Obama compared the GOP nominee’s complaint to someone playing in a sandbox or a sports game who complained about being cheated when they were losing.
“Of course the election won’t be rigged. What does that mean?” Obama said. “If Mr. Trump is suggesting that there is a conspiracy theory that is propagated across the country, including in places like Texas where typically it is not Democrats who are in charge of voting booths, that’s ridiculous. That doesn’t make any sense.”
Obama, who earlier this week argued that Trump was unfit for the presidency, said he had never heard of anyone complaining that they had been cheated before the score had been tallied.
“My suggestion would be, you know, go out there and try to win the election,” Obama said at a news conference at the Pentagon.
“If Mr. Trump is up 10 or 15 points on Election Day and he ends up losing, then, you know, maybe he can raise some questions,” Obama said. “That doesn’t seem to be the case at the moment.”
Obama did say, however, that should Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton and win the election, he would fulfill his duty to help the incoming president despite his criticisms of the billionaire’s fitness for the Oval Office.
“If somebody wins the election and they are president, then my responsibility is to peacefully transfer power to that individual. And do everything I can to help them succeed,” he said.
Trump on Monday raised fears that the election was not on the level, prompting some of his critics to say the Republican nominee was looking for an excuse in case he loses.
“I’m afraid the election’s going to be rigged. I have to be honest,” Trump told voters in Ohio, a crucial swing state.
Back at the Pentagon, Obama clearly had Trump on his mind when he warned that party nominees who get classified security briefings must act like a president and keep them confidential.
But, he said, “We’re going to go by the law which is that — tradition and the law — that if someone is the Republican nominee for president, they need to get security briefings so if they were to win, they are not starting from scratch in terms of being prepared for this office.”
According to legal experts, however, there is no law requiring security briefings of presidential candidates, just a decades-long practice of doing so.
“They have been told: These are classified briefings. If they want to be president they have got to start acting like (a) president. That means being able to receive these briefings and not spreading them around,” he said.
Obama, who earlier this week declared at a White House news conference that Trump was not fit to be commander in chief, addressed reporters at the Pentagon Thursday.
Trump and Clinton are shortly expected to start getting classified intelligence briefings in the run-up to the election. Some Trump critics have contended that the billionaire’s unrestrained tongue could put US secrets at risk.
Republicans, meanwhile, have argued that Clinton should be barred from the briefings, saying she put classified information at risk through her use of a private email server for official business while secretary of state.
On Tuesday, Obama employed the visuals of a foreign leader’s state visit at the White House to contend that Trump “doesn’t appear to have basic knowledge around critical issues in Europe, in the Middle East, in Asia,” meaning “he’s woefully unprepared to do this job.” Thursday, Obama wrapped himself in the symbolism of America’s military decision center.
The President has suggested on the campaign trail that no candidate “fully understands the challenges of the job of president until you’ve actually sat at that desk.” And perhaps no setting illustrates the complexities and pitfalls of the presidency better than the Pentagon.
Obama also has the benefit of rising poll numbers. A new CNN/ORC poll finds that they stand at their highest level since just before his second inauguration in 2013.
It was Obama’s third time traveling to the facility for an ISIS update; he’s also been briefed at the CIA headquarters, the State Department and the Treasury. US military leaders are currently working with Iraqi forces to devise a strategy to retake Mosul from the terror group, as well as bolster security in Baghdad.
The US also announced a campaign this week to go after ISIS in the Libyan city of Sirte, where a power vacuum allowed for terrorist infiltration.
Trump has advocated a harsher approach, suggesting he’d be open to drastically increasing the number of US ground troops while ramping up a bombing campaign.
Some of his proposals have caused concern, even among fellow Republicans. For example, Trump has embraced torture as a method for extracting information from suspected terrorists — a practice Obama banned upon taking office.
Since Obama’s comments Tuesday declaring Trump “unfit” for the job, Republicans have begun expressing fresh worry about their candidate’s ability to run a winning campaign. Anxious party operatives describe a series of missteps — including Trump’s criticism of a Muslim-American couple whose son, an Army captain, was killed in Iraq and denounced the GOP nominee at the Democratic National Convention — as mounting evidence of a rogue candidate.
But none of the party’s leaders have yet heeded Obama’s call Tuesday to withdraw their support for the Republican nominee.
Obama’s remarks on Thursday are his last scheduled event before he and his family depart for their annual summer vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. The Pentagon visit and news conference come on his 55th birthday — not necessarily his favored way of celebrating.
“If that’s something he wanted to do for his birthday is something you’ll have to ask him tomorrow,” joked his spokesman Josh Earnest on Wednesday.
By Stephen Collinson and Kevin Liptak, CNN