Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah accused Republican colleagues planning to object to President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory of a playing dangerous game of political ambition in defiance of common sense and the Constitution.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential nominee, admonished his colleagues on Saturday night after Sen. Ted Cruz and nearly a dozen Republican senators pledged to object to the certification of electoral votes on Wednesday, citing “unprecedented allegations of voter fraud, violations and lax enforcement of election law.”
Romney called the move an “egregious ploy” that “may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic.”
The senator noted that neither President Donald Trump, nor his campaign, nor Cruz and a host of other challengers have produced any hard evidence backing up claims of widespread voter fraud that would have impacted the outcome of the presidential race. Former Attorney General William Barr, one of Trump’s most loyal Cabinet members, said no evidence of widespread voter fraud was found. The Trump administration’s own election security team, at the Department of Homeland Security, called the 2020 election “the most secure in U.S. history.”
“The congressional power to reject electors is reserved for the most extreme and unusual circumstances. These are far from it,” Romney said. “More Americans participated in this election than ever before, and they made their choice. President Trump’s lawyers made their case before scores of courts; in every instance, they failed. The Justice Department found no evidence of irregularity sufficient to overturn the election. The Presidential Voter Fraud Commission disbanded without finding such evidence.”
The move by the GOP lawmakers to shake up the final formality before Biden’s inauguration will prove yet another defeat for Trump and his allies after dozens of losses and dismissals in local, state and federal courts. Both houses of Congress must support Republicans’ objections in order for any electoral votes to be tossed. With Democrats in control of the House and several Republican senators, including Romney and Sen. Ben Sasse, calling the efforts in favor of Trump a mere publicity stunt, Wednesday’s debate will only delay the outcome already certified in all 50 states.
Cruz and his co-signers have argued that certification should be delayed until an audit is completed to restore trust in the election, a claim Romney described as “nonsense.”
“Were Congress to actually reject state electors, partisans would inevitably demand the same any time their candidate had lost,” he said. “Congress, not voters in the respective states, would choose our presidents.”
Romney, a frequent Trump critic and the only Republican who voted to convict Trump on an impeachment charge, has repeatedly encouraged the president to move on from the lost election. Earlier this month, he told CNN that Trump should be championing the administration’s efforts to assist the rapid production of two COVID-19 vaccines instead of advancing “loopy” election conspiracies that flied in the face of facts.
“I understand the president is casting about trying to find some way to have a different result than the one that was delivered by the American people,” Romney said two weeks ago. “But it’s really sad in a lot of respects, and embarrassing.”
Trump, who often lashes out at GOP lawmakers who don’t fall in line behind him, tweeted “Great!” on Sunday morning in response to a tweet that suggested Romney, along with Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Pat Toomey, would face primary challenges over their decision to defend the election results. Murkowski and Toomey have also said they would not support doomed efforts to overturn the election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also urged Republicans to certify the vote.
Sasse pointed out last week that not a single electoral vote has been thrown out by Congress since the 1887 Electoral College Act. He accused Trump and Republicans of running a fundraising campaign — not a sincere effort guided by law.
“The single-most telling fact is that there a giant gulf between what President Trump and his allies say in public — for example, on social media, or at press conferences outside Philadelphia landscaping companies and adult bookstores — and what President Trump’s lawyers actually say in courts of law,” Sasse said in a statement. “And that’s not a surprise. Because there are no penalties for misleading the public. But there are serious penalties for misleading a judge, and the president’s lawyers know that — and thus they have repeated almost none of the claims of grand voter fraud that the campaign spokespeople are screaming at their most zealous supporters. So, here’s the heart of this whole thing: this isn’t really a legal strategy — it’s a fundraising strategy.”
The president has encouraged supporters to gather in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, as Congress debates the objected electoral votes.
“This has the predictable potential to lead to disruption, and worse,” Romney argued. “I could never have imagined seeing these things in the greatest democracy in the world. Has ambition so eclipsed principle?”
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