Senior Obama administration staffers planned a response to then-candidate Donald Trump’s potential rejection of the 2016 election results, New York Magazine reported Wednesday based on interviews with two such staffers, Deputy National Security Adviser for Communications Ben Rhodes and Communications Director Jen Psaki.
“It wasn’t a hypothetical,” Rhodes told New York. “Trump was already saying it on the campaign trail.”
At the time, Trump had said in a debate that he might not accept the election results, provoking an uproar.
The plan, essentially, was to flood the zone with a long list of “congressional Republicans, former presidents, and former Cabinet-level officials including Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice,” in the magazine’s words, who would express their confidence in the election results.
The plan also called for senior Republicans and Democrats to assert that Russia had attempted to tilt the scales in Trump’s favor, as intelligence officials and some in the administration and Congress knew at the time.
“We wanted to handle the Russia information in a way that was as bipartisan as possible,” Rhodes said.
“There was recognition that we had a Democratic president who was quite popular but also divisive for a portion of the population,” Psaki told New York. “For them, just having him say the election was legitimate was not going to be enough. We didn’t spend a lot of time theorizing about the worst thing that could happen — this isn’t a science-fiction movie. It was more about the country being incredibly divided and Trump’s supporters being angry. Would there be protesting? I don’t want to say violence, because we didn’t talk about that as I recall.”