After House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy downplayed Trump’s stunning demand, other Republicans rushed to his defense — and some refused to take issue with the President’s actions.
“I wasn’t involved in the call,” said Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, who chairs the House GOP’s campaign arm.
Rep. Paul Gosar, a conservative Arizona Republican who is joining his colleagues’ effort to overturn the election results on Wednesday, contended that Trump’s call was a simple expression of “enormous frustration.”
“Politically correct speech doesn’t run well,” Gosar said when asked about Trump.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, a New York Republican, criticized the press when asked if he had any concerns about Trump’s hourlong call, which was recorded on tape and leaked to the media.
“I wish the reporting on it was a full and honest discussion — as opposed to the one-sided, biased take,” Zeldin said.
But some Republicans expressed concerns, including Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 in GOP leadership who is also urging her colleagues to steer clear of the effort to subvert the will of voters when Congress meets Wednesday to count electoral votes that made Biden the winner of the race.
“I think it was deeply troubling,” Cheney told CNN of the call. “I think it was deeply troubling, and I think everybody should listen to the full hour of it.”
Democrats also began discussing how to respond to Trump’s call on Monday.
Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, circulated a letter Monday to collect support for a resolution he plans to introduce to censure and condemn Trump for seeking to overturn the election results in Georgia, Democratic sources told CNN on Monday. It remains to be seen whether the chamber would vote on the resolution, which would amount to a symbolic rebuke of the President.
The debate comes amid a growing GOP rift ahead of Wednesday’s joint session of Congress when House Republicans are expected to object to the counting of the electoral votes that Biden the President-elect. If they are joined by at least one Republican senator, which is expected, each chamber will have to debate the objections for up to two hours before a vote on whether to affirm the objection. The votes are destined to fail, but the moves could prolong the debate since House members plan to push objections to six states Trump lost — and it’s already putting many Republicans in a difficult spot.
Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman, who is up for reelection in 2022, said Monday he would support certifying the election on Wednesday and oppose some of his GOP colleagues’ effort to challenge the vote.
“I plan on honoring that oath by supporting the state certifications and the will of the people. I will vote to certify in accordance with my duty under the Constitution,” Portman said in a statement. “I cannot support allowing Congress to thwart the will of the voters.”
“What I read about — the President has always been concerned about the integrity of the election,” McCarthy said on Fox when asked about the Georgia call.
It remains possible that a majority of House Republicans will join the effort to challenge the election. Emmer, for one, would not say if he backs the challenge.
“I understand some senators are going to object — we will see how the debate goes,” Emmer said, adding that he’d take stock of how the floor debate goes. “I’ll listen.”
New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a former-Democrat-turned-Republican, said he would join the effort to object to the election results.
“Any time when just about 50% of the American public does not believe that the elections are valid, there’s something wrong,” Van Drew said. Told that many voters don’t believe the elections were valid because Trump has refused to accept the results, Van Drew said: “They don’t listen to every single thing he says. They’re doing it because they believe it.”