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Romney: Trump claim of stolen election 'recklessly inflames destructive and dangerous passions'

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyCheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Florida's restrictive voting bill signed into law The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney MORE (R-Utah) on Friday pushed back against President TrumpDonald TrumpVeteran accused in alleged border wall scheme faces new charges Arizona Republicans to brush off DOJ concern about election audit FEC drops investigation into Trump hush money payments MORE's baseless claim that the election is being stolen, warning that his rhetoric is only inflaming partisan tensions.

Romney, in a statement posted to Twitter, said the president was "right" to "exhaust legal remedies," including asking for recounts and that alleged voting irregularities be investigated, but "wrong to say that the election was rigged, corrupt and stolen."

"Doing so damages the cause of freedom here and around the world, weakens the institutions that lie at the foundation of the Republic and recklessly inflames destructive and dangerous passions," Romney added.

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His statement comes as Republicans are increasingly pushing back as Trump digs in on his claims that the election is being stolen from him through illegal actions by Democrats in battleground states where votes are still being counted.

Trump has ratcheted up his rhetoric as he faces an increasingly narrow path to securing the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win reelection. Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenAtlanta mayor won't run for reelection South Carolina governor to end pandemic unemployment benefits in June Airplane pollution set to soar with post-pandemic travel boom MORE has either pulled ahead or remains in the lead in key states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Arizona.

Among members of the Senate GOP caucus, Romney has been one of the most willing to directly call out the president. His statement on Friday is an escalation from his comments on Thursday when he did not directly name the president but encouraged Americans to have faith in the democratic process.

Some GOP senators have warned Trump's claims of election fraud do not match reality.

“I saw the president’s speech last night and it was very hard to watch. The president’s allegations of large-scale fraud and theft of the election are just not substantiated,” said Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeySasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote Philly GOP commissioner on censures: 'I would suggest they censure Republican elected officials who are lying' Toomey censured by several Pennsylvania county GOP committees over impeachment vote MORE (R-Pa.), whose home state has been under criticism by the president and some of his allies.

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Other Senate Republicans, while not criticizing Trump, have urged him to be as specific as possible about any alleged wrongdoing. Several senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell: Taliban could take over Afghanistan by 'the end of the year' McConnell alma mater criticizes him for 1619 comments McConnell amid Trump criticism: 'I'm looking forward, not backward' MORE (R-Ky.), have pushed back on Trump without directly naming him. 

“Here’s how this must work in our great country: Every legal vote should be counted. Any illegally-submitted ballots must not. All sides must get to observe the process. And the courts are here to apply the laws & resolve disputes. That's how Americans' votes decide the result,” McConnell tweeted.

The GOP leader declined to answer several questions about Trump's comments during a press conference in Kentucky on Friday, instead referring back to his tweet.

"I know it's reasonable for you to ask, but I get to decide what I say," McConnell said at one point.