It’s now clear that the January 6 mob attack on Capitol Hill, while failing in its bid to reverse Trump’s election loss, has utterly fractured the basic level of trust needed to make a political system function — at a critical national moment.
At times on Thursday, it appeared that the whole of Congress was fixated on its own civil wars, cut off from behind its high iron fence from the reality of America’s darkest modern winter.
And with more than 432,000 Americans dead from Covid-19 and the economy in ruins, hopes are fading — amid the acrimony — of a bipartisan effort to beef up the crucial vaccine drive.
The magnitude of that death toll has much to do with Trump’s neglect when he was in office. The tumultuous forces now rocking Capitol Hill are, in most cases, linked to Trump or the extremism of his acolytes who have fully bought into his alternative reality that rejected truth and democracy itself.
“We have members of Congress who want to bring guns on the floor and have threatened violence on other members of Congress,” Pelosi said.
Given the urgency of getting every American — regardless of party — a vaccine before the pandemic mounts another deadly wave, it might have been expected that the Republican House leader would be locked in negotiations.
The make-up session means McCarthy is pinning his hopes of winning the House majority next year on the Trump base and an aggressive political effort by the former President. Far from being ostracized for trying to destroy democracy, Trump is yet again dictating its future.
Trump is still a hero to his base, but since he just comprehensively lost a national election, McCarthy is taking a gamble. In the shorter term, his genuflection means that with the House GOP in thrall to the former President and his vengeful instincts, Republicans will be even less ready to work with Biden on critical efforts to respond to the pandemic.
‘You almost had me murdered’
It is extraordinary that the only senior Republican in danger of being toppled over the insurrection that has been forgotten or excused by many Republican leaders is Cheney, an authentic and lifelong conservative.
Greene, a Georgia Republican, is an enthusiastic supporter of Trump and in a town hall meeting on Thursday night repeated lies that the election was stolen from the ex-President who has endorsed her several times.
The acidic mood in Congress is also caused by the chasm on whether to punish the ex-President for inciting the riot.
Calm reigns at the White House
The pandemonium on Capitol Hill contrasts with the methodical calm that now prevails at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue just over a week into Biden’s presidency.
Incredibly, given the circumstances, Biden still believes that he can get Republicans and Democrats on board with his pandemic rescue bill, though has signaled he may be ready to negotiate the $1.9 trillion price tag.
“He continues to believe that this can be — should be and will be a bipartisan bill … and he’s having conversations with and listening to leaders and members of both parties to assure that we get to exactly that place,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
“We want to work with our Republican colleagues to advance this legislation in bipartisan way, but the work must move forward, preferably with our Republican colleagues, but without them if we must,” Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.
Pelosi also signaled that she was ready to use a procedural device known as reconciliation to swiftly pass a bill to boost vaccine supplies, alleviate the housing crisis and extend unemployment benefits if Republicans didn’t sign on.
The President has announced an ambitious bid to completely overhaul the faltering vaccine distribution effort left over by the previous administration. But the plan is contingent on a huge boost in funding that only Congress can provide. While hospitalizations and new cases of Covid-19 have fallen across the country, the baseline is still highly elevated. Many medical experts are concerned that mutations of the virus that are more transmissible, slightly more deadly and may be more resistant to vaccines could soon become dominant and trigger another wave of sickness and death. Two cases of one of those variants, first detected in South Africa, were found in South Carolina, officials said Thursday. The discovery was so worrying because Biden said this week that it will be the end of the summer before all Americans get the vaccine.
Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and an informal adviser to Biden’s coronavirus team, warned of “the darkest of days ahead.”
“What we can expect to see in the course of the next, I think, six to 14 weeks, is something that we haven’t even come close to experiencing yet,” Osterholm said on CNN’s “New Day.”
That’s not a message that is breaking through on Capitol Hill.
The decision to censure those three Republicans — in addition to re-electing controversial chairwoman Kelli Ward — solidified the rightward shift of the official party, while also reflecting the deep fractures among Arizona Republicans over the future of the GOP, which suffered bruising defeats at the ballot box in 2020 in this increasingly purple state.
The three Republicans are being formally censured for what the state party described in its meeting as a variety of “failures.”
McCain, the widow of the late Sen. John McCain, who endorsed Biden during the election, was censured for supporting “leftist causes” and failing to support Trump.
Flake, a CNN contributor, was also condemned for supporting Biden in the election.
“Foolish. It’s foolish,” says Glenn Hamer, former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party. “Parties that want to be successful bring people together and expand the number of people who are attracted to the party. What’s going on with the leadership at the AZ GOP is the exact opposite. It’s self-destructive.”
Kirk Adams, a former state representative and adviser to Ducey, called the actions akin to going down “the rabbit hole of loyalty.”
“What we’re getting is a purity test, and that purity test is simple: are you loyal to Donald Trump no matter what? If you’re not, we’ll censure you.”
Ward appeared publicly unconcerned about any warnings from moderates, as she spoke to the assembled Arizona Republicans at the Dream City Church in Phoenix. The venue was closed to nearly all reporters, except for a few hand-selected outlets.
Ward ended her speech ahead of the member vote for party chairwoman with, “Make America Great Again!” She then introduced a recorded audio message from Trump, where the former President told members, “I give her my complete and total endorsement.”
Ward defeated her challenger by 3 points in two rounds of voting.
Ducey’s political director, Sara Mueller, discounted the power of the state party’s actions, namely on the censure of the sitting governor. “These resolutions are of no consequence whatsoever, and the people behind them have lost whatever little moral authority they may have once had,” said Mueller.
Flake tweeted a picture of himself with McCain and Ducey at Biden’s Inauguration, with the words, “Good company.”
McCain could not be reached for immediate comment, but tweeted: “It is a high honor to be included in a group of Arizonans who have served our state and our nation so well…and who, like my late husband John, have been censured by the AZGOP. I’ll wear this as a badge of honor.”
The late senator was censured in 2014 by the state GOP for what it then described as a liberal record.
The immediate actions would seem to carry little impact on the three Republicans. And there are signs that some Arizona GOP voters may be disgruntled after the US Capitol insurrection. Numbers compiled by the Arizona Secretary of State’s office show that from January 6 through January 20, more than 8,000 Republicans requested to change their party registration from Republican to Independent, Democrat or Libertarian. The Secretary of State’s Office doesn’t explicitly track party changes for reporting purposes, so it’s unclear if these trends are unique to this post-election cycle.
But Adams sees those registration numbers as a blaring siren that Trumpism has wreaked havoc on the future of this increasingly competitive state for the Republican brand.
“A lot of Republicans inside the official AZ GOP apparatus have left their conservative principals behind. They’re now loyal to a single man or personality versus a platform of ideas,” Adams said. “Perhaps this fever will break. But if it doesn’t, it spells bad news for Republicans seeking office in this state.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated Kirk Adams’ last name.
The very experience of being alive in America will change at noon on Wednesday when the mandate expires of the loudest, most disruptive and erratic commander in chief in history — who forced himself into every corner of life on his social media feed and constant craving for the spotlight.
But this is only one view of Trump. The 74 million Americans who voted to reward him with a second term saw him as a leader who voiced their anger at political, business and media elites. Trump channeled their belief that an increasingly diverse and socially liberal nation threatened their values, religion, gun rights and cultural heritage. His exit could trigger volatile political forces among a community that will mourn his White House. The continued devotion of Trump’s loyal base voters means that while Biden can wipe out many of the outgoing President’s policy wins, removing his influence from politics may well be impossible.
As he moves into retirement, Trump’s presidency will personify the divides between two halves of a populace — one largely conservative and rural and the other more liberal, suburban and city-dwelling. The two increasingly lack a common cultural language and definition of patriotism — and thanks to Trump and the media propagandists who sustained his personality cult, even a common version of truth.
One long conspiracy theory
Trump’s political career began with outrageous lies and a conspiracy theory over former President Barack Obama’s birthplace. It is ending, at least for now, with another even more outrageous one: the false claim that he won an election he clearly lost. Trump’s perpetuating of this alternative reality has caused catastrophic damage to faith in government that is the bedrock of any functioning nation. His shattering of the tradition of peaceful US transfers of power threatens to suffocate Biden’s legitimacy and prolong the nation’s agony at a time of dire crises.
After his final White House departure on Wednesday, Trump’s Marine One will fly over miles of iron fencing and troops protecting the US Capitol from a repeat of the mob insurrection he enlisted and inspired. There could not be a better metaphor for his assault on American democracy.
The President’s premature push to reopen the country in the service of his reelection campaign last summer helped spark a murderous second wave of the virus. Future generations will understand his contempt for science through his barely believable public pondering about whether ingesting disinfectant could cure Covid-19.
A desire to promote his own interests was also reflected in the outgoing President’s attempts to funnel cash and publicity toward his worldwide real estate and hotel empire. This was highlighted by his abortive effort to host the G7 summit at his struggling Doral golf resort in Florida. In many ways, Trump attitude to the presidency was the exact inverse of President John Kennedy’s inaugural admonishment to his fellow citizens: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
A legacy that will outlast his term
But perhaps his term will be mostly remembered for his adoption of “forgotten Americans” in midwestern and southern cities hollowed out by globalized free trade policies. Trump powerfully identified a populace badly neglected by Washington politicians of both parties — as well as an audience for his populist, nationalist politics. But the facts suggest the President’s tax cuts and economic policies in practice did more for corporations and rich cronies that the heartland Americans he championed.
His promise to furnish Americans with a “beautiful” health care plan never materialized. And his immigration policy and southern border wall that Mexico never paid for turned out to be more successful as a demagogic prop than in addressing the causes of undocumented immigration.
Trump’s post-election propagandizing has added a dangerous layer of radicalization to the grievances of his supporters, millions of whom now reject the structures of US government they believe unjustly ejected their leader.
Partly because of this, he leaves behind a country that is now as divided as it has been since the Civil War, in which White nationalism is on the march and in which extreme groups like QAnon have infiltrated a shattered Republican Party. How Trump’s voters react to his departure will not only shape the future of the GOP — a party that has shown itself to live in fear of Trump’s base — but will have huge implications for American unity in time to come.
A more quiet future
Biden’s inheritance is the most challenging of any new President since Franklin Roosevelt, who took office in the teeth of the Great Depression in 1933, at a time when Nazism was building its totalitarian horror in Europe.
Despite Biden’s ambitious goals on issues such as climate, health care and foreign policy, the success of his presidency will likely be judged on his ability to lead America out of the worst public health crisis in 100 years and the economic nightmare it created. And every President faces crises that they could never have anticipated.
But one thing is for sure — his White House will be far more conventional, quiet and stable than Trump’s. In fact, America may never see anything quite like the last four years again.
CNN has learned that federal law enforcement agencies, in a series of bulletins and calls with local partners this week, have issued an urgent call for assistance in securing the nation’s capital as the inauguration nears, and painted a dire picture of potential threats leading up to January 20.
Officials are warning that last Wednesday’s attack on the US Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump will likely motivate additional follow-on attacks by extremists throughout 2021, according to an intelligence bulletin dated Wednesday and obtained by CNN.
Warning that the people who attacked the Capitol largely viewed their efforts as a success, the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the attack “very likely will serve as a significant driver of violence” for a diverse set of domestic extremists, according to the bulletin.
“The violent breach of the US Capitol Building is very likely part of an ongoing trend in which (extremists) exploit lawful protests, rallies, and demonstrations, and other gatherings to carry out ideologically-motivated violence and criminal activity,” the intelligence bulletin warned.
The range of potential future targets of attack was varied, with intelligence officials warning in the bulletin that extremists could zero-in on government officials and institutions, as well as racial and religious minorities, journalists and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The bulletin also indicated that the January 6 attack may have served as a venue for extremists of differing ideological motivations to foster connections.
In addition to the perceived success of the January 6 Capitol attack, intelligence officials warned that the response by law enforcement could also motivate extremists to respond with violence, including at Biden’s upcoming inauguration.
“Since the (Capitol attack), violent online rhetoric regarding the (inauguration) has increased, with some calling for unspecified ‘justice’ ” for a rioter shot by police inside the Capitol, the bulletin said.
Other motivations for possible future attacks included anti-government views held by extremists, as well as grievances associated with the false narrative that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
“The increasing prevalence and influence of conspiracy theories based on a belief in the existence of global or ‘deep state’ actors who work to manipulate various social, political, and/or economic conditions of the United States very likely serves as a driver of some (extremist) violence,” the report said.
The conspiracy theory-laden language observed by US intelligence officials has often mirrored baseless claims made by Trump. Throughout his presidency, Trump has claimed without evidence that a nefarious group of “deep state” actors have been secretly working to undermine his presidency, and he has continually spread disinformation about the integrity of the 2020 election.
Feds working with police around the country
As law enforcement prepares to respond to upcoming protests before and during the inauguration, FBI Director Chris Wray and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli held a call Wednesday with law enforcement leaders from around the country to provide a briefing on the nationwide threat picture relating to planned protests, according to a person briefed on the call.
The source said the FBI briefed their law enforcement partners on intelligence reporting indicating protesters planned to conduct “peaceful, armed demonstrations” in Washington, DC, and at state capitols around the US on January 17 to protest the results of the 2020 election.
An FBI spokesperson confirmed the call, but did not provide additional details.
The FBI indicated federal law enforcement is currently working to identify any suspected extremists who may pose a threat at the planned armed demonstrations.
On the call, FBI officials said they remain concerned about the prospect of extremists appearing at planned rallies and conducting violence, and that violent domestic extremists continue to pose the most significant threat to Biden’s inauguration, according to another source familiar with the call.
“The chatter is off the charts right now,” one official told CNN on Tuesday regarding extremists talking online about future actions.
Federal officials stressed on the call with state, local, tribal and college campus law enforcement leaders that the FBI will not tolerate extremists using the First Amendment as a guide to incite violence, adding that they expect threats will continue past Biden’s inauguration, the source said.
In addition to the potential threats at government buildings, officials discussed seeing an increased number of threats to private companies and their executives in recent days.
According to the source, federal officials said on the call that Russian actors have been amplifying the false narrative that members of Antifa infiltrated Trump supporters during the riot at the US Capitol, and the Chinese have seized on news stories showing chaos in the US.
Secret Service report shows government is monitoring threats
Another government report is shedding light on how law enforcement officials are monitoring the threat of potential violence in the coming days.
According to an internal US Secret Service report dated January 11 and obtained by CNN, analysts with the Secret Service’s team responsible for monitoring websites and social media for planned demonstrations note that protesters unhappy with the 2020 election results are using online platforms to organize events in the Washington area and around the country.
In one online forum observed by investigators, the report indicated that a group calling itself “American Patriots Nationwide” is organizing a violent demonstration in Washington beginning on January 16. On its website, the group indicated it plans to use its members to surround the Capitol, White House and Supreme Court, and only allow the entry of people designated by Trump.
The Secret Service report said the American Patriots Nationwide group also planned to detain Democratic politicians who “played a role in planning or executing or supporting the attempted coup of the United States of America from 2016 to 2020.”
The Secret Service bulletin did not offer an assessment on the realistic nature of the planned rallies nor how much confidence investigators have in the ability of organizers to achieve their stated objectives.
According to the report, groups associated with the Boogaloo movement planned to host an armed march from the Washington Monument to the White House, and encouraged its members to bring weapons.
Other separate events noted in the Secret Service report similarly encouraged protest attendees to come armed, although organizers did not explicitly encourage violence.
The District of Columbia has some of the strictest gun laws in the country and the open carrying of firearms is prohibited.
For Inauguration Day, the Secret Service report indicated that analysts identified more than 35 rallies being planned online around Washington.
One event dubbed the Million Militia March encouraged attendees to bring weapons. “The group claims they will not attack, but will defend,” the Secret Service report noted.
As part of its protective mission, the Secret Service routinely reviews so-called “open source intelligence” to review planned rallies and protests staged near official events. The Secret Service report obtained by CNN indicated that recent efforts by social media companies to suspend users engaged in election-related disinformation has, in effect, hindered the ability of analysts to identify some details of planned inauguration protests.
Not all of the planned demonstrations listed in the Secret Service report were pro-Trump.
According to analysts, one group is planning a rally called “Smoking to Trump’s Sorrow,” in which attendees will join to together to smoke marijuana and celebrate the end of Trump’s presidency.
Another planned DC event, dubbed the “Lesbian U-Haul Trump Out Parade” is being organized to help move Trump out of the White House, although the Secret Service did not indicate what logistics the group planned to employ to accomplish its stated goal.
“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” Twitter said.
“In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter Rules would potentially result in this very course of action.”
Twitter’s decision followed two tweets by Trump Friday afternoon that would end up being his last. The tweets violated the company’s policy against glorification of violence, Twitter said, and “these two Tweets must be read in the context of broader events in the country and the ways in which the President’s statements can be mobilized by different audiences, including to incite violence, as well as in the context of the pattern of behavior from this account in recent weeks.”
The first tweet was about Trump’s supporters.
“The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”
The second indicated Trump did not plan to attend Joe Biden’s inauguration.
“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”
Twitter said the tweet concerning inauguration could be viewed as a further statement that the election was not legitimate. It also said that the tweet could be interpreted as Trump saying that the inauguration would be a “safe” target for violence because he would not be attending.
Trump’s other statement about American patriots suggested that “he plans to continue to support, empower, and shield those who believe he won the election,” Twitter said.
Twitter’s ban specifically addresses “the @realDonaldTrump account,” not Trump personally.
Twitter will enforce its policy against ban evasions to ensure that Trump does not circumvent his personal account’s suspension, the company told CNN.
“If it is clear that another account is being used for the purposes of evading a ban, it is also subject to suspension,” Twitter said in a statement. “For government accounts, such as @POTUS and @WhiteHouse, we will not suspend those accounts but will take action to limit their use. However, these accounts will be transitioned over to the new administration in due course and will not be suspended by Twitter unless absolutely necessary to alleviate real-world harm.”
Twitter’s policy would also prohibit Trump from directing a third party to operate a Twitter account on his behalf.
Trump sought to test Twitter’s ban evasion policy at roughly 8:30 pm ET Friday evening, when he or someone acting on his behalf published four tweets from the @POTUS account.
“As I have been saying for a long time, Twitter has gone further and further in banning free speech, and tonight, Twitter employees have coordinated with the Democrats and the Radical Left in removing my account from their platform, to silence me,” Trump tweeted.
The tweets disappeared almost instantly.
Twitter told CNN that the Trump campaign’s account has also been permanently banned. Before @TeamTrump was suspended, it had been seen sharing the same four-tweet thread that Trump had attempted to post from the @POTUS account.
After Twitter permanently banned the Trump campaign’s account, Mike Hahn, the campaign’s social media director, objected.
“We copied and pasted a White House pool report,” Hahn tweeted.
Earlier in the evening, a White House pool report was distributed that contained the exact language that Trump had attempted to share from the @POTUS Twitter account.
A Twitter spokesperson confirmed to CNN that what prompted @TeamTrump’s ban was its attempt to share the same language Trump tried to tweet earlier.
Hahn argued it is nonsensical for journalists to be allowed to share Trump’s words but that the Trump campaign is not.
“A serious question that needs to be asked by journalists: If you post exactly what the president said will you be suspended as well? Because that is all we did,” Hahn said.
Asked whether it saw a difference between journalists reporting Trump’s words and the Trump campaign repeating Trump’s words, Twitter told CNN that there was a distinction.
“There’s a difference between someone reporting on the President, and someone attempting to allow their account to be used by the president to essentially get around the ban,” a Twitter spokesperson said.
Civil rights leaders who have long criticized tech platforms for spreading hate speech and division welcomed Twitter’s decision.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, called it an “excellent step.”
“A fitting end to a legacy of spewing hate and vitriol,” Greenblatt said. “President Trump incited the violent riots at the Capitol using social media & paid the price.”
Eric Naing, a spokesman for Muslim Advocates, said Twitter “is showing real leadership.”
“As Twitter notes, letting Trump continue to post tweets, Facebook posts and YouTube videos for his white nationalist supporters risks ‘further incitement of violence,'” Naing said. “Now it is up to Facebook and Google/YouTube to follow Twitter’s lead.”
Even before the latest outrage, this week already marked a watershed moment for Biden’s coming presidency, a ruptured Republican Party and the integrity of the US political system.
In fact, the President blasted the world-leading US death toll as “fake news” on Sunday, while disregarding growing evidence his White House has botched the rollout of crucial new vaccines just as it did earlier stages of the pandemic.
‘I just want to find … votes’
The release of the stunning telephone conversation between Trump and Georgia’s GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger escalated the constitutional crisis Trump started stoking even before his election loss.
“So look, all I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state,” Trump said in a comment that at best was an abuse of power and could raise legal questions. Throughout the hour-long call, the President repeatedly prods Raffensperger to agree to his false claims that thousands of votes were illegally cast, that some ballots were destroyed or came from dead people or out-of-state voters. The Georgia secretary of state tells the President that he has false information.
In the latest smoking gun call, Trump is heard trying to convince Raffensperger to announce that he had recalculated the vote totals and that the President won, and threatening criminal reprisals if his fellow Republican failed to act.
“At the very least it’s an abuse of presidential power, which in a normal time would be impeachable,” said CNN presidential historian Timothy Naftali.
John Dean, a former White House legal counsel in the Watergate scandal, told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield that Trump was at “the edges of extortion.”
Biden senior legal adviser Bob Bauer said in a statement that the tape offered “irrefutable proof of a president pressuring and threatening an official of his own party to get him to rescind a state’s lawful, certified vote count and fabricate another in its place.”
“It captures the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump’s assault on American democracy.”
Call heaps pressure on Trump’s GOP backers
Trump’s call with Raffensperger suddenly heaped new scrutiny on Republican members of the House and Senate who have pledged to challenge the normally pro forma certification of the election result in Congress.
As they criticize results already ratified by Republican-appointed judges and the conservative majority Supreme Court, as well as state officials, many of whom are Republicans, they must now decide whether they stand by Trump’s flagrant attempt to overturn the rule of law in Georgia.
“Do … Republicans want to be on the side of an abuse of power or a criminal conspiracy?” Naftali asked.
The shallowness of the Republican effort is revealed in lawmakers’ arguments that it is being pursued not on the basis of new evidence of fraud but on the grounds that millions of Trump voters believe the election was corrupt.
But Trump and his acolytes have spent months making false claims about election fraud, aided by conservative media organizations and White House officials who have blatantly lied about an election that Trump’s Justice Department and other appointees have said was free and fair.
A Republican breach
The challenge to the certification and demand for a commission on false claims of voter fraud is just the latest in a long list of efforts by Capitol Hill Republicans to appease an unchained and lawless President who threatens to back primary challenges against those who cross him.
But several GOP senators, including Utah’s Romney, Maine’s Susan Collins and Nebraska’s Ben Sasse have registered frustration with their colleagues.
“The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our democratic Republic,” Romney said in a statement Saturday. “I could never have imagined seeing these things in the greatest democracy in the world. Has ambition so eclipsed principle?”
His 2012 running mate, former House Speaker Paul Ryan, vocalized his concerns in a rare public statement Sunday, saying, “Efforts to reject the votes of the Electoral College and sow doubt about Joe Biden’s victory strike at the foundation of our republic.”
Republican leaders are angry that Hawley — a potential 2024 presidential candidate — has effectively forced his colleagues into a vote on the election that is doomed to fail but leaves them to chose between democracy and a GOP President who is popular with the base.
“I think that if you have a plan, it should be a plan that has some chance of working. And neither of the two proposals that have been advanced will produce a result,” said Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of GOP leadership.
While McCarthy is backing the challenge, the third-ranking Republican in the House, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, sent a memo to colleagues on Sunday warning that it set a “dangerous precedent” that threatened to snatch away the responsibility of states for running their own elections.
“This is directly at odds with the Constitution’s clear text and our core beliefs as Republicans,” she wrote.
Another group of seven House Republicans — including a couple in the conservative House Freedom Caucus — also spoke out Sunday, calling on their colleagues to “respect the states’ authority here” even “though doing so may frustrate our immediate political objectives.”
Trump heads to Georgia
Trump’s bombshell call could affect what are shaping up as two tight races in Georgia, where GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are facing voters. Republicans need just one of them to prevail to retain their Senate majority. If Democrats welcome both Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock as new senators, they will split the chamber 50-50, allowing Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to cast deciding votes on tied legislation.
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who earned credit for helping engineer Biden’s victory in the state, said on “State of the Union” that it could take several days for the results to become clear.
But she said she believed that strong turnout among Democrats casting mail-in votes had put the party in a strong position.
“This is going to be a very tough battle, but it is absolutely within the realm of possibility, in fact, the realm of likelihood, that Democrats can win,” Abrams told Tapper.
Republicans need a strong Election Day turnout to compete. But there are fears among local activists that Trump’s relentless assault on the probity of the presidential election in Georgia will convince his supporters that their votes will not count in the senatorial runoff races.
The President will seek to rally his base when he travels to Georgia for an election eve rally on Monday. Based on the contents of his call with Raffensperger, though, it is not clear whether his intervention will help.
CNN’s Ryan Nobles and Arlette Saenz contributed to this report.