Amid a week filled with controversy, Donald Trump began to hint at his defense for a potential loss this fall.
The election is going to be rigged, he claimed on multiple occasions.
"And I'm telling you, November 8, we'd better be careful, because that election is going to be rigged," the New York billionaire told Fox News host Sean Hannity in one such example. "And I hope the Republicans are watching closely or it's going to be taken away from us."
Multiple Republicans told Business Insider Trump's assertion was both ludicrous and dangerous, as Trump would be the first presidential candidate in modern times, possibly ever, to blame an election loss on voter fraud or a rigged election.
Allen Raymond, a former GOP operative who was involved in the 2002 New Hampshire Senate election phone-jamming scandal, called Trump's continued insistence that the election will be rigged "detrimental to the Republic."
"We're not playing games anymore," he said. "This is far worse than, you remember that [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell quote about limiting [President Barack] Obama to one term? This is far more than that."
"The idea that it's rigged, I don't know what he's talking about," he continued. "I know someone that rigged elections. I mean, you know, the fact of the matter is Hillary Clinton doesn't need to rig this election. Trump's going to win Alabama and that's it. She doesn't have to do anything. It's painful to watch."
Raymond authored "How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative," as a tell-all about the attempt to rig the 2002 New Hampshire Senate election between then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, and Republican US Rep. John E. Sununu. Raymond said that attempted rigging was centered on jamming the phone lines at the New Hampshire Democrats office in Manchester — a task his phone bank was hired to carry out. Sununu would win the election by roughly 20,000 votes. Shaheen would defeat Sununu in a rematch in 2008.
The operative served a brief prison sentence for his involvement.
He said, if anyone makes an attempt to rig an election, it will look similar to that — not what Trump's talking about.
The Manhattan billionaire claimed to The Washington Post that a lack of voter-ID laws will let people "just keep voting and voting and voting" and accusations that fraud occurred in 2012 against Republican nominee Mitt Romney because there were "precincts where there were practically nobody voting for the Republican."
"I don't even know what he's talking about," Raymond said. "But this idea that it's 1950 or 1960 and the party bosses are going to roll into Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and are going to rig the ballot box and rig the machines — that's nonsense. An election rigging these days means something totally different than what he's talking about. Now it's stupid stuff like what I did in New Hampshire."
He said the lack of voter-ID laws Trump is trying to use as proof of fraud this fall is also bogus.
"These voter-ID laws, what's the intention of that? The clear intention is disenfranchisement," he said, echoing a common complaint in liberal circles that voter-ID laws are put in place to work to prevent minority voting blocks from being able to cast ballots. "You know, there's a reason we don't have a poll tax anymore. Because it's unconstitutional.
"People don't vote 10 times," he continued. "There might be one bad actor every once in a while who tries to vote a couple of times, but he's talking about an institutional effort. It's a total myth."
He said Trump's statements are an attempt to "basically sideline" Clinton's first four years in office.
The idea of a rigged election came to the forefront recently after the Democratic National Committee had its emails hacked and leaked — although both Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont had claimed the electoral system was rigged earlier in the primary season. The emails showed that the organization, which was supposed to remain neutral throughout the primary, favored Clinton.
Trump said the email leak proved that the primary election was "rigged" against Sanders in his interview with Hannity, in addition to such claims he perpetuated along the campaign trail. He used the leak as further evidence that the fall election will be rigged against him as well.
His prediction was both ripped and mocked by the Clinton campaign, which called it "dangerous" and "pathetic" and Obama, who was baffled when asked about it in a Thursday press conference.
"I don't even know where to start on answering this question," he said. "Of course the elections will not be rigged. What does that mean?"
"My suggestion would be go out there and try to win the election," he continued, proceeding to mock Trump's current plummet in the polls. "If Mr. Trump is up 10 or 15 points on Election Day and ends up losing, then he can raise some questions. But that doesn't seem to be the case at the moment."
Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak told Business Insider that the "rigged" prediction is right in line with the entire Trump persona: "Either he wins outright or he was cheated."
"Look, I'm someone who believes voter fraud happens," he said. "I believe voter-ID laws are entirely constitutional and necessary. But outright rigging has, at least since the '60s, certainly has not happened. It's never been proven in the country's history. And the really scary thing about this is, we always have a peaceful transfer of power. And you can imagine with irresponsible statements like that, that a small percentage of his supporters won't accept the election results as legitimate. That's scary."
Should Trump continue to assert the election will be rigged and he ends up losing, Mackowiak said it could lead to "some type of revolt."
"Some type of very serious protest that could get out of hand," he said. "It would be very difficult to 'rig' the election. We have 50 individual states that conduct elections."
He called it a "preview of coming attractions for Trump."
"He wants to shift blame for what is clearly a failing campaign and plant the seed now so he can harvest it when he needs it," he said. "I think psychologically, that's even more telling than anything else. He doesn't often predict that he's going to lose. Do I think he's going to harp on this? Probably not."
The founder and president of the Potomac Strategy Group repeated one word on a number of occassions to describe Trump's "rigged" accusations: dangerous.
"And I don't even know if he realizes how dangerous it is," he said. "And, you know, we've got to have a peaceful transfer of power on November 8 no matter what the choice is. And this just raises the possibility that we won't. That's a really, really, really dangerous situation."
Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to John Sununu as the former New Hampshire governor. It has been corrected to identify John E. Sununu, his son, who ran in the 2002 race.
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