GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump didn't say outright during Wednesday night's debate that he plans to reject the outcome of the upcoming election if he loses to Hillary Clinton, but that he won't concede the election "until the results are actually known, certified and verified," his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway argued on several morning news programs Thursday, after several key Republican voices slammed Trump for his comments.
"I imagine if you asked Al Gore in 2000 if he was going to respect the election results, he would have said yes," Conway told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos on the "Good Morning America" program.
"He actually called to concede the election to Gov. George W. Bush and retracted it and as you know, we had six weeks until the Supreme Court of the United States decided who the next president would be."
At the same time, Trump is "also putting people on notice that if there are irregularities or voter fraud or large-scale malfeasance that's committed, he's not just going to want to investigate that, but we'll have to see what happens."
Shortly after the debate, both pollster John Zogby and political strategist Dick Morris told Newsmax TV's J.D. Hayworth that Trump's refusal is dangerous for the nation's democracy.
It "comes very close to challenging the Constitution," said Morris. "People will be very frightened about a presidential candidate that might or might not be willing to accept the results of an election. We are not a banana republic."
Several conservatives also took to Twitter Wednesday night to voice their dismay at Trump's words.
Conway, also appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program, said it would be "ridiculous" for Trump to "go through every hypothetical possible in the world" with his comments, but "why would he disclose the possibility until we know what the results are, and they're certified and they're verified?"
On Wednesday, Conway told MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle that she does not believe there will be widespread voter fraud, "absent overwhelming evidence that there is, it would not be for me to say there is."
On Thursday, she told the network's early show that she presumes Trump is saying "he's got to take a look at it and see if there is any voter fraud. You even have James Carville saying, of course there will be some voter fraud.
"We know there are dead people still registered . . . I think the whole conversation about American principals and democracy must include the other person on the stage, who has used the State Department as a concierge for foreign donations.
"She takes money from countries that don't respect women, let alone don't respect democracy. So I think it's a two-way conversation on that."
Trump has specifically mentioned Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis in his comments about rigged elections, a panelist on the "Morning Joe" program pointed out, and Conway said she does know he's been looking at past reports.
"He's been actually scouring a lot of data about where irregularities have taken place, where dead people are still on the roles, and he's looking at past as possibly coupled with his broader message about a corrupt system," she said.
On CNN's "New Day," Conway sparred with anchor Chris Cuomo, after he said Trump's comment sounded like a "disavowal of democracy."
"If anybody has added to American democracy in the last year-and-a-half, it's Donald Trump," she said. "He has gotten people who are not quite interested in participating out to his rallies and out to the polls in the primaries and energized to vote for him this time. You can't call Hillary Clinton a change-maker. She's been there for decades."
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Cuomo argued, though, that Gore waited until the election happened before saying he'd contest it, and that happened after there was a recount triggered in Florida.
"It was George W. Bush who wound up having to appeal to the Supreme Court to decide the matter, and when they did, that's when Al Gore took the step of conceding the race," Cuomo said.
"This is not an analogy to that . . . It sounds not just like whining, but disavowing the democratic process if it doesn't suit Donald Trump's personal preference," he added.
"Two people [were] on the stage last night and only one was whining and it wasn't Donald Trump," Conway retorted. "If you had Al Gore in this seat 16 years ago and you asked him the same question: 'Vice President Gore, if you win the popular vote and you're losing Florida by less than 600 votes, decisive of the election, will you concede the election?'"
Conway also pointed out that "96 percent of the donations from journalists went to Hillary Clinton," but Cuomo responded that he doesn't know what journalists are allowed to donate, as at CNN, "we're not allowed to give."
"If you just turn on a TV or read the print every day, you know the guy can't get a fair shake," Conway said of her client, and insisted that if he wanted to talk about someone undermining American democracy, "let's ask the lady who was secretary of state."
Meanwhile, she argued that the debate showed Clinton's true form.
"She was on her heels, her position on abortion," she told Cuomo. "Every pro-choicer right now doesn't support abortion in late term the way that she does. She was on her heels in the Second Amendment. She was held to account for her position with the hot spots all over the globe."
On Fox News' "Fox & Friends," Conway said the topic of Trump holding back on saying he'd accept the election is being heavily covered because the mainstream media doesn't want to cover Trump challenging Clinton and the Clinton Foundation to return money to countries that violate civil rights, but "she never responded, of course."
"I also think they are deflecting from, I thought it was a pretty tough debate for Hillary Clinton and a debate that Donald Trump clearly won," said Conway.
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