Most Republicans avoid challenging Trump on election
Republicans are largely avoiding any challenges of President Trump over his refusal to concede the election to Democrat Joe Biden.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) signaled the game plan during a Monday address on the Senate floor while giving his members cover.
McConnell’s remarks were disparaging of Democrats and the media, who have projected Biden as the winner but have no constitutional role in the process, the Kentucky Republican noted. McConnell, who is poised to be his party’s top official in Washington when Biden takes office, also said Trump was well within his rights of challenging the close results and asking for recounts.
McConnell did not congratulate Biden, but he also didn’t give much air to the cries from Trump and his allies that the election was stolen from the president, simply saying it was Trump’s right to make the case to the courts.
“President Trump is 100 percent within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options,” McConnell said. “We have the tools and institutions we need to address any concerns. The president has every right to look into allegations and request recounts under the law.”
There were other subtle signs that patience is running out on Trump even among some of his allies.
Fox News, which enraged the president by projecting Biden as the winner of the key state of Arizona last week, on Monday cut away from a press conference by White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany when she began to make charges about fraud.
“She is charging that the other side is welcoming fraud and welcoming illegal voting. Unless she has more details to back that up, I can’t in good countenance continuing showing you this,” Fox News host Neil Cavuto, who has previously gone after Trump when he believed the president had spoken in falsehoods, said on air as the network cut away from the press conference in Washington, D.C.
Few Republicans are openly bucking Trump, whom they see as a powerful political force within their party for years to come.
“He has the biggest voice, the biggest following. Surely the Republican voters listen to him more than any other Republican right now and so he’ll have influence over what we do next week and next year and in 2024,” Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), one of the few GOP senators to congratulate Biden, said of Trump.
Republican senators see the allegiance of Trump’s base voters as crucial to winning two Jan. 5 runoff races in Georgia that will ultimately decide who controls the Senate next year.
At the same time, Republicans aren’t willing to prolong the standoff if the courts rule against Trump.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who just won election to a fourth term, said he was not aware of any widespread evidence of fraud.
“There is a process that is available, and I don’t begrudge the president of availing himself of that process, but in the end they’re going to have to come up with some facts and evidence,” he said. “That’s not my job, that’s his campaign’s job.”
It’s a different story in the House, where top GOP leaders are echoing Trump’s fraud allegations.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), a close Trump ally, declared on Fox News that “President Trump won this election,” though his office later suggested he was implying Trump had helped Republicans pick up House seats.
In another interview, McCarthy questioned why media outlets called the race for Biden when a number of close House races have yet to be called. In Pennsylvania, however, the Biden lead had grown to more than 45,000 votes in Pennsylvania and more than 10,000 in Georgia.
“What we need in the presidential race is to make sure every legal vote is counted, every recount is complete, and every legal challenge should be heard. Then and only then, will America decide who won the race,” McCarthy told Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business over the weekend.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) offered much the same message.
“The election isn’t over until all legal votes are counted and certified. There are still serious legal challenges that have been made, and until that process is resolved, the election is not final,” Scalise said in a tweet. “The American people deserve a fair and transparent process.”
Trump’s family members have put the pressure on GOP office-holders, reminding them that Trump will be a kingmaker in GOP primaries.
“The total lack of acting from virtually all of the ‘2024 GOP hopefuls’ is pretty amazing. They have a perfect platform to show that they’re willing & able to fight but they cower to the media mob instead,” Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, tweeted Thursday.
Trump Jr. told supporters in Georgia that any Republicans who don’t show backbone and fight should be gone.
The president’s other son, Eric Trump, warned the same day on Twitter: “Our voters will never forget you if your [sic] sheep!”
Some Republican senators have since rushed to Trump’s side.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned Sunday, “If Republicans don’t challenge and change the U.S. election system, there will never be another Republican president elected again” and urged Trump not to concede.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told Bartiromo that “Trump still has a path to victory.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) tweeted Saturday: “The media do not get to determine who the president is. The people do.”
“When all lawful votes have been counted, recounts finished, and allegations of fraud addressed, we will know who the winner is,” he said.
Moderate Republicans, including some of the president’s most outspoken critics, publicly recognize Biden as the president-elect, even as they also acknowledge Trump’s legal rights.
“I would offer my congratulations to President-elect Biden on his apparent victory – he loves this country, and I wish him every success. Presidential transitions are important, and the President-elect and the Vice-President-elect should be given every opportunity to ensure that they are ready to govern on January 20th,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in a statement Monday
Republicans who won’t face future primaries were more willing to accept media declarations of Biden as the winner.
A pair of retiring Republicans, Reps. Francis Rooney (Fla.) and Paul Mitchell (Mich.), tweeted congratulations to Biden. But there appeared to be only one returning House GOP lawmaker who was critical of the Trump campaign’s fraud claims.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a moderate, expressed skepticism of Trump’s fraud claims.
“We want every vote counted, yes every legal vote (of course). But, if you have legit concerns about fraud present EVIDENCE and take it to court. STOP Spreading debunked misinformation… This is getting insane,” he tweeted Thursday night after Trump claimed at the White House the election was rigged and he won more legal votes than Biden.