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GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election

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Republican senators don’t want to talk about Donald Trump’s allegations of a rigged election.

The Hill contacted the offices of all 54 Republican senators and asked them if they think the election is rigged. Thirty-four of the senators’ offices did not respond, while another three declined to comment. 

{mosads}Those that did respond offered little support for the GOP nominee’s claim.

Fifteen senators said they do not think the election is being or will be rigged. 

One, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), wants to “wait and see.” 

And only Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a major Trump backer, offers some support for Trump’s claim. Even then, Sessions said in a statement that the media is attempting to rig the election through biased coverage; he stopped short of alleging fraud at polling places, as Trump has.

Trump’s claims that the election is being rigged and stolen from him, for which he has offered no real evidence, have dominated headlines for days.

Critics argue the allegations are irresponsible. Losing presidential candidates have long accepted the results of U.S. elections, but Trump’s complaints suggest he and his supporters will not.

“Trump is now attacking our Democracy,” GOP strategist Mike Murphy tweeted on Saturday. “Any Elected R who doesn’t condemn this anti-American thug will carry a moral stain forever.” 

Trump’s claims have won support from some quarters, however. 

Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a Trump supporter known for making incendiary comments, said Tuesday that he was not confident the election in Maine would be clean.

“The left, the Democratic Party, insists on not having IDs. And will people from the cemetery be voting? Yes. All around the country. The media and the Democratic Party want everybody to vote whether they’re citizens or not,” LePage said. 

Politico reported Tuesday that a number of Republican National Committee members that it contacted also believe the election could be rigged.

“I do believe that there are elements that will try to rig the election on varying degrees of scale and this will certainly affect the outcome in varying degrees,” Peter Goldberg, an RNC committeeman from Alaska, told Politico.

But in the Senate, where lawmakers face elections every six years, such opinions are rare. 

“The answer is no,” said a spokesman for Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) in response to a question about whether the election will be rigged.

“Senator Daines does not think the election is rigged,” said a spokesman for Sen. Steve Daines (Mont.).

“Senator Lankford has no reason to believe the election is ‘rigged,’ ” a spokesman for Sen. James Lankford (Okla.) said.

“Senator Scott has full faith in our states’ abilities to lawfully carry out elections,” said a spokesman for Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.).

“States, backed by tens of thousands of GOP and DEM volunteers, ensure integrity of electoral process. Elections are not rigged,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said in a tweet. 

Most Senate offices either didn’t respond to The Hill or offered a response of no comment.

The reluctance to talk underlines the difficulty Republican senators are having in dealing with Trump. Lawmakers who have offered criticisms of Trump, such as Flake, have faced blowback from the Republican nominee himself. That can also lead to angry calls from Trump supporters. 

Republican senators running for reelection this year have faced questions about Trump’s comments at debates. 

“This election is not being rigged, and I’m going to explain to you why it’s not being rigged in Florida and why I hope [Trump] stops saying that, why he should stop saying that,” Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) said at a Senate debate on Monday.

“We have 67 counties in this state, each of which conduct their own elections,” he said. “I promise you there is not a 67-county conspiracy to rig this election.”

Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.) has also rejected Trump’s rigged-election claims. But staff for other GOP senators in tough reelection races, including Sens. Roy Blunt (Mo.), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), did not respond to questions. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office also did not comment. The only member of Senate Republican leadership to comment was Cornyn.

“There are going to have to be some facts identified to support [Trump’s] conclusion and we’ll just have to wait and see what happens,” he told The Dallas Morning News.

Here are the full results of The Hill’s survey:

THE ELECTION IS NOT RIGGED (15)

Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.)

Alexander’s office said: “The answer is no.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.)

Capito’s office did not respond to The Hill, but Capito told the Charleston Gazette-Mail: “I do not think the system is rigged.

“There are a lot of volunteers, certainly in West Virginia, that are dedicated to seeing that we have fair, timely and well-accounted for elections,” she added. “I have total confidence in our election results. I reject that theory.”

Sen. Steve Daines (Mont.)

Daines’s office said: “Senator Daines does not think the election is rigged.” 

Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa)

Ernst’s office did not respond to The Hill, but Ernst told local reporters: “I don’t subscribe to those remarks. I don’t condone what he said. I don’t condone what he’s done. 

“I think both candidates have gone too far in a lot of their remarks and it’s too bad that we don’t have role models on either side.” 

Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.)

Flake tweeted: “States, backed by tens of thousands of GOP and DEM volunteers, ensure integrity of electoral process. Elections are not rigged.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.)

Graham’s office pointed to the senator’s comments on CNN on Oct. 6: “I don’t think it’s good for democracy to have a major candidate for president doubt the outcome.

“I believe that the country will survive long after I’m gone but the country really is a process, and the election process I think, we need to respect it rather than create doubt about it,” Graham added. “Americans have enough to worry about already. Let’s don’t suggest the election’s rigged.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah)

“Sen. Hatch agrees with Gov. Pence that the candidates should accept the lawful outcome of the election.”

Sen. James Lankford (Okla.)

Lankford’s office said: “Senator Lankford has no reason to believe the election is ‘rigged.’ ”

Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.)

Paul’s office did not respond to The Hill, but Paul told the Louisville Courier-Journal: “I don’t have any evidence that our elections … are rigged.”

Sen. David Perdue (Ga.)

Perdue’s office pointed to Perdue’s comments to the Atlanta Journal Constitution in August: “This is a democracy, and if you can’t have open and honest elections, then what good is it?

“I think we’re going to have an election process that will have the full confidence of America and it will have the integrity it will need,” he added.

Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.)

“This election is not being rigged, and I’m going to explain to you why it’s not being rigged in Florida and why I hope [Trump] stops saying that, why he should stop saying that,” Rubio said at a debate Monday. “We have 67 counties in this state, each of which conduct their own elections. I promise you there is not a 67-county conspiracy to rig this election.”

Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.)

Sasse’s office: “No.”

Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) 

Scott’s office said: “Senator Scott has full faith in our states’ abilities to lawfully carry out elections.”

Sen. Thom Tillis (N.C.) 

Tillis’s office said: “America has long been a model for other democracies because of our free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power that comes with it.

“This doesn’t mean that our system is without flaws, and that’s why states take precautions to protect the integrity of the ballot box, including voter ID requirements.  With that said, our electoral system remains the envy of the world, and we should accept the will of the American people on November 8.” 

Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.)

“We have for 240 years, we’ve had the most successful, most vibrant republic in the history of the world,” Toomey said at a debate on Monday. “It depends to a very large degree on the American people having confidence in the outcome of our elections. Our elections may not always be completely perfect, but they are legitimate, they have integrity and everyone needs to respect the outcome.”

 

“WAIT AND SEE” (1) 

Sen. John Cornyn (Texas)

Cornyn’s office pointed to this section of a Dallas Morning News article, where the senator commented on the matter on Friday:

“Cyber security has obviously been a serious issue and has been for a long time. I do share some concerns about the integrity of the electoral system,” he said, adding that he doesn’t see any “grand conspiracy by state actors to try to disrupt our election system.”

The Senate’s No. 2 Republican leader stopped short of agreeing with the GOP nominee’s suggestion that a loss in November could be the result of voter fraud.

“There are going to have to be some facts identified to support that conclusion and we’ll just have to wait and see what happens,” Cornyn said.

 

YES, THERE’S AN ATTEMPT TO RIG THE ELECTION (1)

Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.)

“They are attempting to rig this election,” Sessions said at a Trump rally in New Hampshire on Saturday. “They will not succeed. They’re attempting to hide what these WikiLeaks are revealing.” 

In a statement to The Hill on Tuesday, Sessions claimed that media bias was behind the election rigging, leaving out fraud at the polls, as Trump has claimed.

“There is an attempt to rig the presidential election in the sense that voters are not receiving the information they need in order to make an informed decision this November,” Sessions said. “Instead, Hillary Clinton, special interests, and our nation’s largest media outlets are spending their time and efforts raising a continuous stream of accusations against Donald Trump, while turning a blind eye to damaging evidence against her candidacy.”

 

DECLINED TO COMMENT (3) 

Sen. Mike Enzi (Wyo.) 

Enzi’s office said: “We don’t have anything to say on this. These were comments from Donald Trump and we will leave it to Mr. Trump and his campaign to answer any follow up questions about them.” 

Sen. Mike Lee (Utah)

Lee’s office said: “Sen. Lee never endorsed Donald Trump, has called on him to step down, and has said quite clearly he will not vote for him. Given those facts, it is not our policy to comment on every little thing Trump says.” 

Sen. David Vitter (La.)

Vitter’s office declined to comment. 

 

DID NOT RESPOND TO QUESTIONS (34)

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.)

Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.)

Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.)

Sen. John Boozman (Ark.)

Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.)

Sen. Bill Cassidy (La.)

Sen. Dan Coats (Ind.)

Sen. Thad Cochran (Miss.)

Sen. Susan Collins (Maine)

Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.)

Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.)

Sen. Mike Crapo (Idaho)

Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas)

Sen. Deb Fischer (Neb.)

Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.)

Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa)

Sen. Dean Heller (Nev.)

Sen. John Hoeven (N.D.)

Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.)

Sen. Johnny Isakson (Ga.)

Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.)

Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.)

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.)

Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.)

Sen. Jerry Moran (Kan.)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)

Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio)

Sen. Jim Risch (Idaho)

Sen. Pat Roberts (Kan.)

Sen. Mike Rounds (S.D.)

Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.)

Sen. Dan Sullivan (Alaska)

Sen. John Thune (S.D.)

Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.)

This post was updated at 11:17 p.m. to reflect a response from Hatch’s office. 

Tags Bob Corker Chuck Grassley Cory Gardner Dan Coats David Vitter Dean Heller Deb Fischer Donald Trump Hillary Clinton James Inhofe Jeff Flake Jeff Sessions Jerry Moran Jim Risch John Barrasso John Boozman John Cornyn John Hoeven John McCain John Thune Johnny Isakson Kelly Ayotte Lamar Alexander Lindsey Graham Lisa Murkowski Marco Rubio Mark Kirk Mike Crapo Mike Enzi Mike Lee Mitch McConnell Orrin Hatch Pat Roberts Rand Paul Richard Burr Rob Portman Roger Wicker Ron Johnson Roy Blunt Shelley Moore Capito Susan Collins Ted Cruz Thad Cochran Thom Tillis Tim Scott Tom Cotton

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