Psaki, Harris argue Biden wasn’t saying 2022 election results might not be legitimate

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Sarah Kolinovsky, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- One day after President Joe Biden appeared to cast doubt on whether the midterm election results will be legitimate without the passage of a new voting rights law, his vice president and press secretary worked to dispel any mistrust in the integrity of the vote.

"Speaking of voting rights legislation, if this isn't passed, do you still believe the upcoming election will be fairly conducted and its results will be legitimate?" a reporter asked Biden Wednesday at a lengthy press conference marking the end of his first year in office.

"Well, it all depends on whether or not we're able to make the case to the American people that some of this is being set up to try to alter the outcome of the election," Biden said.

"I'm not saying it's not going to be legit, it’s the increase in the prospect of being illegitimate is in direct proportion to us not being able to get these, these reforms passed," Biden told another reporter who followed up on his assertion that the integrity of the results "depends" on passing voting rights legislation.

Early Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted, refuting the notion Biden believes there's a possibility the election results will be questionable.

“Lets be clear: @potus was not casting doubt on the legitimacy of the 2022 election. He was making the opposite point: In 2020, a record number of voters turned out in the face of a pandemic, and election officials made sure they could vote and have those votes counted," she said.

“He was explaining that the results would be illegitimate if states do what the former president asked them to do after the 2020 election: toss out ballots and overturn results after the fact. The Big Lie is putting our democracy at risk. We’re fighting to protect it.”

Psaki also appeared on Fox News, saying directly that Biden "was not making a prediction" about the legitimacy of the results.

"I talked to the president a lot about this and he is not predicting that the 2022 elections would be illegitimate," Psaki said on "America's Newsroom." "... The point he was making the former president asked seven or more states to overturn the outcome of the election. Now obviously if there is an effort to do that we have to fight against it. That's what our commitment is to doing, but he was not making a prediction. He has confidence in the American people and do everything we can to protect people's rights."

But a major Biden ally, Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., whose support for Biden in the critical primary state of South Carolina changed the trajectory of the 2020 primary, expressed agreement on the idea that the 2022 results could be questionable in a CNN interview Thursday.

"Are you concerned that without these voting rights bills the election results won’t be legitimate?” CNN's Kasie Hunt asked Clyburn.

“I’m absolutely concerned about that," Clyburn said.

Vice President Kamala Harris, appearing on all three broadcast network morning shows Thursday to dispel confusion over several comments from the press conference, argued the attention should remain on protecting the right to vote, dismissing questions surrounding election integrity.

"Let's not conflate issues. What we are looking, and the topic of so much debate last night, was that we as America cannot afford to allow this blatant erosion of our democracy, and in particular, the right of all Americans who are eligible to vote to have access to the ballot unfettered. That is the topic of the conversation. Let's not be distracted by the political gamesmanship," Harris said on NBC's "Today" program.

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