More Republicans criticized efforts by members of their own party to oppose certification of Donald Trump’s election loss in this week’s joint session of Congress, a plan the president has greeted with enthusiasm.
Representative Liz Cheney, third-ranked Republican in the House, wrote in a memo to colleagues that a “dangerous precedent” was at hand as lawmakers bid “to steal states’ explicit constitutional responsibility for choosing the President and bestowing it instead on Congress.”
Earlier, Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, said the proposal announced on Saturday — to demand a commission to immediately audit vote counts in several states won by Democrat Joe Biden — “has zero chance of becoming reality.”
“It appears to be more of a political dodge than an effective remedy,” the South Carolina senator said in a statement on Sunday.
Unsubstantiated GOP claims of widespread voter fraud on behalf of Democrats continued even as the Washington Post reported that the president had called Georgia’s secretary of state on Saturday to demand he “find” just enough votes to flip the state to Trump. “I just want to find 11,780 votes,” Trump said, according to a recording obtained by the newspaper.
A bipartisan group of ten senators issued a statement saying the 2020 election was “over. All challenges though recounts and appeals have been exhausted.”
Senator Susan Collins of Maine was among that group, along with Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who was among the first to criticize a plan hatched by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and ten other GOP senators. Two other senior Republicans, Senators Richard Shelby and Roy Blunt of Missouri, also said Sunday they didn’t back the proposal.
Trump, though, egged on the senators’ plan in a series of tweets, praising the lawmakers involved.
The president has called for supporters to travel to Washington on Wednesday for a “protest rally.” Gatherings of at least several thousand people are expected. Two pro-Trump demonstrations in the nation’s capital since the election have produced scattered violence, including stabbings, and arrests.
The BIG Protest Rally in Washington, D.C., will take place at 11.00 A.M. on January 6th. Locational details to follow. StopTheSteal!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2021
Congress on Jan. 6 is required by the U.S. Constitution to meet and accept the results of the Electoral College, which affirmed Democrat Biden as president-elect, a gathering that is typically a formality.
Instead, Cruz led a group on Saturday in calling for a delay of full certification, and a 10-day investigation into accusations of wrongdoing. Those claims have been stoked by Trump but repeatedly dismissed in court, including by Trump-appointed judges.
If an election commission isn’t created, “we intend to vote on January 6 to reject the electors from disputed states as not ‘regularly given’ and ‘lawfully certified,’” the senators said.
The group includes Senators Cruz, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Steve Daines of Montana, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Mike Braun of Indiana, as well as four Senators-elect: Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, and Roger Marshall of Kansas.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to comment on Sunday, telling reporters that “We’ll be dealing with all that on Wednesday.” Last week, McConnell urged party members not to object to the election results.
Trump has yet to provide evidence of widespread voter fraud. Attorney General William Barr, who stepped down before Christmas, said in early December that the U.S. Justice Department had uncovered no evidence of fraud on a scale that could have changed the outcome of the election.
Congress is required to accept the results of the electoral college. On Jan. 6, both chambers will meet jointly to open and count certificates of electoral votes from the 50 states and the District of Columbia, in alphabetical order.
The process is spelled out in the U.S. legal code, right down to the date and hour at which the joint session begins. The candidate who reaches 270 electoral votes is the winner. During the session — which will be presided over by Vice President Mike Pence — any member may object to the results from any individual state.
If both a senator and a representative object to a state’s result, the two chambers leave the joint session to debate the objection for as long as two hours and then vote on it.
Cruz expanded on his group’s maneuver on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures,” saying he wants to force an “emergency audit of the election results to assess these claims of fraud,” in part because the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear cases alleging irregularities in Pennsylvania and Texas.
Wisconsin senator Johnson conceded on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Biden won his state in November by 20,000 votes but said there were “also issues” with the election that he didn’t specify.
The vice president’s office has signaled an openness to hearing objections, but steered clear of endorsing the tactics laid out on Saturday.
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the Senate rules committee, said the Republican “publicity stunt” wouldn’t prevent Biden from being inaugurated on Jan. 20.
“Every single state in America has certified its election results and that includes by Republican secretaries of state and governors,” Klobuchar said in a statement.
The demand for “an additional federal ‘commission’ to supersede state certifications when the votes have already been counted, recounted, litigated, and state-certified, amounts to nothing more than an attempt to subvert the will of the voters,” Klobuchar said.
Three Republican senators — Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania — were rejected the efforts of their colleagues in sharply-worded statements on Saturday.
A fundamental, defining feature of a democratic republic is the right of the people to elect their own leaders. The effort by Sens. Hawley, Cruz, and others to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in swing states like Pennsylvania directly undermines this right.
— Senator Pat Toomey (@SenToomey) January 2, 2021
Another GOP Senator, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, wrote last week that Trump and his allies were “playing with fire” to question the results of the election without offering evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Representative Will Hurd of Texas, who left Congress on Sunday after not seeking re-election in 2020, delivered a parting shot, saying officials sowing doubt about the election were helping U.S. enemies.
Freshman Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri was the first to say he’ll object to the election results, teeing up a lengthy process that’s unlikely to change the outcome but may fracture the GOP.
John Thune, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, said last week that attempts to object to the electoral count would “go down like a shot dog in the Senate.” He advised GOP lawmakers who plan to take part in such an effort to reconsider.
Trump responded by urging someone — for example, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem — to launch a primary challenge against Thune in 2022. Noem has said she’ll seek another term as governor.
–With assistance from Todd Shields, Gregory Korte and Steven T. Dennis. -Bloomberg
Also read: Trump urged Georgia officials to find new votes, overturn result