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Romney on Trump election tactics: 'Difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action' by president

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyOn The Money: Tanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief | Relief bill tests narrow Democratic majority | Senate confirms Biden's picks for Commerce, top WH economist Romney released from hospital after fall over the weekend Kinzinger: Trump just wants to 'stand in front of a crowd and be adored' MORE (R-Utah) on Thursday directly criticized President TrumpDonald TrumpSouth Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Ex-Trump aide Pierson won't run for Dallas-area House seat House Oversight panel reissues subpoena for Trump's accounting firm MORE for efforts by the president and his allies to reverse the results of the presidential election.

Romney, in a statement that marks the strongest pushback so far by a Senate Republican, said the president has "failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy" in myriad challenges Trump's legal team has launched in several battleground states where he trails President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenIntercept bureau chief: minimum wage was not 'high priority' for Biden in COVID-19 relief South Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Obama alum Seth Harris to serve as Biden labor adviser: report MORE.

"The President has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election. It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American president," Romney said in a statement posted to Twitter.

Romney's statement comes after Trump invited some of Michigan's top Republicans to the White House in a sign he may be seeking a way around the results of the election, in which Biden is projected to get 306 electoral votes to Trump's 232. 

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The president also reached out to officials in Wayne County who had sought to block the certification of votes there. Meanwhile, Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGiuliani again suspended from YouTube over false election claims Sacha Baron Cohen calls out 'danger of lies, hate and conspiracies' in Golden Globes speech Biden administration buys 100,000 doses of Lilly antibody drug MORE and the team of lawyers overseeing the campaign's legal challenges used a press conference on Thursday to levy claims of fraud as part of an effort to sway the vote certification process and pressure state lawmakers to send pro-Trump electors to the Electoral College.

Romney is one of only a handful of GOP senators who have acknowledged Biden's White House victory, and his statement on Thursday night makes a rare instance of a Republican member of Congress directly calling out Trump. 

Two other GOP senators — Sens. Ben SasseBen SasseJudiciary Committee greenlights Garland's AG nomination Kinzinger: GOP 'certainly not united' on 'vision for the future' Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (R-Neb.) and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstBill to shorten early voting period, end Election Day early in Iowa heads to governor's desk We know how Republicans will vote — but what do they believe? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - Senate trial will have drama, but no surprise ending MORE (R-Iowa) — have pushed back against comments made during Giuliani's press conference on Thursday. 

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Sasse, a potential 2024 candidate, warned that the "wild press conferences erode public trust," adding that "we are a nation of laws, not tweets." 

Ernst, meanwhile, rebuked claims made by Sidney Powell, a lawyer associated with the Trump campaign, who said that down-ballot candidates could have "paid to have the system rigged to work for them," with the GOP senator calling the statement "offensive" and "absolutely outrageous."  

Though most Senate Republicans haven't echoed Trump's claims that the presidential election was "rigged," they've also given him broad leeway on his legal challenges and declined to publicly discuss Biden or acknowledge his election victory. 

And even as Romney directly called out Trump and Sasse ripped Giuliani, top Republicans in the caucus, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief Boehner book jacket teases slams against Cruz, Trump Gun violence prevention groups optimistic background check legislation can pass this Congress MORE (R-Ky.), have not weighed in. 

McConnell, during a press conference this week, batted down a question about if the General Services Administration should certify Biden as the winner, something it's so far refused to do. 

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“There's a way to deal with disputes, it's called the courts, and the courts in the various states are dealing with whatever disputes there are, whatever evidence may be provided, and we are going to have an orderly transfer from this administration to the next one. What we all say about it is frankly irrelevant,” McConnell said this week. 

Trump's efforts are unlikely to change the outcome of the election, but they have led to serious concerns about damage to the nation's democratic system.

Romney, the party's 2012 presidential nominee, has been more willing to be critical of Trump and was the only GOP senator to vote for one of the articles of impeachment earlier this year. 

In an episode of "The Axe Files" podcast released earlier Thursday, Romney warned that Trump's actions in the lame-duck period could be even more damaging than the president's refusal to let Biden begin the formal transition process.

"The consequences of what's happening during this lame-duck period, I think, are potentially more severe than the consequences associated with a late transition process," Romney said. 

Updated at 11:28 p.m.