Eleven Republican senators and senators-elect drew accusations of "sedition" and "treason" on Saturday and Sunday when they released a statement announcing they will join Sen. Josh Hawley in contesting the presidential election results on Wednesday, when Congress meets to certify President-elect Joe Biden's victory.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) led his colleagues in releasing the statement, in which the lawmakers said they're being driven not by the belief that they can actually overturn the election results and deny Biden the presidency, but by a desire to make sure Americans who don't believe President Donald Trump lost the election are heard.
The senators cited one poll showing that 40% of Americans believe the election was fraudulent—a belief that has persisted as Trump, supported by numerous members of his party, has refused to concede and has spread baseless misinformation about the results.
Days after Hawley announced he plans to reject the election results in some states won by Biden, Cruz was joined by Sens. Ron Johnson (Wis.), James Lankford (Okla.), Steve Daines (Mont.), John Neely Kennedy (La.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), and Mike Braun (Ind.), as well as Sens.-elect Cynthia M. Lummis (Wyo.), Roger Marshall (Kan.), Bill Hagerty (Tenn.), and Tommy Tuberville (Ala.) in supporting the effort.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) noted that 140 Republican House members are joining the senators and called the attempt to undermine the nation's democracy "sad and tragic."
It is a sad and tragic day for our country that 140 members of the House of Representatives, 13 senators and a defeated president are attempting to undermine American democracy and our Constitution.
They will not succeed.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) January 2, 2021
"From the beginning of his campaign for president, Donald Trump has shown a profound disrespect for the institutions of democracy," Sanders said in a statement. "It is pathetic that 13 of my colleagues in the Senate and 140 members of the House of Representatives are now demonstrating a similar disdain for the American people by engaging in a dead-end, unconstitutional effort to overturn the will of voters."
Despite the fact that the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency declared the election "the most secure in American history"—a statement which was followed by Trump's firing of director Christopher Krebs—the senators in their Saturday statement said that "Congress should immediately appoint an Electoral Commission, with full investigatory and fact-finding authority, to conduct an emergency 10-day audit of the election returns in the disputed states."
As Sanders noted, dozens of attempts by Trump and members of the Republican Party have failed to convince state and federal courts of any wrongdoing in states including Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The U.S. Supreme Court has also declined to take up two cases claiming election fraud.
"In the two months since the election, more than 80 judges, including some who were appointed by the president, have rejected Donald Trump and his allies' attempts to overturn the election," the senator said. "There are no cases pending that will have any impact on the results. There have been numerous recounts, audits and verifications, including in the most closely contested states."
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Despite the lack of evidence to support the Republicans' claim that another audit is needed, the fact that the senators and members of the House are challenging the electoral college results in certain states will require both the House and the Senate to debate the results of each state in question, and vote on the contest. The certification of Biden's victory could be delayed by several hours, but because Democrats control the House and a number of Republicans have rejected Cruz and Hawley's efforts, the president-elect is ultimately expected to be certified as the winner this week.
On CNN Sunday morning, anchor Jake Tapper said he had invited all the senators planning to challenge the election results to appear on "State of the Union," but that all declined to be interviewed about their decision to join Hawley's effort.
Jake Tapper says he invited on all 12 GOP senators who are "involved in plotting this disgraceful effort" to overthrow the election but they all declined or failed to respond.
"It recalls what Ulysses Grant wrote in 1861: There are two parties now, traitors and patriots." pic.twitter.com/BJ50So94G6
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) January 3, 2021
"It all recalls what Ulysses Grant wrote in 1861: There are two parties now, traitors and patriots," Tapper said.
Beto O'Rourke, who challenged Cruz in the senator's re-election campaign in 2018, accused his former opponent of "sedition" and wrote that while Cruz likely knows "the current attempt will fail, it will now be much more likely that a future one will succeed."
Cruz is trying to undermine a fairly decided election (which DHS called the “most secure in American history”), cynically knowing that though the current attempt will fail, it will now be much more likely that a future one will succeed. This is sedition.
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) January 2, 2021
Republicans including Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) have publicly denounced their colleagues' efforts in recent days, seeking to distance themselves from the electoral challenge.
Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, questioned the integrity of those lawmakers on Sunday.
"If you're a senator who has to issue a statement condemning the large-scale and multi-front effort of your party to destroy democracy, isn't it time to rethink your support for that party?" Shaub tweeted.