“Can we just stop, just for a second, because that was absolutely completely and totally insane!” said Maddow during a post-debate panel with former NBC newsman Brian Williams, Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, and columnist Eugene Robinson. “Can I just express that mild feeling? That was absolutely, completely and totally insane.”
Chris Wallace, the Fox News host who moderated the third and final presidential debate, pressed Trump on his repeated claims that the election is “rigged.”
“Your running mate, Governor Pence, pledged on Sunday that he and you — his words — ‘will absolutely accept the result of this election,’” Wallace said. “Today your daughter, Ivanka, said the same thing. I want to ask you here on the stage tonight: Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely — sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?”
“I will look at it at the time,” Trump responded.
He continued by blaming media bias for his plummeting poll numbers, which have dipped in recent weeks, as well as warning of widespread voter fraud. Trump cited a study from a report by The Pew Charitable Tursts, one that was actually about inaccurate voter registration information used to identify polling places, to state that there are “millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn't be registered to vote.”
“I think the voters are seeing through it,” Trump claimed. “I think they're going to see through it. We'll find out on November 8, but I think they're going to see through it.”
Voter fraud is actually extremely rare in U.S. elections. In 2014, Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt found that since 2000, there had been just 31 cases of fraudulent ballots being cast, which amounted to a total of 241 votes.
Many others, including Republicans, shared Maddow’s horror that Trump used the myth of voter fraud to dismiss the possibility of concession.
Schmidt, who sat on the MSNBC panel with Maddow, called it “unprecedented.”
“It’s a moment of clear and present danger to our constitutional order, to the republic,” said Schmidt, who worked on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “It’s unprecedented in this history of the country. Constitutional officers like Paul Ryan are now at an hour where they’re called to step forward, to exhibit political courage, to put the country first and to communicate very clearly that we have legitimate elections in this country and that is how we choose our leaders.”
Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Senator who mounted an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 2015, also tweeted his dismay at Trump’s remarks.
“Like most Americans I have confidence in our democracy and election system,” said Graham, who has previously called the CEO’s comments about voter fraud bad for democracy. “During this debate Mr. Trump is doing the party and country a great disservice by continuing to suggest the outcome of this election is out of his hands and ‘rigged’ against him.”
Sean Spicer, the Chief Strategist for the Republican National Committee, and KellyAnne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, disagreed as to whether the billionaire businessman and his party would concede on election day.
“We expect to win this race, so it’s not going to be an issue, but regardless, we will accept the will of the people,” said Spicer.
Conway, however, continued Trump’s strategy of evading the question. She pointed to the 2000 race, one in which the question of “hanging chads” on Florida ballots left the election results undecided for weeks. Although Al Gore, who it would later be revealed had won the popular vote, contested the results through the Supreme Court, the Democrat did actually concede to his opponent, George W. Bush.
“He’s saying that until the results are actually known, certified and verified, he’s not going to concede an election,” Conway said. “He just doesn’t know what will happen.”
It’s unlikely, though, that the race will be as close as the Gore-Bush election, which was decided by just over 500,000 votes. Prior to Wednesday’s debate, Clinton was leading her Republican rival by more than six points nationally, according to FiveThirtyEight. The Secretary of State is widely viewed as having won the debate, her third such victory in a row.
Watch the Rachel Maddow clip below.