Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Thursday said directly what no other current Republican elected official is willing to say about Donald Trump: that the president is actively seeking to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s historic victory in the 2020 presidential election.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Romney condemned Trump for pressuring local GOP officials in states that Trump clearly lost to appoint pro-Trump electors ― overruling the will of the people ― in a last-ditch effort to tilt the Electoral College in his favor and steal the election.
“Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the President has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election,” Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, said in a statement.
“It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President,” the senator added.
It was the sharpest denouncement of Trump’s incendiary conduct by an elected GOP official yet, but like so many times before, it came from a frequent Trump critic ― not someone in the Republican leadership.
Trump on Thursday summoned Michigan’s Republican legislative leaders to the White House for an extraordinary meeting as his campaign’s legal team falsely claimed he won in a “total landslide” and openly urged state legislatures in states including Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia to appoint their own slate of electors.
The election “in all the swing states should be overturned, and the legislatures should make sure that the electors are selected for Trump,” Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell said during an appearance Thursday evening on Fox News.
The so-called Hail Mary option has been dismissed by legal experts in both parties as undemocratic and dangerous. Even if it fails, experts fear that it would falsely propagate the notion among millions of Trump supporters that the election was unfairly conducted and that Biden is an illegitimate president.
“Wild press conferences erode public trust.”
Earlier on Thursday, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, held a bizarre press conference alongside Powell at the Republican National Committee in Washington, where they both spouted conspiracy theories about supposed voter fraud in the Nov. 3 presidential election. The allegations were too far-fetched even for Fox News host Tucker Carlson, a steadfast Trump ally, who noted during his program that Powell “never sent us any evidence” to support her baseless claims and “got angry and told us to stop contacting her.”
“Wild press conferences erode public trust. So no, obviously Rudy and his buddies should not pressure electors to ignore their certification obligations under the statute. We are a nation of laws, not tweets,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said in a statement that did not directly mention Trump.
The Nebraska senator noted that even as Trump’s legal team has sought to portray some vast electoral scheme against the president in public, they’ve refused to actually allege fraud in court filings “because there are legal consequences for lying to judges.”
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a member of the Senate GOP leadership who was reelected this month, offered a mild rebuke of Trump’s voter fraud claims in an interview earlier Thursday with conservative radio host Guy Benson.
“They have to be able to show that proof. I haven’t seen proof yet. There are a lot of allegations out there. That’s why we have the court system,” Ernst said.
The Iowa senator did, however, condemn Powell after she falsely insinuated that political candidates of both parties pay off election officials to win, calling the statement “absolutely outrageous.”
“That is an offensive comment for those of us who do stand up and represent our states in a dignified manner. We believe in honesty. We believe in the integrity of the election system,” Ernst added.