Trump intensifies his claim that campaign is ‘rigged’

New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump on Sunday intensified his claims that the presidential campaign is “rigged” against him, sowing doubts about the integrity of the country’s democratic process even as his own running mate and other Republican leaders sought to assure voters they viewed the election as legitimate.

“The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary — but also at many polling places — SAD,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

Trump made his incendiary claim just hours after his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, had tried to play down the Republican nominee’s increasingly heated questions about the fairness of the election. Pence said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he and Trump “will absolutely accept the result of the election.”

The governor, in a series of Sunday television interviews, sought to portray Republican criticism of the electoral process as relating entirely to what he described as unfair media coverage. He was attempting to not only stir conservative partisans but also reassure Republican officials and others nervous about Trump’s comments that they were not going outside the boundaries of mainstream American political discourse.

Yet Trump and some of his allies continue to make a case that goes well beyond traditional Republican critiques of the media. He described the presidential election to supporters on Friday as “one big fix” and “one big ugly lie,” language never before heard in modern-day presidential races.

Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York, both advisers to Trump, used television interviews on Sunday to suggest that Democrats tend to cheat in elections, accusing them of counting votes from dead people. And Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Trump’s closest congressional supporter and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has warned “they are attempting to rig this election.”

Other supporters at Trump rallies have gone even further, attacking the political system as a whole and even threatening violence. To Democrats and a growing number of concerned Republicans, the gestures of intimidation, just over three weeks before Election Day on Nov. 8, are an ominous sign of how Trump and his backers might conduct themselves.

Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Bangor, Maine, Oct. 15, 2016. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

It was enough to prompt the House speaker, Paul Ryan, who just last week vowed to remove himself entirely from the presidential campaign, to issue a statement.

“Our democracy relies on confidence in election results, and the speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity,” said Ryan’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong.

Jon A. Husted, secretary of state of Ohio, said it was “wrong and engaging in irresponsible rhetoric” for any candidate to question the integrity of elections without evidence. Husted, who is a Republican, said he would have no reason to hesitate in certifying the results of the election

“We have made it easy to vote and hard to cheat,” Husted said in an interview on Sunday. “We are going to run a good, clean election in Ohio, like we always do.”

Husted said baseless claims of election rigging were a distraction for his office, taking “time and focus away from our jobs.”