As his legal team's court losses continued to mount, President Donald Trump reportedly resorted to calling Pennsylvania's Republican House Speaker twice in the past week to pressure the GOP leader to take action to overturn President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the key battleground state, a move observers described as alarming despite its virtually non-existent chances of success.
According to Speaker Bryan Cutler's office, Trump told the Pennsylvania Republican that he is "hearing about all these issues in Philadelphia, and these issues with your law." At one point, the outgoing president asked, "What can we do to fix it?"
"Trump is abusing the courts, pressuring public officials, and using incendiary rhetoric to undermine democracy and subvert the will of the people."
—Kristen Clarke, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
News of Trump's conversations with Cutler comes just days after the president called Georgia's Republican Gov. Brian Kemp demanding that state lawmakers undo Biden's victory, a request that Kemp reportedly rejected. Last month, Trump invited Michigan Republicans to the White House in an effort to push them to override Biden's win.
"This is once again the president of the United States trying to overturn the results of a free and fair election to keep himself in power," Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said in response to Trump's calls to Cutler. "It may not be working, but this is still dictator stuff, and let's not ever let ourselves get used to it."
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Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, warned that "Trump is abusing the courts, pressuring public officials, and using incendiary rhetoric to undermine democracy and subvert the will of the people."
Pennsylvania Republicans are apparently taking notice of Trump's pressure campaign—and attempting to act on it. Last Friday, 60 Republican Pennsylvania lawmakers—including Cutler—sent a letter (pdf) to their state's congressional delegation urging it to "object, and vote to sustain such objection, to the Electoral College votes received from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania during the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021," when Congress is set to officially accept Biden's victory.
As the Washington Post noted, "Although such a move is highly unlikely to gain traction, at least one Pennsylvania Republican, Rep. Scott Perry, said in an interview Monday that he will heed the request and dispute the state's electors."
"To succeed, such a challenge requires support from both a representative and a senator, and must survive a vote of both chambers," the Post added. "So far, no Republican senator has voiced support for such a maneuver, which in any event would fail in the Democratic-controlled House."