WASHINGTON (AP) – Republicans in Congress are committed to a risky but calculated bet that, once President Donald Trump has exhausted all his legal recourse to challenge the election result, he will accept defeat to President-elect Joe Biden. .
But the opposite is happening.
As the cases presented by his legal team fall by the wayside, one after the other, Trump redoubles his efforts to alter the outcome of the election. Rather than accept the reality of the vote, Trump is using the weight of his office to try to turn it around. On Friday, he summoned Michigan state lawmakers to the White House after personally contacting Republican officials before the deadline to certify the election result expires next week. Others from Pennsylvania might receive the same invitation.
Republicans are waiting while all this happens. What began as a strategy to give Trump the time and space he needed to process his defeat is now turning into a challenge to the outcome of an election never seen since the Civil War.
“The point has come where the Republican Party has let Trump’s tantrum last too long,” said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, a professor at Rice University in Texas.
With their silence, Republican lawmakers sink a bit deeper with a president they have been trying to appease for four years. Some have spoken, but most let him do it as he launches a baseless attack on the election that threatens to erode public confidence and impede Biden’s transition to the White House. And this could define some careers in the future.
“He’s making the future stars of the Republican Party look small,” Brinkley added. “All those senators are going to have to bear a blemish on their legacy for indulging Trump after his defeat.”
Republicans started with a simple premise: If Trump is suspicious of voter fraud, as he has widely said, go to court and present the case.
It was a way of buying time, giving Trump an opportunity to present evidence and perhaps convince some of his most ardent supporters of the result. Biden has now won by 80 million votes to Trump’s 74.
But in state after state, from Arizona to Georgia, Trump’s cases are failing. The president forced recounts Friday in two Wisconsin counties. More legal action is expected there and there are processes open elsewhere. In none has evidence of widespread electoral fraud been presented on a scale that could alter the outcome.
Republican lawmakers will soon be forced to face the moment of truth with the expiration of key deadlines.
States are expected to certify the election results before Dec. 6, and Republican lawmakers have been considering Dec. 14, when the Electoral College deadline ends, as their own exit ramp from Trump’s presidency.
That’s when Republican representatives believe they can begin to say publicly what many already privately suggest: that Biden, in fact, won the election.
But there is no guarantee that his ruse will work. Rather than get closer to that result, Trump is moving beyond the party’s argument that legal votes must be counted and illegal ones stopped, to try to reverse the result more broadly.
Trump has talked openly about changing the Electoral College, whose membership is usually determined by the popular vote in each state, by its supporters.
“I won, by the way,” Trump said at the White House on Friday. “We’ll find out.”
Almost none of the top Republicans in the House or Senate responded directly to The Associated Press question on Friday about whether they think states have any reason not to certify their election results.
Only Liz Cheney, third in the Republican hierarchy in the House and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, pointed out that if Trump is not satisfied with the outcome of the legal battles, he can appeal.
“If the president cannot prove those allegations or show that they wanted to change the outcome of the election, he must fulfill his oath to preserve, protect and defend the United States Constitution while respecting the sanctity of our electoral process,” Cheney said in a statement. to the AP.
A key legislator, Sen. Pat Toomey, of disputed Pennsylvania, “believes that states should certify their results” according to electoral laws, his spokesman said.
Once the states comply with this procedure, he added, “these results must be accepted by all parties involved.” In Pennsylvania, state law “is unambiguous: the winner of the state popular vote receives the votes of the state Electoral College.”
With the Capitol still partially closed from the coronavirus pandemic and empty for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, lawmakers can dodge many questions about their position.
Sen. Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, said Friday that he was not really familiar with what Trump is doing by inviting Michigan lawmakers to the White House.
“I’m not really worried about him discussing the situation with elected officials,” Hawley said before a session in the Senate.
Asked if Trump could turn around the election results, Hawley did not commit: “Anything is possible.”
Republicans are calculating that it is better not to provoke the president – who could do something more serious – and let time run its course.
It is a strategy they have used throughout their presidency, keeping him close so as not to alienate their supporters, whom they need for their own re-elections, but without getting too involved when he tests the nation’s civic norms.
Given the ballots to be held in Georgia in January and that could decide control of the Senate, Republicans trust that Trump supporters will come to vote.
House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to present the extraordinary week as commonplace.
“In all presidential elections we go through this process,” he said. “What we all say about this is irrelevant.”
McConnell once said that when state certifications occur, “if they happen,” the elections will end.
“One of the beauties of the American electoral system is that we have 50 different ways of doing it,” he said. “Decisions about how an election ends happen in 50 different places.”
The office of Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, referred to his comments at the beginning of mizzen when he assured that “the states should finish their work.”
Meanwhile, the state count does not stop.
Georgia certified its results on Friday and after a manual recount determined that Biden won by a margin of 12,670 votes, the first Democratic presidential candidate to win there since 1992. Michigan is scheduled to certify its results on Monday, and Pennsylvania soon after.
Voters must cast their votes on January 6, two weeks before the inauguration ceremony on January 20.
Editor’s Note: Lisa Mascaro has covered information about the United States Congress since 2010. She is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LisaMascaro