Republican reaction to President Donald Trump’s incendiary lies about voter fraud and the “stolen” 2020 presidential election ranged, with some elected GOP officials echoing the baseless claims and others denouncing them.
As possible defeat for Trump loomed and the president’s son and other allies complained that not enough Republicans were speaking up for him, some GOP officials went all-in by repeating falsehoods aimed at delegitimizing the vote-counting.
Appearing on Fox News, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Thursday declared that Trump had “won” the election, even though votes in key states had not yet been tallied. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz accused Democrats of trying to steal the election from Trump, falsely claiming poll watchers were not being allowed into vote-counting centers in Philadelphia.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that “everything should be on the table” when asked whether the Pennsylvania state legislature should invalidate the vote and appoint its own electors, refusing to rule out a fringe idea that is legally dubious.
A pair of potential 2024 presidential contenders, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, also voiced support for Trump after the president’s son, Don. Jr., noted the silence on Twitter.
Other Republicans voiced disagreement with president’s claims, especially after his wild speech from the White House on Thursday evening alleging massive voter fraud that the major television networks cut away from.
“I saw the president’s speech last night and it was very hard to watch ― the president’s allegations of large-scale fraud and theft of the election are just not substantiated,” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who is retiring in 2022, told the “Today” show on Friday. “I’m not aware of any significant wrongdoing here.”
Another retiring GOP politician, Texas Rep. Will Hurd, called Trump’s attacks on the voting process “dangerous” and “wrong,” adding that it “undermines the very foundation this nation was built upon.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a frequent Trump critic, tweeted: “This is getting insane.”
Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan offered some of the sharpest Trump criticism.
“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,” tweeted Hogan, who has frequently criticized Trump.
Some Republicans were more measured in their responses to Trump’s allegations, however, in carefully worded statements that nodded to both Trump supporters and critics.
“Here’s how this must work in our great country: Every legal vote should be counted,” tweeted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “Any illegally-submitted ballots must not. All sides must get to observe the process. And the courts are here to apply the laws & resolve disputes.”
“Every legally cast vote should be and will be counted, period,” said Tim Scott of South Carolina, calling for added transparency in places like Philadelphia.
Biden on Friday seized an increasingly clear path to the presidency, taking the lead over Trump in both Georgia and Pennsylvania as the counting continued. Trump’s campaign, meanwhile, vowed to fight on with demands for recounts in several states and a flurry of lawsuits.
“This election is not over,” Matt Morgan, Trump’s campaign legal counsel, said in a statement on Friday.