MSNBC host the Rev. Al Sharpton on Thursday said that by filling the Supreme Court vacancy left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Donald Trump is attempting to "guarantee ... his re-election" in a "coup."
Sharpton demanded that Senate Republicans insist that whomever Trump nominates to the Supreme Court, if they are confirmed, recuse themselves in the event a contested election goes to court, the Daily Caller reported.
"If we are to have any iota of a democratic process in this election, then Republicans in the Senate, if they move forward as they seem determined to do with the process of the confirmation hearings of whoever the president nominates Saturday and a vote, they are to insist they recuse themselves," Sharpton said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
Sharpton said confirmation of Trump's nominee to the court would "checkmate American democracy."
"In effect this president has therefore not only violated the whole procedure they had set up in 2016 against Justice [Merrick] Garland, nominated by President Obama, he has in fact put in place how he can checkmate American democracy by putting in a judge that will guarantee, if proceedings go through the courts up to the Supreme Court, his reelection," he continued.
"And for [Trump] to be able to checkmate American democracy is, in fact, a coup rather than an election," Sharpton added.
Sharpton said the public must challenge Republicans to ensure Trump's nominee be recused, "otherwise you've handed over this democracy to a whole situation that is nothing short of ... going into an autocracy headed by a man who is not even able to get through a sentence without really revealing his innermost thoughts of ultimate power."
President Trump and other Republicans have argued it is necessary to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court before the election precisely because the results could be contested.
"I think this will end up in the Supreme Court, and I think it's very important that we have nine Justices," Trump told reporters Wednesday. "I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation."
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said last Friday that the legitimacy of the election depends on not having a 4-4 tie at the Supreme Court.
"I think it is tremendously important that not only does the nomination happen next week but that the confirmation before Election Day," Cruz said on Fox News. "Democrats and Joe Biden have made clear, they intend to challenge this election, they intend to fight the legitimacy of the election. As you know, Hillary Clinton has told Joe Biden 'under no circumstances should you concede. You should challenge this election.'"
"We cannot have Election Day come and go with a 4-4 court," Cruz said. "A 4-4 court that is equally divided cannot decide anything. And I think we risk a constitutional crisis if we do not have a nine justice Supreme Court, particularly when there's such a risk of a contested litigation and a contested election."
At stake are several lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee related to election laws in various states. A tied ruling at the Supreme Court would mean lower court rulings against the Trump campaign remain in place. In Pennsylvania, a federal judge ordered a stay in the Trump campaign's lawsuit seeking to ban mailed ballot drop boxes and bar counties from accepting absentee ballots that don't arrive without a second, internal secrecy envelope sent to all voters. A federal judge in Nevada dismissed a lawsuit from the Trump campaign challenging the state's new mail-in voting law. In Wisconsin, a federal judge appointed by President Obama ordered the state to extend its deadlines for accepting mail-in ballots well beyond Election Day up to Nov. 9 as long as the ballots were postmarked on or before Nov. 3.
There is an expectation that Democratic nominee Joe Biden will challenge the results of a close election in court with the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton urging Biden not to concede "under any circumstances."
President Trump himself was noncommittal in responding to a reporter's question Wednesday about the peaceful transition of power should he lose the election. Trump complained about mail-in ballots rather than directly answering the question.
"We're going to have to see what happens. You know that I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster," Trump said. "Get rid of the ballots and you'll have a very peaceful — there won't be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation."
Several Republicans condemned the president's comments without directly mentioning Trump.
On Thursday, the president committed to accepting the results of the election if it came to a Supreme Court decision.
"One of the things you said when asked about if you lose the election, will you accept the result? You said well we're going to have to see what happens, you know. I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster," Fox News' Brian Kilmeade asked Trump in a radio interview reported by the Washington Examiner. "Many think you are saying if you do lose you'll never ever leave. That's not what you're saying. We just spoke to [Sen.] Lindsey Graham. He said, 'We have every reason to contend anything that may be controversial,' and I'll paraphrase, if it gets to the Supreme Court and they decide Joe Biden won, Joe Biden won. Do you agree with that?"
"Oh that I would agree with, but I think we have a long way before we get there," the president said.