Cross Country Checkup·Ask Me Anything

Violence a risk without clear-cut U.S. election result, says former adviser Susan Rice

Susan Rice, a former adviser to president Barack Obama and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, spoke on Checkup as part of the program's Ask Me Anything series, answering questions from host Ian Hanomansing and callers.

The former U.S. national security adviser took calls from Canadians Sunday on Checkup

Former U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice told Checkup on Sunday she's hopeful 'we will pass through this very fraught period with a clear-cut election result.' (Mark Humphrey/The Associated Press)

Without a decisive result in the November U.S. election, former U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice says there is a chance some groups could turn to violence.

"I hate to predict something like that, and I'm not going to do that. I do think that there is a risk that if there is a contested or manipulated election result that those on either or both sides may choose to resort to some forms of violence," Rice said Sunday on Cross Country Checkup.

Rice's comments follow news that authorities in Michigan foiled an alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Six men face federal charges, with seven others charged under Michigan state laws.

U.S.Attorney Andrew Birge called the suspects, who have links to militia groups, "violent extremists."

Rice, a former adviser to president Barack Obama and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, spoke on Checkup as part of the program's Ask Me Anything series, answering questions from host Ian Hanomansing and callers.

Here is part of that conversation.

Ian Hanomansing: This past Thursday, U.S. officials revealed an alleged plot by a militia group to kidnap the governor of Michigan.... You are a former national security adviser under president Obama. How worried should Americans be about the alleged plot? 

It was a very concerning and brazen plot, and it's derivative of a sentiment that, sadly, President Trump has whipped up of anti-government, of going after women, of invoking the dark past of white supremacy, which is now being ushered into our present by this president. 

Our FBI [and] our Department of Homeland Security have both recently issued statements and reports underscoring that the most significant domestic terrorism challenge we face is not from al-Qaeda or ISIS or external elements that may inspire Americans. It's white supremacists. 

IH: I heard a governor [Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas] on CNN earlier today who said that we shouldn't make that plot as terrible as it is ... we shouldn't make that a partisan issue. He said when he was a prosecutor years ago, he was dealing with white supremacists. 

Is this just part of a dark part of the American society that really has less to do with Trump and more to do with alleged criminal behaviour? 

There's definitely a history in our country of white supremacy and violent versions of racism. There's no question. But what Donald Trump has done is sort of made it safe for them to come out of the shadows. 

Everything from what he said in Charlottesville after the horrible white supremacist march that invoked anti-Semitism and racism — and we lost an innocent young woman in that event — [to] his reluctance to condemn white supremacy and the Proud Boys and you name it, it's very deliberate. For him, it's a political strategy. 

Trump seems to encourage Proud Boys when asked to condemn white supremacy

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U.S. President Donald Trump refused to condemn white supremacists during the first presidential debate, instead seemingly offering encouragement to the Proud Boys in particular. Trump tried to backpedal today, but that didn’t prevent the furious reaction. 1:50

To the extent that he's tapped into a vein — that obviously was pre-existing — of hatred and given it validity and fresh life, it's quite dangerous. 

Now, I don't know that that makes it a partisan issue. I certainly wouldn't put it in that frame…. But it certainly is a security issue, a domestic national security issue, that we need to recognize and address. It's particularly difficult to do so when it's being stoked by the highest levels of our government.

Calling from Kingston, Ont., Christine Metcalfe asked: What do you project would happen to democracy, and the political situation in the United States, if Donald Trump is re-elected?

It's frankly something I worry a great deal about. We already see Donald Trump trying to behave as an authoritarian: denigrating the free press, trying to use the instruments of the state — the Justice Department — to go against his political opponents on false grounds, breaking laws. 

We have laws, for example, against using federal facilities and federal resources for campaign purposes, yet he's done that with his convention and with his rally at the White House yesterday

I could go down a long litany of things that Donald Trump has done that have corroded our democracy, and I'm quite concerned that if we do not vote him out — and do so resoundingly — that that trend will not only continue, but intensify.

WATCH | The National's Adrienne Arsenault with former U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice:

Susan Rice on getting Americans in Canada to vote

The National

2 months agoVideo
8:06
More than 600,000 eligible U.S. voters live in Canada and Susan Rice, a national security adviser to former president Barack Obama, says those votes could be key in the outcome of November’s election. 8:06

Alec Lalonde, calling from Ottawa, asked: What is your worst case scenario for the United States in the event of a contested presidential election? Is the U.S. headed towards another civil war or, at the very least, widespread unrest and violence in some parts of the country? 

I hate to predict something like that, and I'm not going to do that. I do think that there is a risk that if there is a contested or manipulated election result that those on either or both sides may choose to resort to some forms of violence. 

I think what will matter enormously is how our leaders respond. Joe Biden has been very clear, and he stated this plainly in the first debate — that he will honour the results of a legitimate election ... once all the votes are counted, and will call on his supporters to be patient and calm. 

Donald Trump pointedly refused to do the same. He refused to accept the results unequivocally and he refused to tell his supporters to behave with calm and [peace]. And that's obviously of significant concern.

But I'm hopeful, albeit that nobody can be certain, that we will pass through this very fraught period with a clear-cut election result that doesn't leave a lot of room for confusion or manipulation by those who want to relitigate it. 


Written by Jason Vermes. Segment produced by Kirthana Sasitharan.

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