Two Republican senators – Mitt Romney of Utah and Joni Ernst of Iowa – voiced harsh criticism on Thursday of voter fraud allegations made by President Trump’s allies as part of a long-shot attempt to overturn the results of the November 3 election.
With a late-night tweet, Romney hit out at the president, who has been unable to get the courts to stop the counting of votes in several key states that he lost to President-elect Joe Biden.
Ernst on Thursday blasted a suggestion by a lawyer working on Trump’s legal team who claimed that Republicans and Democrats may have ‘paid to have the system rigged to work for them.’
Trump has alleged he lost due to widespread voter fraud, though his campaign has yet to produce evidence to support the claim.
Senator Mitt Romney (left) of Utah and Senator Joni Ernst (right) of Iowa were critical of voter fraud claims made by allies of President Trump on Thursday
Trump and his allies allege that a massive conspiracy that resulted in votes being fraudulently switched on Election Day cost the president victory in several key swing states. No evidence has emerged that would support the allegation
‘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 tweeted on Thursday
‘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 tweeted on Thursday.
‘It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President.’
Romney, who is considered a moderate, was the only Republican senator to vote to convict Trump during the impeachment trial last year.
Trump and his allies have frequently criticized Romney as a ‘RINO’ – or ‘Republican in name only.’
Trump has summoned Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (left) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (right) to the White House for an extraordinary meeting on Friday amid a longshot GOP push to subvert the democratic process that handed the battleground state to Biden
The move comes after Monica Palmer and William Hartmann – who serve as the two Republican members on the Wayne County Board of Canvassers – filed affidavits late on Wednesday to ‘rescind’ their decisions to certify the vote from the November 3 election. They spectacularly back-flipped and decided to certify the election results in their district on Tuesday after initially voting not to. Trump is said to have reached out to the two canvassers on Tuesday
Romney’s tweet was a reference to Trump’s White House invitation to two Republican lawmakers from the Michigan state legislature.
Trump summoned Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield to the White House for an extraordinary meeting on Friday amid a longshot GOP push to subvert the democratic process that handed the battleground state to Biden.
The two senior lawmakers agreed to go, according to a state official aware of the leaders’ plans. The two officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing private conversations.
It was not immediately clear what the meeting would be about. Neither Shirkey nor Chatfield commented.
Ernst was interviewed on Fox News Radio by Guy Benson. The senator from Iowa was asked about comments made earlier in the day by Sidney Powell, an attorney who is helping Trump’s legal campaign contest the election results.
During a news conference held alongside Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, Powell claimed that the president won the election and that millions of votes were overturned by software.
She then suggested that politicians from both parties paid to fix the results.
‘We have no idea how many Republican or Democratic candidates in any state across the country paid to have the system rigged to work for them,’ Powell said.
‘That is an offensive comment,’ Ernst said when asked about Powell’s remarks.
The Republican senators were critical of claims made during a bizarre Thursday news conference in Washington, DC, where the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, made wild allegations of voter fraud while suffering a hair-dye malfunction
Running: The president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani had matching streaks of either hair dye or make-up on both sides of his face as he addressed the media
‘For those of us that do stand up and represent our state in a dignified manner, we believe in the honesty, we believe in the integrity of our election system.’
Ernst added: ‘I do believe that if there is fraud out there, it should be brought to the courts’ attention… I think all of us agree on that.
‘But to insinuate that Republican and Democratic candidates paid to throw off this election, I think is absolutely outrageous.’
Another Republican senator, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, also offered a critical assessment of the news conference in which Powell made her allegation.
‘Based on what I’ve read in their filings, when Trump campaign lawyers have stood before courts under oath, they have repeatedly refused to actually allege grand fraud – because there are legal consequences for lying to judges,’ Sasse said in a statement to National Review.
‘Wild press conferences erode public trust.’
Giuliani and others had held a press conference in Washington, DC, to allege a widespread Democratic election conspiracy involving multiple states and suspect voting machines.
But election officials across the country have said repeatedly there was no widespread fraud.
Many of the allegations of fraud stem from poll watchers who filed affidavits included with lawsuits in battleground states aimed at delaying vote certification.
Those affidavits lean into innuendo and unsupported suggestions of fraud.
Ernst was angered by an unfounded allegation made by Sidney Powell (right), who claimed that Democrats and Republicans paid money to have votes fixed
Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, was critical of the claims made by Trump’s legal team. He said: ‘Wild press conferences erode public trust’
For example, they refer to suitcases in a polling place, but make no suggestion that ballots were being secretly counted.
There are allegations of ballots being duplicated – something routinely done when a ballot is physically damaged.
There are claims that partisan poll watchers were too far away to observe well and therefore something fishy was probably going on. But they don’t have proof.
Poll watchers have no auditing role in elections; they are volunteer observers.
Giuliani cited a few sworn affidavits that he said showed a vast Democratic conspiracy, but added that he could not reveal much of the evidence.
One he cited was from Jessy Jacob, identified as a city employee in Detroit who said she saw other workers coaching voters to cast ballots for Biden and the Democrats.
A judge who refused to block certification of Detroit-area results noted that Jacob’s claims included no ‘date, location, frequency or names of employees’ and that she only came forward after unofficial results indicated Biden had won Michigan.
Trump legal adviser Jenna Ellis, who joined Giuliani, said more evidence would be forthcoming and that Trump’s allies would have more success in courts going forward.
But so far, most of their legal actions have been dismissed.
Trump’s campaign is openly floating the notion of trying to get friendly state legislatures to appoint electors who would overturn the will of the voters.
If Trump succeeds in convincing Michigan’s state board of canvassers not to certify Biden’s victory in the state, state lawmakers could be called on to select electors, but such a brazen move would be unprecedented and possibly illegal.
MEET THE ELITE STRIKE FORCE LEGAL TEAM TRUMP IS RELYING ON
President Donald Trump’s attorneys – the group of lawyers working to overturn the election results in his favor – pegged themselves as ‘elite strike force team’ in a bizarre press conference at the Republican National Committee.
But the group of five – Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis, Boris Epshteyn, Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing – are more known for their engagement with conservative media, appearances on Fox News and their public advocacy for Trump rather than for winning election cases.
Here’s a look at the president’s legal team:
Rudy Giuliani: Hair apparent
He made his name in New York City as a top federal prosecutor where he battled the mob. He became a national hero on September 11th, when, as mayor, he led the city through the worst terrorist attack in American history.
But at 76, he has served as Trump’s personal lawyer for years and has fed him conspiracy theories about Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine and argued it was a Ukrainian company that had the server with Hillary Clinton’s emails.
U.S. intelligence agencies have said they believe Giuliani is a target of an influence operation from the Russian government. Giuliani is believed to have business clients with ties to the Ukraine although he has not revealed his client list.
Now he’s reported to have asked the Trump campaign for $20,000 a day to spearhead Trump’s effort to overturn the election results.
He’s told the president that his other advisers have not been telling him the truth about his chances of success in his legal battles to overturn the results of the election, The New York Times reported.
On Friday, Trump put Giuliani in charge of all election-related litigation and communications for it. That resulted Thursday’s press conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters where Giuliani, with hair dye dripping down both sides of his face, spouted baseless conspiracy theories about voter fraud while praising the movie ‘My Cousin Vinny.’
Trump elevated Giuliani, a source told The Wall Street Journal, because ‘he was the only person telling the president he could win.’
Sidney Powell: Plans to unleash the Kraken
She represented Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn and has been a major promoter of viral conspiracy theories about vote switching – theories she repeated on Thursday.
In her series of bizarre claims, she said Hugo Chavez (who died in 2013) was part of a group of communists from China and Venezuela helping to rig the election in Joe Biden’s favor.
She also claimed that operators of Dominion voting machines went in and injected votes for Biden while deleting votes for Trump. She has shown no proof of her claims.
She has said she will ‘release the Kraken’ when it comes to proving voter fraud – a phrase that trended on Twitter.
Trump first noticed her when she was on Fox News defending Flynn, her client. She has accused the Justice Department of prosecutorial misconduct against Flynn.
She also has alleged special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation was part of a plot by the intelligence community to force President Trump from office.
Jenna Ellis: Called Trump an idiot in 2016
Ellis, a legal adviser to the Trump campaign, was reportedly part of an internal coup that put her and Giuliani in charge of the post-election legal strategy.
White House aides have expressed concern about her.
She was viewed as an uncontrollable figure inside the campaign who often provided President Trump with questionable information about alleged voter fraud.
And she appeared on television without asking for approval from campaign officials, aides told The Washington Post.
She dubbed herself ‘President-Elect Jenna Ellis’ on Twitter.
During the 2016 Republican presidential primary, she called Trump an ‘idiot,’ a ‘bully’ and agreed that he was someone intent to ‘destroy American democracy.’
Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing: Anti-Soros conspiracy theorists
The husband-and-wife legal team are panelists on Newsmax, a right-wing media outlet. They used to be regulars on Fox News until DiGenova made wild claims that much of the State Department was under the control of a well-known Jewish financier George Soros.
Trump wanted them on his legal team for his impeachment trial – he was said to be impressed with diGenova’s defense of him on Fox News – but the two were unable to join due to conflicts of interest.
They represent Ukrainian businessman Dmitri Firtash, who was charged by the U.S. Department of Justice with bribery and racketeering.
They also reportedly worked with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two associates of Giuliani’s who were arrested on charges of campaign finance violations.
A former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, diGenova pushed the theory that lawmakers tried to frame Trump when they investigated whether his campaign colluded with Russia four years ago.
Toensing represented Scooter Libby, the assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney, when Trump pardoned him.
Boris Epshteyn: Eric Trump’s Russian-born friend
He was the Chief Political Commentator at Sinclair Broadcast Group until December 2019 when he joined President Trump’s re-election campaign.
He was born in Moscow and emigrated to the United States as a child with his parents. He met Eric Trump at Georgetown University, where Epshteyn received his law degree.
Epshteyn became a special assistant in the Trump administration when the president first took office. He wrote Trump’s controversial statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day in January 2017, which omitted any mention of the Jewish people. He later resigned from the White House in March 2017.
He also testified behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee as part of its probe into Russia’s role in the 2016 election.
Rudy Giuliani was surrounded by a maskless group on stage including from left Sidney Powell, who is Mike Flynn’s attorney, Joseph diGenova and his wife Victoria Toensing, a husband-and-wife lawyer team who have promoted conspiracy theories, and Boris Epshteyn, a Trump aide
It would be certain to draw a swift legal challenge.
Both Shirkey and Chatfield have indicated that they will not try to overturn Biden’s win.
‘Michigan law does not include a provision for the Legislature to directly select electors or to award electors to anyone other than the person who received the most votes,’ Shirkey’s spokeswoman said last week.
On November 6, Chatfield tweeted: ‘Whoever gets the most votes will win Michigan! Period. End of story. Then we move on.’
Asked at a Lansing news conference about the plan for legislative leaders to visit Trump, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer said, ‘I hope they wear masks, and I hope they stay safe.’
‘All the meetings in the world, though, can’t take away from the fact that Joe Biden won Michigan by over 150,000 votes,’ Whitmer added.
‘That’s 14 times the margin that Donald Trump won by in 2016. … So we will be sending a slate of electors that reflects the will of the people of Michigan at the end of this process.’
Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday night that Michigan’s Wayne County had ‘refused to certify the presidential election results’ – just minutes before they actually did so
Trump gleefully tweeted about what looked to be a massive win for him in Wayne County – before two Republicans changed their votes
Election workers process absentee ballots at the Detroit Department of Elections Central Counting Board of Voting the day after the election
Also Thursday, state officials said Michigan’s largest county cannot revoke its certification of election results after two Republicans who approved Biden’s local landslide wanted to revert to their initial stance of refusing to bless the vote tally.
The GOP effort to change position represented another complication in what is typically a routine task.
Monica Palmer and William Hartmann, the two GOP canvassers in Wayne County, said they only voted to certify the results after ‘hours of sustained pressure’ and after getting promises that their concerns about the election would be investigated.
‘We deserve better – but more importantly, the American people deserve better – than to be forced to accept an outcome achieved through intimidation, deception and threats of violence,’ they said in a statement Wednesday night.
State officials said the certification of the Detroit-area vote will stand. Michigan’s chief election officer said a post-election audit will be performed, though not to check ‘mythical allegations’ of fraud.
‘There is no legal mechanism for them to rescind their vote. Their job is done, and the next step in the process is for the Board of State Canvassers to meet and certify,’ said Tracy Wimmer, a spokeswoman for the Michigan secretary of state.
The four-member state board, which is expected to meet Monday, is split with two Democrats and two Republicans — the same makeup as the Wayne County board.
Trump’s campaign said the latest about-face by Palmer and Hartmann is legitimate. It withdrew a federal lawsuit challenging the Detroit-area results, attaching affidavits from the pair.
Once Trump exhausts all his legal options, it is widely expected that Joe Biden will be certified the winner of several key battleground states
Palmer and Hartmann initially voted against certification Tuesday, leaving the county Board of Canvassers deadlocked at 2-2 along party lines. Palmer complained that certain Detroit precincts were out of balance, meaning that absentee ballot books did not match the number of ballots cast.
‘This is not an indication that any votes were improperly cast or counted,’ Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said.
The GOP move drew an immediate rebuke from the public and injected partisan politics into the business of an unsung panel that is supposed to confirm the will of the voters.
A person familiar with the matter told the AP that Trump reached out to Palmer and Hartmann on Tuesday evening after the revised vote to express gratitude for their support.
In a statement, the pair reported being the target of threats, which they said they reported to law enforcement.
Trump ‘was checking to make sure I was safe after seeing/hearing about the threats and doxxing,’ Palmer said in a text message to the Detroit Free Press, referring to the practice of publicly disclosing someone’s personal information.
Biden crushed Trump in Wayne County by a more than 2-1 margin on his way to winning Michigan by 154,000 votes, or 1.8 percentage points, according to unofficial results.
The county canvassers later voted again and certified the results, 4-0. Then, on Wednesday, Palmer and Hartmann signed affidavits saying they believe the vote should not be certified.
Jonathan Kinloch, a Democratic canvasser, said he heard passion — not threats — during the stormy Tuesday night meeting when the audience on Zoom was allowed to speak after the 2-2 tie and before the unanimous vote.
Trump supporters waving banners and flags rally for a ‘stop the steal’ protest outside the State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday
This was the second day in a row that protesters gathered outside the State Capitol in Atlanta to allege widespread voter fraud
This was the second day in a row that protesters gathered outside the State Capitol in Atlanta to allege widespread voter fraud
The rally took place just a day before Georgia is set to certify that Joe Biden won the state’s 16 electoral college votes
One rallygoer holds a sign denouncing communism in front of the State Capitol in Atlanta on Thursday
‘I heard people basically being very assertive in demonstrating their outrage, but it happens all the time,’ Kinloch said.
Benson, a Democrat, said a post-election audit will be conducted in Wayne County and any other community with ‘significant clerical errors.’
‘Audits are neither designed to address nor performed in response to false or mythical allegations of “irregularities” that have no basis in fact,’ she said.
There has been no evidence of widespread voting fraud in Michigan or any other state. Federal and state officials from both parties have declared the 2020 election safe and secure.
But Trump and his allies have spent two weeks raising false claims of fraud and refusing to concede to Biden.
Romney openly mocks Trump’s claims of election fraud saying ‘normally you find the evidence FIRST’
Romney has become more unabashed of his criticism of Trump, claiming in an interview Thursday that the president is continuing on with lawsuits despite having no evidence.
‘Normally you find evidence and then after seeing evidence then you reach a conclusion about whether or not there was a crime committed,’ Romney chuckled to David Axelrod during an interview on the CNN commentator’s podcast The Axe Files.
‘But I understand the president is not happy with the result, he’s entitled to pursue his legal remedies,’ Romney continued. ‘But I think in all likelihood, it’s pretty clear that Joe Biden will become the next president.’
The U.S. senator from Utah was the first Republican lawmaker to publicly acknowledge Biden’s win and call him the president-elect.
Romney said he’s surprised so many Republicans believe that Biden’s win is ‘illegitimate’ and due to some sort of funny business in ballot collection and tabulation.
Earlier on Thursday, Romney openly mocked Trump’s claim of election fraud, saying ‘Normally you find evidence and then after seeing evidence then you reach a conclusion about whether or not there was a crime committed’
The Utah senator joined David Axelrod for an interview on the CNN commentator’s podcast
He was likely referencing a poll released Wednesday that shows more than three in four Trump voters feel Biden only won due to ‘fraud’ while another poll showed 52 per cent of Republicans believe the president ‘rightfully won’ the election
Romney told Axelrod this doubt in GOP and conservative minds could be due to the fact that Trump has been complaining for months leading up to Election Day that if Biden won it could only be due to Democrats ‘stealing’ the election.
‘The president said before the election that if he were to lose it would be because of voter fraud, it would be because of corruption,’ Romney said. ‘And then a day or two after the election when the vote was called by the major networks he indicated that there was massive fraud and that he had been robbed of the victory.
He added: ‘And that was before any evidence had been gathered.’
Trump’s team has launched several lawsuits following the election claiming there was corruption within the election process, including Democrats pumping thousands of illegal ballots for Biden and tossing or not counting ballots for Trump.
Many of these legal actions have already been struck down by the courts.
Romney was the first Republican senator to call Joe Biden the president-elect and congratulate him on his win four days after Election Day
Romney is one of the Republicans most known for his outspoken criticism of the president, and notably was the only one in the Senate to vote for one article of impeachment against Trump last year.
Four days after Election Day, when most outlets began calling the election for Biden following new projections in several states, Romney congratulated the former vice president.
‘Ann and I extend our congratulations to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. We know both of them as people of good will and admirable character. We pray that God may bless them in the days and years ahead,’ Romney tweeted adding in his wife’s well-wishes.
Romney has not said who he voted for this election, but confirmed that he did not cast a ballot for Trump.