Republican Sen. Mitt Romney late on Thursday denounced President Donald Trump’s attempt to pressure Republican officials to reverse the results of the election, describing it as among the most “undemocratic” actions ever taken by a sitting president.
“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,” the Utah senator and frequent Trump critic said in a statement posted to Twitter. “It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President.”
Romney joined Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., as the only two GOP senators on Thursday to publicly oppose the president’s actions as Trump and his campaign continue lobbing baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud in Michigan and other states in hope of remaining in power.
Their rebukes came at the end of an extraordinary day in which the president’s attorneys claimed without evidence that voter fraud took place in cities run by Democratic leaders – areas that largely favored President-elect Joe Biden – due to a centralized conspiracy linked to Venezuela meant to rig the election.
In addition to the baseless claims, the president has also invited the leaders of Michigan’s Republican-controlled state Senate and House to meet him Friday at the White House. Ahead of Monday’s state canvassing board meeting to certify results in Michigan, Biden is the projected winner and leads Trump by about 157,000 votes.
At a time when nearly all Congressional Republicans have either supported the president or declined to call out his unfounded allegations of voter fraud, Romney’s 57-word statement was the strongest GOP reprimand to date of Trump’s post-election efforts to stay in power.
A longtime critic and target of the president who was the only Republican senator to vote to convict Trump during his impeachment trial, Romney also has a personal tie to Michigan, where his father, George, was governor from 1963 to 1969.
Boris Epshteyn, a strategic adviser to the Trump campaign, lashed out at Romney’s remarks in a Friday morning text message to The Washington Post.
“While Senator Romney continues to buy into, and echo, liberal media spin, President Trump and his campaign will continue to work to ensure that the will of the American people is honored by counting every legal vote,” Epshteyn said.
In a statement Thursday, Sasse warned how “wild” news conferences like Thursday’s “erode public trust” before criticizing Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, for trying to “pressure electors to ignore their certification obligations” in Michigan.
“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. “President Trump lost Michigan by more than 100,000 votes, and the campaign and its allies have lost in or withdrawn from all five lawsuits in Michigan for being unable to produce any evidence.”
Other Republicans offered more measured criticism, including Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who lashed out at claims by Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell that down-ballot candidates “paid to have the system rigged to work for them.” Ernst called Powell’s comments “offensive” and “outrageous.” In an interview with Fox News Radio, Ernst said she believed Trump had the right to use the courts for any legal challenges, but added “there does have to be proof.”
“I haven’t seen proof yet. There are a lot of allegations out there and that’s exactly why we have the court system,” she said. “I have not seen it personally. I’m sure they’ll be able to present it to a judge.”