Republican lawmakers on Wednesday began a doomed ― and dangerous ― effort to object to President-elect Joe Biden’s win and overturn the election in favor of soon-to-be-former President Donald Trump.
GOP members in a joint session objected to certifying electoral results from Arizona, which Biden won. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) objected to certification of the electoral votes from his state, to Republican applause. He was quickly joined by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
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Republicans plan to do the same for several other states where Trump lost, prolonging a process that typically occurs with little incident based on the will of voters and electoral votes already certified at the state level.
Because of the objections, the House and Senate must separately debate and vote on each objection. An objection only succeeds if both chambers vote in support of it, a prospect that is sure to fail.
But many Republicans, based on pleas from Trump himself, are still pushing for Congress to overturn the election results. At least a dozen senators, led by Cruz and Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, and more than half of the House Republican caucus are expected to join the effort.
They failed at the ballot box, then in court, where multiple challenges to election results were thrown out. They insisted there was evidence of mass voter fraud but never produced it. They lost, and will lose again when Congress ultimately certifies the electoral college vote for Biden ― presided over by, awkwardly enough, Vice President Mike Pence.
Come Jan. 20, Trump will no longer be president. But he will leave behind Republican lawmakers who have cast aside voters, a divided country where many Republicans have been successfully told not to trust the process, and an animated movement that Trump himself addressed during a “Stop the Steal” rally on Wednesday morning.
“We will never give up. We will never concede,” Trump said. “It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.”
The president and his allies’ work to rile up these supporters had immediate consequences.
These Trump backers swarmed the Capitol soon after his speech, on his encouragement. They breached security barriers and shoved police officers who were attempting to guard the building. They smashed glass while banging on locked doors. Officials evacuated two nearby buildings and ultimately locked down the U.S. Capitol, but protesters made it inside. Congress had to pause its debate.
The goal, as Trump has made clear, is to keep him in office — not, as some Republicans have claimed, making sure potential voter fraud gets investigated.
Trump has spent recent weeks urging Republicans to reject the result of the president election. He has even said Pence, who has a procedural role in the process as president of the Senate, should block certification of the election. Pence does not have such authority.
“I hope Mike is going to do the right thing,” Trump said of Pence at the rally.
That isn’t going to happen. Shortly before the certification process began, Pence released a letter to Congress stating that he does not believe a vice president has “unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted.”
Not all Republicans went along with the gambit, which many considered a distraction. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor urging colleagues to “honor the people’s decision.”
He said he would vote against the objection to Arizona’s votes, calling it the most important vote of his career.
“The voters, the courts and the states have all spoken,” McConnell said. “They’ve all spoken. If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever.”
Republicans close to McConnell blamed Trump’s focus on reversing the election result for the likely loss of the Senate majority, which was decided by runoff elections in Georgia this week. Democrat Raphael Warnock ousted Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who supports the effort to overturn the election; Democrat Jon Ossoff is currently leading in his race against David Perdue, who is running to retake a seat he held last Congress.
Earlier in the day, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) had sharp words for Trump and his efforts to overturn the election. Trump supporters, many of them white nationalist Proud Boys, have harassed Romney and other Republicans, urging them to reject results.
“President Trump has disrespected the American voters, has dishonored the election system and has disgraced the office of the presidency,” Romney told HuffPost on Wednesday.
Igor Bobic contributed reporting.
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