Barack Obama has told Donald Trump to “stop whining” as Republicans continued to disown Trump’s claims that the US election is “rigged”.
As the GOP nominee nominee approaches the last presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, Obama warned his claims could divide America.
“One way of weakening America and making it less great is if you start betraying those basic traditions that have held it together for well over two centuries,” said Obama, adding that there was no evidence at all to support Trump’s allegations.
“I have never seen in my lifetime or in modern political history any presidential candidate trying to discredit the election process before votes have even taken place,” the president added in a White House press conference.
“If you start whining before the game’s even over, then you don’t have what it takes to be in this job, because they are a lot of things that don’t go your way,” added Obama, who called for a “peaceful transfer of power”.
Earlier on Tuesday one of Trump’s last loyal supporters, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, came out against the Republican candidate’s claims the election is being rigged.
“I am convinced that the election will be a fair one and the process will be one that will be accepted by the American people,” Christie said.
His comments came as Trump reiterated a defiant line of attack that has alarmed many across the political spectrum for its potential to stir civil unrest if he loses in three weeks’ time.
As the clock ticks down to a final showdown with Clinton at the third presidential debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Trump’s strategy appears in part to be a way of coping with plummeting poll numbers and preparing for a political future after November.
“People who died 10 years ago are still voting,” the embattled candidate told a rally in Wisconsin at which he alleged there was rampant voter fraud.
“We have voters all over the country where they’re not even citizens of the country and they’re voting,” added Trump, claiming that undocumented immigrants also helped elect Obama.
“Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!” tweeted Trump on Monday.
“You start whining before the game’s even over?” Obama asked bluntly at a press conference with Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi at the White House. “If whenever things are going badly for you and you lose and you start blaming somebody else, then you don’t have what it takes to be in this job.”
As the president spoke, he lifted his left hand and pointed, with his thumb, over his shoulder to the oval office. “’Cos there are a lot of times when things don’t go our way, or my way. That’s OK, you fight through it, you work through it, you try to accomplish your goals.”
He added: “I have never seen in my lifetime or modern political history any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place. It’s unprecedented. It happens to based on no facts.
“Every expert, regardless of political party, regardless of ideology, conservative or liberal, who has ever examined these issues in a serious way will tell you that instances of significant voter fraud are not to be found.”
Elections are run by state and local officials, he noted, including the battleground state of Florida, which has a Republican governor and Republican appointees will be running many election sites.
Trump’s fiery populism and groundless complaints been condemned for threatening to undermine America’s democratic institutions and potentially stoke violence. Obama described them as “irresponsible” and insisted the US would undergo a smooth transition of power in January.
“And so I’d advise Mr Trump to stop whining and go, try to make his case to get votes. And if he got the most votes then it would be my expectation of Hillary Clinton to offer a gracious concession speech and pledge to work with him in order to make sure that the American people benefit from effective government.
“And it would be my job to welcome Mr Trump, regardless of what he’s said about me or my differences with him on my opinions, and escort him over to the Capitol in which there would be a peaceful transfer of power. That’s what Americans do. That’s why America’s already great. One way of weakening America and making it less great is if you start betraying those basic American traditions that has been bipartisan and have helped to hold together this democracy now for well over two centuries.”
Obama also touched on Trump’s positive attitude toward Vladimir Putin during a particular tense time for Washington-Moscow relations. In an interview on Monday, Trump promised a closer relationship with the Russian president if elected, starting with a possible meeting before the presidential inauguration.
Obama said: “Mr Trump’s continued flattery of Mr Putin and the degree to which he appears to model many of his policies and approach to politics on Mr Putin is unprecedented in American politics.
“Mr Trump rarely surprises me these days I’m much more surprised and troubled by the fact that you have Republican officials who historically have been adamantly anti-Russian and, in fact, have attacked me for even engaging them diplomatically now supporting and in some cases echoing his positions.”
Recent opinion polls show Clinton ahead or tied in most of the key battlegrounds that Trump needs to win if he is to pull off a surprise comeback before 8 November. A new SurveyMonkey poll of 15 battleground states conducted with the Washington Post showed Clinton leading in enough states to put her comfortably over the 270 majority needed to win the presidential election.
Instead, members of the Trump family are reported to have held discussions about a possible rightwing media venture that could challenge Fox News and serve as a rallying point for anti-establishment supporters after the election.
But looking beyond the election has further widened Trump’s rift with members of his own party, many of whom fear that telling Republican voters the election is rigged will depress turnout and increase their chances of losing Congress as well as the White House.
“Our institutions, like our election system, is one of the bedrocks of American democracy. We should not question it or the legitimacy of it,” said Ohio secretary of state Jon Husted, a Republican, who also called Trump’s allegations “irresponsible”.
“I am in charge of elections in Ohio, and they’re not going to be rigged,” he added. “We have a bipartisan system of elections. Frankly, it’s the only place you can find Democrats and Republicans working cooperatively together. They work that way in our election system to make sure that the integrity of our election system is upheld, and that people feel good about the process of voting.”
Christie insisted even Trump would eventually come around the accepting the result. “Absent some evidence of real fraud I think he will accept it,” he told MSNBC. “Right now Donald is giving his opinion.”
But his interview revealed just how far once loyal surrogates are now running from their candidate.
“It’s not my campaign,” said Christie when asked if he was proud of what Trump was doing. “We are surrogates and I am proud of everything I have said and that’s all I can control.”
Clinton meanwhile is approaching Wednesday’s debate keeping a relatively low profile as damaging revelations continue to emerge from emails among her staff.
In the latest, a senior US state department official is seen attempting to pressure the FBI to drop its insistence that an email on the private server she used while secretary of state contained classified information, according to records of interviews with bureau officials.
The apparent call for a “quid pro quo” by Patrick Kennedy, the state department’s most senior manager, appears in the latest release of interview summaries from the FBI’s year-long investigation into Clinton’s sending and receiving classified government secrets via her unauthorized server.
More Democratic noise in recent days has come from the slew of celebrities endorsing Clinton, including Vogue magazine and top Hollywood names such as Julia Roberts, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Hugh Jackman, Emily Blunt, Neil Patrick Harris and Helen Mirren.