Defiant Trump cheers as allies in Congress plan challenge to his election

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A band of President Donald Trump’s Republican allies planned a last-ditch effort in Congress on Wednesday to undo his election defeat – a bid almost certain to fail – even as he put fresh pressure on Vice President Mike Pence to try to reverse Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather outside the U.S. Capitol where Congress will meet to certify the electoral college vote for President-elect Joe Biden, in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

On the same day Trump’s fellow Republicans were poised to lose their majority in the Senate, both chambers of Congress were due to formally certify Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3 election in proceedings that could stretch past midnight. In a joint session of the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, Trump’s allies plan to challenge the results from a handful of states won by Biden.

“We will never give up,” Trump told thousands of cheering supporters on a grassy expanse near the White House called the Ellipse. “We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.”

Biden won the election by 306-232 in the state-by-state Electoral College and by more than 7 million ballots in the national popular vote, but Trump continues to falsely claim there was widespread fraud and that he was the victor.

State and federal reviews have debunked Trump’s claims of widespread election fraud even as increasingly desperate legal efforts by his campaign and allies on the right to overturn the election have failed in numerous courts all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Biden is due to take office on Jan. 20.

During his speech, Trump praised the Republican lawmakers seeking to challenge the election as “brave” and called members of his party who oppose the effort “weak” and pathetic.”

Pence is set to preside over the proceedings in the Capitol. Despite pressure from Trump to help overturn his election loss, Pence will stick to his ceremonial duties and not block the congressional certification of Biden’s victory, advisers said. Pence, a loyal lieutenant during the four years of Trump’s tumultuous presidency, has no plans to intervene and has told Trump he lacks the power to do so, they said.

“All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertifiy and we become president,” Trump told his supporters. “Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us. And if he doesn’t, it’ll be sad day for our country,” he added.

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The U.S. Constitution does not give Pence the power to unilaterally overturn the results of the election but he is under pressure to do so from Trump.

Senator Ted Cruz, seen as a potential 2024 presidential candidate, is expected on Wednesday afternoon to lead at least 11 other Republican senators, alongside a majority of the 211 Republicans in the House, in objecting to Electoral College results being formally approved by Congress.


The proceedings scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. EST (1800 GMT) for Congress to formally certify the presidential election results, the final step in a monthslong process, normally would be ceremonial and perfunctory.

This year, the proceedings could drag past midnight and into early Thursday morning.

Critics of Trump and his allies have painted the efforts to try to reverse the election in Congress as an attack on democracy and the rule of law and an attempted legislative coup.

Democrats won one U.S. Senate race in Georgia and led in another on Wednesday after a pair of runoff elections on Tuesday. Winning both races would give Democrats control of both chambers of Congress and the power to advance Biden’s legislative agenda.

Cruz is bucking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has recognized Biden’s victory and urged his fellow Republicans not to pursue the challenges, which appear to lack the political support they would need to succeed. The Republican maneuvering has created fissures within Trump’s party and among outside groups normally supportive of it.

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Republican senators, including Josh Hawley and James Lankford, have joined forces with Cruz, while other prominent members of the party, including Senator Mitt Romney and Representative Liz Cheney, oppose it.

Thousands of Trump supporters, including some members of violent far-right groups, staged demonstrations as they took up the president’s unfounded claim that the election was stolen from him in an elaborate conspiracy. Many donned Trump’s trademark red “Make America Great Again” hats and flags bearing his name, and a few carried a large Christian cross.

One of the president’s sons, Donald Trump Jr., and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, also addressed the rally.

Some protesters clashed with police overnight. Police this week arrested the leader of the Proud Boys, a group that has supported Trump, on charges of destruction of property related to an earlier protest and possession of a firearms magazine.

Many Republican senators who have refused to challenge the election results have received death threats on their office voice mail, a senior Senate Republican aide said.


The Electoral College results will be presented alphabetically, starting with Alabama. Republicans are expected to challenge results in Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Nevada.

If the challenges are ultimately defeated as anticipated, Pence, acting in his role as president of the Senate, is expected to proclaim Biden the next president and Senator Kamala Harris as the next vice president.

If at least one House member and one Senate member object to a state result, each chamber would hold separate debates for each of those states lasting up to two hours. Each chamber would then vote to accept or reject the challenge and then report the result to the joint session of Congress, before moving onto the next challenge.

In registering his objection, Cruz is expected to call for the creation of an emergency election commission to look into voting irregularities claimed by Trump’s allies, a source familiar with the upcoming deliberations said.

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