial inequality in the United States, four months after African-American man George Floyd died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes.

This summer, protests took place across the country over the killing of Mr Floyd and Ms Taylor, and the subsequent police shooting of African-American man Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin last month.

Mr Blake, who was shot in the back seven times, survived the shooting, but is paralysed from the waist down. The resurgence of violence in the streets following the Breonna Taylor judgment, threatens to push issues of law and order and racial inequality back onto the political agenda, less than six weeks before the election.

The attorney for Ms Taylor's family, Ben Crump, criticised the grand jury decision. "Jefferson County Grand Jury indicts former ofc. Brett Hankison with 3 counts of Wanton Endangerment in 1st Degree for bullets that went into other apartments but NOTHING for the murder of Breonna Taylor. This is outrageous and offensive!"

The charged officer, Mr Hankison, could face up to five years in prison for the charge of wanton endangerment in the first degree, and Mr Cameron said he would prosecute the criminal charges against him vigorously.

Asked about the verdict during his press conference on Wednesday, Mr Trump praised Kentucky's attorney general, Daniel Cameron, an African-American Republican who spoke at last month's Republican National Convention.

“I thought it was really brilliant. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron is doing a fantastic job. I think he’s a star,” he said, quoting from the statement the attorney general made as he announced the grand jury’s decision. “It’ll all work out.”

Earlier in the day, Mr Trump argued that a successor for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg needed to be appointed before November's election, to ensure that there is a full nine-member court in situ in case of an election dispute: "This will end up in the Supreme Court, and I think it's very important that we have nine justices," he said.

Mr Trump, who will announce his choice for the Supreme Court vacancy on Saturday, said: "I think it's better if you go before the election, because I think this scam that the Democrats are pulling ... will be before the United States Supreme Court. "

He continued: “Having a four-four situation is not a good situation. I think it should be eight-nothing, or nine-nothing. But just in case it would be more political than it should be, I think it’s very important to have a ninth justice.”

The 2000 presidential election ended up in the Supreme Court after the race between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W Bush came down to disputed votes in Florida. More than three weeks after election day, a 5 to 4 Supreme Court ruling called the race for Mr Bush, who then went on to win a second term in 2004.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent