- Trump playing on beliefs about widespread voter fraud
- Polls show Clinton widening lead over Republican nominee
President Barack Obama dismissed as “ridiculous” Republican Donald Trump’s statement that he fears the Nov. 8 election will be rigged against him.
“Of course the election will not be rigged. What does that mean?” Obama said at a news conference Thursday when asked about the Republican presidential nominee’s remarks. “I don’t think anybody would take that seriously.”
As recent national polls are showing him falling further behind Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump, who’s repeated various conspiracy theories throughout the campaign, on Monday launched an attack on the legitimacy of the U.S. electoral system. “I’m afraid the election’s gonna be rigged, I have to be honest," he told a crowd in Columbus, Ohio.
Obama compared Trump’s assertion to a sandbox or schoolyard squabble. “Sometimes folks when they lose complain about getting cheated,” he said. “But I’ve never heard someone complain" before the game is over.
He pointed out that the election system is run by states, many of which are governed by Republicans. The federal government does have a role in monitoring the vote to assure the integrity of the process, he said.
"If Mr. Trump is up 10 or 15 points on Election Day and ends up losing, maybe he can raise some questions. That doesn’t seem to be the case at the moment," Obama said.
Three polls taken since the end of the Democratic and Republican conventions show Clinton opening up a lead over Trump nationwide. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Thursday put Clinton’s support 47 percent to Trump’s 38 percent, an expansion of the 5 percentage point lead she held last month. A McClatchy-Marist poll, also released Thursday, found her leading Trump by 15 points. A Fox News survey gave Clinton a 49 percent to 39 percent advantage.
Trump’s remarks play into a belief among some Republicans that voter fraud is a widespread problem, even though studies find it to be extremely rare. During his campaign for the Republican nomination Trump regularly complained that the system was “rigged” as his rivals sought ways to stop him through delegate rules.
Separately, Obama said his administration would follow “both the tradition and the law” in providing Trump and Clinton with classified intelligence briefings, despite calling the Republican nominee “unfit” for the presidency earlier this week.
"They have been told these are classified briefings,” he said. “If they want to be president, they’ve got to start acting like president. That means being able to receive these briefings and not spread them around.”
At Thursday’s news conference at the Pentagon, where he discussed progress against Islamic State and defended his administration’s dealings with Iran, the president was somewhat more reserved in his remarks about Trump than he was Tuesday, when he urged Republican lawmakers to repudiate their presidential nominee because he was ill-prepared to handle the job.
“I obviously have a very strong opinion about the two candidates who are running here. One is very positive and one is not so much,” he said.
Asked whether he would feel comfortable with Trump in charge of the nation’s nuclear arsenal, Obama said, “Just listen to what Mr. Trump has to say and make your own judgment with respect to how confident you feel to his ability to manage things like the nuclear triad.”