Out of 53 Republican senators, only two have stood up to Trump's attempt to overturn the election

Jon Ward
·Senior Political Correspondent
·8 min read

Republican lawmakers remained largely silent about President Trump’s attempts to throw out November’s election results and remain in power via antidemocratic means, even as the president met with Republican leaders of the Michigan Legislature in an apparent pressure campaign to overturn the results in that state.

Yahoo News has asked all 53 Republican members of the U.S. Senate to comment, four different times over the past week, on the president’s actions and those of his legal team. Most recently on Friday morning, we asked them all to respond to remarks Thursday by a member of Trump’s legal team, who called for all votes “in swing states” that Democratic President-elect Joe Biden won to be thrown out and given to Trump instead.

“The entire election, frankly, in all the swing states should be overturned and the legislatures should make sure that the electors are selected for Trump,” Trump lawyer Sidney Powell said on “Lou Dobbs Tonight” on Fox Business.

Mitt Romney
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Only two Republicans out of that group of 53 — Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska — have stated the truth this week: that there is no evidence of any significant cheating or fraud, and that the president is, as Romney put it, attempting 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.

When asked for comment, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he had no plans to speak out against the president’s actions, preferring to stand by his remarks earlier in the week that the certification process will play out, and that “the Electoral College will meet in December, and the inauguration will be on January 20.”

When a state certifies its result, it indicates that it has finished counting all votes and conducted its postelection analysis to confirm the result, and this is a legal step that then leads to representatives being named who will represent the state in the Electoral College. Michigan and Pennsylvania are set to certify on Monday. At least a dozen other states have already done so.

Georgia is the first close swing state set to certify its election, and yet on Friday afternoon there was still suspense about whether it would do so by the 5 p.m. deadline. The Republican secretary of state completed a recount of the vote, found no fraud, and his office issued a notice that the result had been certified, with Biden winning the state by just over 12,000 votes. But then that notice was retracted, and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, called a press conference for 5 p.m., where he did announce the state’s certification of Biden’s win.

McConnell’s voice is of unique importance, because most Republican lawmakers in Washington simply follow his lead. CNN reported Friday that there were some discussions among rank-and-file Republican senators about a potential response.

Like Romney and McConnell, Sasse represents a deep red state. But unlike other Republicans from similar states, he has been unafraid to state facts and risk a backlash from voters who are being victimized by the disinformation campaign being perpetuated by the president and his allies.

In his statement, Sasse zeroed in on a key fact. “What matters most at this stage is not the latest press conference or tweet, but what the President’s lawyers are actually saying in court. And based on what I’ve read in their filings, when Trump campaign lawyers have stood before courts under oath, they have repeatedly refused to actually allege grand fraud — because there are legal consequences for lying to judges,” Sasse said.

And he’s right. In court, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has plainly stated, “This is not a fraud case.”

Rudy Giuliani
Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani at Republican National Committee headquarters on Thursday. (Sarah Silbiger for the Washington Post via Getty Images)

Giuliani’s press conference at the Republican National Committee on Thursday was a combination of two things: rehashed claims that have been made in lawsuits and already dismissed in court, or claims withdrawn by the Trump team itself. He exaggerated and rambled, but he mostly stuck to issues that have been raised in court and already resolved.

“Wild press conferences erode public trust,” Sasse said. “So no, obviously Rudy and his buddies should not pressure electors to ignore their certification obligations under the statute. We are a nation of laws, not tweets.”

Powell, meanwhile, launched into bizarre and fanciful claims, with no evidence, that have been completely debunked or shown to be baseless. Even Fox News host Tucker Carlson called her out on his show Thursday night and told his audience that he had asked Powell to supply even a little evidence for her assertions, and that she had failed to do so and became angry at the request.

Powell made an unsupported claim of “massive influence of communist money through Venezuela, Cuba and likely China in the interference with our elections.” The top government agency responsible for securing the election from foreign interference has already stated that “the November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.” McConnell has echoed this judgment: “no indication any foreign intervention succeeded,” he said.

Trump himself has agreed with the judgment that the election was secure from foreign interference, even as he insisted without evidence that Democrats cheated in an election where they won the presidency but failed to win numerous key Senate races.

But Powell also accused nameless Republican politicians of paying to win their elections. Some Republicans, unwilling to call out the president, became defensive when they themselves were the subject of baseless conspiracy theories.

“That is an offensive comment,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said on a conservative talk radio show. “To insinuate that Republican and Democratic candidates paid to throw off this election I think is absolutely outrageous, and I do take offense to that.”

A spokesperson for Ernst has not responded to four different emails this week about the president’s attacks on democracy.

In the House, two senior Republicans have told CNN they oppose what Trump is doing.

“I think it’s time to move on,” said Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said Trump should concede. “I think it’s all said and done,” Upton said. “No one has seen any real identification of any real fraud.”

Ben Sasse
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb. (Kevin Dietsch/AFP via Getty Images)

Only three Republican senators other than Sasse and Romney responded to a request from Yahoo News for comment on the president’s attempt to throw out the election results, and neither one had anything critical to say.

A spokesman for Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who has said he is retiring from politics in 2022 and has at moments spoken honestly about Biden’s win, pointed to a comment by the senator earlier in the week basically stating that the Pennsylvania Legislature will not overturn the election results, and that the “will of the people of Pennsylvania” has been expressed in the vote result, which Biden won by over 80,000 votes.

And a spokesman for Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, pointed to comments on a conference call Thursday by the Texas senator that amounted to a longer version of what McConnell has said. Essentially, the argument is that the process is playing itself out, and that all will be resolved when the Electoral College meets next month and electors formally cast their votes.

“Obviously, if you’re going to make allegations of election misconduct and fraud and inadvertent mistakes like not counting ballots, you’re going to have to have proof of that, but I don’t begrudge the president or any candidate from seeing that all lawful votes are counted and that votes that did not comply with the law are not counted. I know everybody in the press is interested in moving on. I think we need to see the process play itself out,” Cornyn said.

And a spokesman for Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., pointed to a Nov. 6 statement by her and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., which defended the president. “Americans should have confidence in our voting system and that all ballots have been submitted correctly and legally. This is precisely what President Trump and his legal team are seeking,” they said.

Cornyn compared the 2020 election to the 2000 election. When Yahoo News asked how he could compare the two when there was no election call in 2000 and a court battle played itself out over 547 votes in one state — whereas this year Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes, Michigan by nearly 160,000 votes and Georgia, Wisconsin, Arizona and Nevada by between 11,000 and 34,000 votes each — Cornyn’s spokesman did not respond.

John Cornyn
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. (Jason Andrew/Pool/Getty Images)

Similarly, a spokesperson for Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., has not responded to questions about how the senator’s standard for when an election is over might apply in future elections.

“When all lawful votes have been counted, recounts finished, and allegations of fraud addressed, we will know who the winner is,” Hawley tweeted on Nov. 7.

Hawley’s standard for when an election is over, then, appears to be when all allegations of fraud have been addressed. Yahoo News asked his spokeswoman whether that meant a losing candidate could prolong the result as long as someone somewhere was making allegations. She did not respond.

Former President Barack Obama on Thursday said he was “troubled” by the lack of willingness to stand up for truth and facts and democracy among Republican politicians.

“I’m less surprised by Donald Trump doing this. He has shown only a flimsy relationship with the truth,” Obama said in an interview with MSNBC. “I’m more troubled that you’re seeing a lot of Republican officials go along with it, not because they actually believe it, but because they feel intimidated by it.”

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