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Some Republicans desert Trump over baseless vote-fraud claims, others back the president

Trump said last night the ballot-counting process was unfair and corrupt.

2.56477913 Source: PA Images

SOME REPUBLICANS ARE breaking with President Donald Trump’s attempts to falsely declare victory in the election and claim without evidence that Democrats are trying to “steal” it from him.

Trump escalated those allegations last night, telling reporters at the White House that the ballot-counting process was unfair and corrupt, having uttered similar allegations late on election night.

The president did not back up his claims with any details or evidence, and state and federal officials have not reported any instances of widespread voter fraud.

Representative Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, tweeted that the president’s claims of fraud were “getting insane”. If Trump had “legit” concerns about fraud they needed to be based on evidence and taken to court, Kinzinger said, adding: “STOP Spreading debunked misinformation”.

On Wednesday he had commented more forcefully on Trump’s claim Democrats were trying to “steal” the election, tweeting: “Stop. Full stop.”

“The votes will be counted and you will either win or lose,” Kinzinger told Trump. “And America will accept that. Patience is a virtue.”

Maryland’s Republican governor Larry Hogan, a potential 2024 presidential hopeful who has often criticised Trump, said unequivocally: “There is no defense for the President’s comments tonight undermining our Democratic process. America is counting the votes, and we must respect the results as we always have before.”

“No election or person is more important than our Democracy,” Hogan said on Twitter.

However, two of Trump’s senate allies warned that Republicans may reject the legitimacy of vote results if they turn against the embattled president.

As a few Republicans distanced themselves from Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations of fraud in Tuesday’s election, Senators Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz enthusiastically backed him in back-to-back appearances on Fox News.

“I’ll tell you the president is angry and I’m angry and the voters ought to be angry,” Cruz told the network’s host Sean Hannity, whose evening show is a favorite of Trump.

Cruz alleged falsely that Pennsylvania’s Democratic attorney general had ordered vote-counting in the state’s largest city of Philadelphia “until Joe Biden wins.”

“We need to get in there now,” Cruz said of voting centers.

Asked by Hannity if the Pennsylvania legislature could refuse to recognize the results and instead give the state’s electoral votes to Trump, Graham replied, “I think everything should be on the table.”

“Philadelphia elections are crooked as a snake. Why are they shutting people out? Because they don’t want people to see what they’re doing,” said Graham, who easily won reelection Tuesday in South Carolina despite a major push by Democrats.

Meanwhile, other criticism of Trump, though less direct, came from members of Congress. Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who spoke at a recent Trump campaign rally, said in a tweet that if any candidate believes “a state is violating election laws they have a right to challenge it in court & produce evidence in support of their claims”.

Rubio said earlier: “Taking days to count legally cast votes is NOT fraud. And court challenges to votes cast after the legal voting deadline is NOT suppression.”

Retired Republican senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, was more direct: “No Republican should be okay with the President’s statements just now. Unacceptable. Period.”

He added: “Fellow Republicans, don’t wait until the election is called to defend our elections and our democratic institutions. The time is now.”

Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, a Trump ally who is an analyst for ABC News, said there was no basis for Trump’s argument. Christie called Trump’s attack on the integrity of the election “a bad strategic decision” and “a bad political decision, and it’s not the kind of decision you would expect someone to make … who holds the position he holds”.

The comments by the Republican politicians and other GOP leaders were rare, public rebukes of Trump, who has demanded — and generally received — loyalty from fellow Republicans throughout his four-year term. Most in the GOP take pains to avoid directly criticising the president, even when they find his conduct unhelpful or offensive to their values and goals.

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Trump’s tweets yesterday declaring victory and calling for officials to “STOP THE COUNT” were seen by some as a test of how firmly he can keep Republicans in line as he tries to challenge the voting process in court.

2.56478160 Donald Trump leaves after his address to reporters. Looking worn and deflated, the incumbent president did not take questions from journalists.

Before Trump’s speech in the White House briefing room, several Republicans challenged his attempts to halt vote-counting in Pennsylvania and other battleground states.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Trump ally who won re-election Tuesday in Kentucky, told reporters that “claiming you’ve won the election is different from finishing the counting”. His office declined to comment after Trump’s address on Thursday.

Representative Will Hurd, a Texas Republican who did not seek re-election, called Trump’s comments about corruption “dangerous” and “wrong”. He said Trump’s remarks undermined the US political process and “the very foundation this nation was built upon”, adding: “Every American should have his or her vote counted.”

While Biden is close to the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House, it was unclear when a national winner would be determined after a long, bitter campaign dominated by the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on Americans and the national economy.

GOP Senator Mitt Romney did not address Trump’s remarks directly, but sought to provide a reassuring note. Counting votes was often “long” and “frustrating”, Romney said.

If any irregularities are alleged, “they will be investigated and ultimately resolved in the courts”, Romney tweeted. “Have faith in democracy, our Constitution and the American people.”

Other GOP figures came out in support for Trump over his comments as did his family, who took to Twitter to question why GOP politicians were not rushing to the president’s defence.

“Where are Republicans! Have some backbone. Fight against this fraud. Our voters will never forget you if your sheep!” Trump’s son Eric tweeted.

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