Mon, December 06, 2021

in-focus

Trump loyalists continue to challenge Biden's win, but some Republicans concede after Capitol riot


WASHINGTON - Several Senate Republicans who had vowed to protest President-elect Joe Biden's electoral college win reversed their objections after a mob of President Donald Trump's supporters violently stormed the Capitol - even as other rogue senators signaled that they would continue to contest the election results after Wednesday's deadly siege. 

Sens. Steve Daines, R-Mont., James Lankford, R-Okla., and Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., who endorsed objections to the tallying of electors in key disputed states, said they would stand down and support the affirmation of the election results. Loeffler, who lost her bid to retain her appointed seat Tuesday night, said she could no longer "in good conscience" do so after the hours-long melee that sent senators rushing to safety. 

"We now need the entire Congress to come together and vote to certify the election results. We must stand together as Americans," Daines and Lankford said in a joint statement. "We must defend our Constitution and the rule of law."

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., explained that the siege "did change things drastically" and that he wanted to "get this ugly day behind us." Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., a close ally of the president, also told reporters that "in light of events, there's a bit of a different attitude" about continuing the objection to the election results. Both had supported efforts to dispute the results. 

But the objectors may not launch additional challenges past the one pending against Arizona's slate of electors, according to aides and lawmakers familiar with their plans. How the objections ultimately unfold may come down to Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who was the first senator to announce that he would protest the electoral college vote last month, and who continued to raise concerns about the outcome in Pennsylvania.

While he did not explicitly say one way or the other whether he still planned to lodge an objection to Pennsylvania's electors, in brief floor remarks Wednesday night, Hawley noted that he should speak about the election process in that state now, "in lieu of speaking about it later."

"I actually think it's very vital what we do, the opportunity to be heard, to register objections is very vital," Hawley said, defending his stance.

Republican leaders and lawmakers spent Wednesday afternoon trying to press Trump loyalists such as Hawley to abandon their objections to Biden's win, as they huddled in an undisclosed location, waiting for law enforcement officials to clear bands of pro-Trump rioters from the Capitol, according to people familiar with the effort.

After law enforcement officials cleared the Capitol, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told reporters that objectors would "condense" their remaining objections into a single complaint, extending the debate by another 30 or 40 minutes before relenting. 

"I don't think there's going to be another objection," Paul said. "I think it's over."

If Paul's predictions are correct, it would be a marked surrender from Trump's allies, who had promised to carry out an all-night, state-by-state marathon of objections to certifying the electoral votes of several swing states that Trump lost in November. 

But aides to Hawley and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who also spoke in defense of the objections Wednesday, would not answer queries about whether they planned to continue their objections.

When the House and Senate chambers went into lockdown, each was midway through debating Arizona's election results, to which Cruz and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., had objected. Lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Wednesday night.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told members to return Wednesday night to resume proceedings as a projection of strength after rioters drove lawmakers to leave the Capitol, according to two senior Republicans familiar with the message the leader had been sending.

Houe Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., offered a similar sentiment to House members.

"I have faced violent hatred before. I was not deterred then, and I will not be deterred now," he tweeted. "Tonight, Congress will continue the business of certifying the electoral college votes."

The protest of the electoral college results, which began as an organized exercise in the Capitol Wednesday afternoon, quickly devolved into chaos as a pro-Trump mob stormed barricades, pushing past armed Capitol police and into the congressional office buildings and the Capitol itself, sending the House and the Senate into lockdown. Lawmakers were ushered away soon after, and protesters occupied the chambers.

As they were pushed out of the Capitol, several Republicans publicly called on Trump to intervene with his supporters and urge them to stand down.

"Call it off, Mr. President. We need you to call this off," Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Pa., said in a CNN interview, appealing to Trump to tweet to his supporters that "it's over. Please go home."

Even House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who committed to support the electoral college protest earlier Wednesday, called on Trump to "calm" his supporters and bring their "un-American" protest to an end.

Earlier on Wednesday, McConnell accused Republicans backing the electoral college objections of hypocrisy, shaming them for questioning Biden's win after spending four years accusing Democrats of never having accepted Trump's presidency, and urging them not to "escalate what we repudiate."

"We cannot simply declare ourselves a national board of elections on steroids . . . it would damage our republic forever," McConnell said. "We cannot keep drifting apart into two separate tribes with a separate set of facts and separate reality, with nothing in common except our hostility toward each other."

Published : January 07, 2021

By : The Washington Post · Karoun Demirjian, Seung Min Kim, Mike DeBonis · NATIONAL, POLITICS, CONGRESS, WHITEHOUSE