November 26, 2020

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Mitch McConnell defends Donald Trump’s pursuit of election challenge

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Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, on Monday defended Donald Trump’s right to challenge the US election results, as Republicans continued to push back against declarations of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.

In a speech on the Senate floor on Monday, Mr McConnell declined to congratulate Mr Biden, instead arguing that the president was “100 per cent within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options”.

“The projections and commentary of the press do not get veto power over the legal rights of any citizen, including the president,” he added.

Mr McConnell’s comments were the latest indication that many Republican lawmakers are not yet ready to break with the president over the election result, with many doubling down on their support for Mr Trump’s unfounded allegations of widespread fraud. 

While a third Republican senator, Susan Collins, came forward to congratulate Mr Biden just days after winning her own tight re-election battle, she has been among the minority. The majority of Republican lawmakers have argued that it is too early to confirm a result, while others have gone so far as to back up the president’s claims of widespread voter fraud. 

On Monday, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler — Georgia’s two Republican senators who both face run-offs in January — went so far as to call for the resignation of Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s current secretary of state, also a Republican. They argued that the state’s elections had been rife with “mismanagement” and a “lack of transparency” without providing any evidence to support their claims.

“The secretary of state has failed to deliver honest and transparent elections,” the senators wrote. “He has failed the people of Georgia, and should step down immediately.”

Mr Raffensperger responded in a statement that he would not heed the senators’ request: “The voters of Georgia hired me, and the voters will be the one to fire me.”

But there has been a few signs of backlash against the president’s tactics in some conservative circles. On Monday, Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, and Ronna McDaniel, the head of the Republican National Committee, held a briefing where they voiced numerous unverified claims of voter fraud — prompting conservative-leaning Fox News to cut away.

“I think we have to be very clear that she is charging the other side of welcoming fraud and welcoming illegal voting. I cannot in good countenance continue showing you this,” Neil Cavuto, the Fox News host, said. 

Mr Trump has so far showed no sign of conceding. He made several unverified claims about the election that were flagged by Twitter as “disputed”, among them that Nevada was a “cesspool of fake votes” and that there had been voting irregularities in Pennsylvania.

His stonewalling has led to concerns about the presidential transition, especially as a government agency administrator is refusing to trigger the release of resources meant to help the US president-elect’s transition.

On Monday, Emily Murphy, the Donald Trump-appointed head of the General Services Administration, had not yet signed a letter that would officially begin the transition process, 48 hours after US networks called the race for Mr Biden.

During the standard transition process, the GSA hands over millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded resources to the winning presidential candidate’s transition team and gives it access to agency buildings and personnel to allow it to prepare for assuming office a few weeks later.

In a statement, the GSA confirmed that it had not yet begun the transition process, but insisted it was adhering to “all requirements under the law”, citing the 2000 transition — during the contested election between George W Bush and Al Gore — as precedent.

In that year, the GSA transition process began after Mr Gore formally conceded on December 13 2000, more than a month after the election.

“The GSA administrator does not pick the winner in the presidential election . . . The GSA administrator ascertains the apparent successful candidate once a winner is clear based on the process laid out in the constitution,” the agency said.

It was not immediately clear how or when the GSA would ascertain the winning candidate, and whether it would be linked to the formal vote of the electoral college on December 17 or a concession of defeat by Mr Trump.

Regulations require the GSA to make a determination to give the incoming president certain federal resources for transition once the president-elect is apparent.

The Biden transition team called on the GSA to “promptly” ascertain Mr Biden as the winner of the election, now that the race had been “independently called for Joe Biden”.

“America’s national security and economic interests depend on the federal government signalling clearly and swiftly that the United States government will respect the will of the American people and engage in a smooth and peaceful transfer of power,” the transition team said.

US presidential election 2020: You tell us

How do you feel now the election is over? Are you happy with the winner? Do you feel the election process was fair? How do you see the outlook for America? Do you feel positive about the incoming president or uncertain? Share your thoughts with us.

2020-11-09 17:38:57

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