WASHINGTON — In a short but extraordinary speech Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stood behind President Donald Trump, who is baselessly alleging widespread voter fraud after losing the presidential election to Joe Biden.
Trump continues to vow he will fight the election results in the courts, despite judges repeatedly tossing out his legal team’s claims on the evidence. On the Senate floor Monday afternoon, McConnell defended Trump’s right to question the election results and repeated talking points used by Trump’s team.
“In the United States of America, all legal ballots must be counted. Any illegal ballots must not be counted,” he said. “The process should be transparent or observable by all sides and the courts are here to work through concerns.”
BuzzFeed News has journalists around the US bringing you trustworthy stories on the 2020 elections. To help keep this news free, become a member.
There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, or that “illegal” votes swung the election for Biden. Trump’s team conceded in court that their observers are overseeing the ballot counts.
McConnell, the most powerful Republican in Congress, is well versed in crafting statements that do not anger President Trump. But in the midst of a contested election, his speech is a sign the Republican establishment may refuse to acknowledge the reality that Trump lost the election. McConnell even mocked news outlets for projecting that Biden was the winner after the numbers showed he had won the Electoral College, saying the Constitution gives the media no role in selecting the president.
“Our institutions are actually built for this. We have the system in place to consider concerns,” said McConnell. “And President Trump is 100% within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options.”
McConnell said if Democrats are confident that nothing illegal occurred, “they should have no reason to fear extra scrutiny.”
While Senate Republicans have no power to overturn the results of the election, and Trump’s legal fights appear to be going nowhere, they could adopt the position that Biden is not a legitimate president and use that as a justification to block his policies.
At the same time, McConnell did not say he believes Trump’s allegations. On Sunday, Sen. Roy Blunt, ranked number four in Senate Republican leadership, said it was time for Trump’s lawyers to present their evidence of fraud, if they have it. The only Republican senators to publicly congratulate Biden on his victory are Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
If you have a news tip, we’d like to hear from you. Reach out to us via one of our tip line channels.
Many others hedged when asked Monday if Trump should concede the election. At least a dozen Republican senators said Trump has the right to contest the election and go to court to provide whatever evidence of fraud he may have.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham went much further in an appearance on Fox News Sunday, encouraging not just Trump but the Republican Party to “fight back” to overturn the election results in the courts.
“If Republicans don’t challenge and change the US election system, there’ll never be another Republican president elected again,” he said. “To my Republican colleagues out there, we have to fight back or we will accept our fate.”
Graham encouraged Trump to continue his fight to overturn the election results “Trump has not lost,” he said. “Do not concede, Mr. President. Fight hard.”