Chicago Tribune (Sunday)

Silent Repub­li­cans take risk with Trump

The party’s fu­ture may be in the bal­ance as pres­i­dent bat­tles

- By Lisa Mascaro US Elections · U.S. News · US Politics · Politics · Elections · Republican Party (United States) · Donald Trump · Washington · Congress of the United States · Joe Biden · Michigan · White House · Pennsylvania · Republican Party · Douglas Brinkley · Rice University · Texas · Arizona · Georgia · Wisconsin · Electoral college · U.S. Electoral College · United States Senate · Elizabeth Cheney · Wyoming · United States of America · Pat Toomey · Mitch McConnell · Kentucky · Republican Party Politics

WASHINGTON — Repub­li­cans in Congress are en­gaged in a risky but cal­cu­lated bet that once Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has ex­hausted his le­gal chal­lenges to the elec­tion, he will come to grips with his loss to Pres­i­dent-elect Joe Bi­den.

But the op­po­site is hap­pen­ing. As one Trump court case af­ter another falls by the way­side, Trump is dou­bling down on ef­forts to dis­rupt the elec­tion out­come. Rather than ac­cept the re­al­ity of the vote, the pres­i­dent is us­ing the weight of his of­fice to try to squash it. He sum­moned Michi­gan state law­mak­ers to the White House on Fri­day af­ter per­son­ally reach­ing out to GOP of­fi­cials ahead of this week’s dead­line to cer­tify elec­tion re­sults. Others from Penn­syl­va­nia may sim­i­larly be in­vited in.

Repub­li­cans are stand­ing by as it all un­folds. What started as a GOP strat­egy to give the pres­i­dent the time and space he needed to process his de­feat is now spi­ral­ing into an un­prece­dented chal­lenge to the elec­tion out­come like noth­ing since the Civil War.

“It’s hit the point where the Repub­li­can Party’s let­ting Trump’s pout go on too long,” said pres­i­den­tial his­to­rian Dou­glas Brink­ley, a pro­fes­sor at Rice Univer­sity in Texas.

With their si­lence, the Repub­li­can law­mak­ers are fall­ing in one step deeper with the pres­i­dent they have spent four years try­ing to ap­pease.

A few have spo­ken up. But mostly the Repub­li­cans are en­abling Trump as he wages an un­sub­stan­ti­ated at­tack on the elec­tion that threat­ens to erode civic trust and im­pede Bi­den’s tran­si­tion to the White House. It could de­fine ca­reers for years to come.

“It’s mak­ing fu­ture stars of the Repub­li­can Party look tiny and small,” Brink­ley said. “All of these sen­a­tors are go­ing to carry a dark mark on their legacy for cod­dling Trump af­ter he lost.”

Repub­li­cans started with a sim­ple premise: If Trump had con­cerns about fraud­u­lent vot­ing, as he widely claimed, go to court and make the case.

It was a way to buy time, give Trump a chance to bring ev­i­dence, and per­haps con­vince some of his most ar­dent sup­port­ers of the out­come. Bi­den now has won al­most 80 mil­lion votes as Trump nears 74 mil­lion.

But in one state af­ter another, from Ari­zona to Ge­or­gia, the Trump cases are fail­ing. Trump forced re­counts Fri­day in two coun­ties in Wis­con­sin. More le­gal ac­tion is ex­pected there and cases are pend­ing else­where. Nowhere has ev­i­dence been pre­sented of wide­spread voter fraud on a scale that could al­ter the out­come.

On Satur­day, a fed­eral judge in Penn­syl­va­nia said he won't stop of­fi­cials from cer­ti­fy­ing elec­tion re­sults that show Bi­den win­ning the state by more than 80,000 votes. Hours later, Trump’s team an­nounced that they had filed a pe­ti­tion to seek a re­count in Ge­or­gia.

The Repub­li­can law­mak­ers will soon be forced into a mo­ment of truth with key up­com­ing dead­lines.

States are ex­pected to cer­tify elec­tion re­sults by Dec. 6, and Repub­li­can law­mak­ers have been eye­ing the Dec. 14 Elec­toral Col­lege dead­line as their own of­framp from Trump’s pres­i­dency.

That’s when GOP law­mak­ers be­lieve they can start say­ing pub­licly what many of them al­ready sug­gest in private — that Bi­den won.

But there’s no guar­an­tee their gam­ble will work. Rather than glide to­ward that out­come, Trump is dig­ging in— mov­ing be­yond the GOP ar­gu­ment that it’s about count­ing le­gal votes and halt­ing il­le­gal ones to more broadly try­ing to over­turn re­sults.

Al­most none of the top Repub­li­can lead­ers in the House or Se­nate re­sponded di­rectly Fri­day when asked by The As­so­ci­ated Press if they be­lieve the states have any rea­son not to cer­tify their elec­tion re­sults.

Only Rep. Liz Cheney of Wy­oming, the No. 3 Repub­li­can in the House, and the daugh­ter of the for­mer vice pres­i­dent, said that if Trump is un­sat­is­fied with the out­come of the le­gal bat­tles, he can ap­peal.

“If the pres­i­dent can­not prove these claims or demon­strate that they would change the elec­tion re­sult,” Cheney said in a state­ment, “he should ful­fill his oath to pre­serve, pro­tect and de­fend the Con­sti­tu­tion of the United States by re­spect­ing the sanc­tity of our elec­toral process.”

One key law­maker, Sen. Pat Toomey, from bat­tle­ground Penn­syl­va­nia, “be­lieves that states should cer­tify their re­sults” in ac­cor­dance with elec­tion laws, his spokesman said.

Once the states cer­tify, he said, “these re­sults should be ac­cepted by all par­ties in­volved.” In Penn­syl­va­nia, the state law “is un­am­bigu­ous: The win­ner of the state’s pop­u­lar vote is awarded the state’s elec­toral col­lege votes.”

On Satur­day, Toomey went a step fur­ther, not­ing that it was time for Trump to con­cede that Bi­den has won the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

“Pres­i­dent Trump should ac­cept the out­come of the elec­tion and fa­cil­i­tate the pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion process,” Toomey said in a lengthy state­ment af­ter Trump’s law­suit chal­leng­ing the Penn­syl­va­nia vote was thrown out.

“Joe Bi­den won the 2020 elec­tion and will be­come the 46th Pres­i­dent of the United States,” added Toomey, who has an­nounced he will not run for re­elec­tion in 2022.

Other Repub­li­cans, how­ever, are cal­cu­lat­ing that it’s bet­ter not to pro­voke the pres­i­dent — he may do some­thing more se­vere — but let time take its course.

It’s a strat­egy they have used through­out the Trump pres­i­dency, keep­ing him close so as not to alien­ate his sup­port­ers — whom they need for their own re­elec­tions — and not get­ting too in­volved when he strains the na­tion’s civic norms.

With the up­com­ing Se­nate runoff elec­tions in Ge­or­gia that will de­cide which party con­trols the Se­nate in Jan­uary, Repub­li­cans are be­holden to Trump’s sup­port­ers to turn out the vote.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., said once the state cer­ti­fi­ca­tions oc­cur, “if they oc­cur,” the elec­tions will wrap up.

Mean­while, the state tal­lies con­tinue to roll in.

Ge­or­gia cer­ti­fied its re­sults Fri­day af­ter a hand re­count found that Bi­den won by a mar­gin of 12,670 votes. Michi­gan is sched­uled to cer­tify its re­sults Mon­day. Penn­syl­va­nia will fol­low.

The elec­tors are set to present their votes Jan. 6.

“It’s mak­ing fu­ture stars of the Repub­li­can Party look tiny and small. All of these sen­a­tors are go­ing to carry a dark mark on their legacy for cod­dling Trump af­ter he lost.” — Dou­glas Brink­ley, pres­i­den­tial his­to­rian and pro­fes­sor at Rice Univer­sity in Texas

 ?? DOUG MILLS/THE NEW YORK TIMES ?? In his re­elec­tion bid, Pres­i­dent Trump col­lected al­most 74 mil­lion votes. Pres­i­dent-elect Joe Bi­den has nearly 80 mil­lion.
DOUG MILLS/THE NEW YORK TIMES In his re­elec­tion bid, Pres­i­dent Trump col­lected al­most 74 mil­lion votes. Pres­i­dent-elect Joe Bi­den has nearly 80 mil­lion.

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