Political

Trump-Biden transition live updates: Mitt Romney objects to ‘ploy’ by Cruz, Hawley to overturn results

Bill Chizek/iStockBy LIBBY CATHEY, TIA HUMPHRIES, CATHERINE THORBECKE and KATE PASTOR, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump is slated to hand over control of the White House to President-elect Joe Biden in 18 days.

Here is how the transition is unfolding. All times Eastern:

Jan 02, 11:16 pm

Pence says he welcomes those raising objections to certification

Echoing his boss, Vice President Mike Pence is apparently supportive of the GOP senators and representatives planning to object to the Electoral College’s certification of results on Wednesday.

“Vice President Pence shares the concerns of millions of Americans about voter fraud and irregularities in the last election,” Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, said in a statement Saturday night. “The Vice President welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections and bring forward evidence before the Congress and the American people on January 6th.”

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said earlier this week he would support objecting to a state’s voting results, likely one of several battlegrounds, thereby giving the necessary senator and representative to force a vote over the legitimacy of that state’s results. Several GOP representatives had previously said they supported the challenge, but Hawley was the first senator. Seven others, including Ted Cruz, said Saturday they also supported it.

But challenging the electors in any state is extremely unlikely to prevent Joe Biden’s confirmation as the next president. For a new slate of electors to be admitted, the Senate and House have to vote in favor. With the House controlled by Democrats, that will not happen and the original electors will be used.

A spokesperson for Biden called the move a “stunt” on Saturday. Several Republicans, including Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski and Pat Toomey, have come out against the move by fellow senators.

Pence will preside over the session on Wednesday to certify the vote.

ABC News’ Elizabeth Thomas contributed to this report.

Jan 02, 9:54 pm

Biden campaign calls move by GOP senators a ‘stunt’

President-elect Joe Biden and his team are not showing any concern about the breakaway group of GOP senators planning to object to the results of the Electoral College on Jan. 6.

“This stunt won’t change the fact that President-elect Biden will be sworn in on January 20th, and these baseless claims have already been examined and dismissed by Trump’s own Attorney General, dozens of courts, and election officials from both parties,” Biden spokesperson Mike Gwin said in a statement.

The group of senators — close allies of President Donald Trump such as Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, James Lankford, Martha Blackburn and others — said they will object to the slate of electors in “disputed states” unless a 10-day audit is conducted of those states’ results. Yet, dozens of lawsuits about the election results have already been rejected by both conservative and liberal judges.

“Once completed, individual states would evaluate the Commission’s findings and could convene a special legislative session to certify a change in their vote, if needed,” Cruz and 10 other senators and senators-elect wrote in a statement Saturday. Hawley made his intentions clear earlier this week.

That audit appears unlikely and a rejection of the slate of electors would require a majority vote in both the Senate and House. The House lies solidly in Democratic control.

ABC News’ Molly Nagle contributed to this report.

Jan 02, 9:10 pm

Romney blasts fellow Republicans pushing to challenge Electoral College results

Former presidential candidate Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, is calling out fellow GOP senators, like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, who he says are undertaking an “egregious ploy” to overturn the results of the Electoral College.

Romney, himself familiar with conceding an election, joins Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who also came out against the effort Saturday.

President Donald Trump’s allies, such as Hawley and Cruz, have said they plan to object to a certification of the results in a session on Jan. 6. The certification is usually a formality, but 11 senators and senators-elect plan to object this year. The move would be done in order to choose a different set of electors — Republican electors — even if Trump lost the vote to President-elect Joe Biden.

“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 night. “The congressional power to reject electors is reserved for the most extreme and unusual circumstances. These are far from it. More Americans participated in this election than ever before, and they made their choice.”

The alternate slate of electors can only be approved by a majority vote in both the Senate and House of Representatives. With the House controlled by Democrats, the move by Republicans in the Senate would largely be symbolic. Several GOP members of the House will also likely object.

Trump has made baseless claims of conspiracy and fraud daily in the two months since the election. Hawley and Cruz have made similar claims in their statements about supporting the call for different electors — a point assailed by Romney.

“President Trump’s lawyers made their case before scores of courts; in every instance, they failed,” he said in the statement. “The Justice Department found no evidence of irregularity sufficient to overturn the election. The Presidential Voter Fraud Commission disbanded without finding such evidence.”

Protesters, including far-right groups like the Proud Boys, are also expected to show up in Washington on Wednesday to protest the certification of results.

“Adding to this ill-conceived endeavor by some in Congress is the President’s call for his supporters to come to the Capitol on the day when this matter is to be debated and decided,” Romney said. “This has the predictable potential to lead to disruption, and worse.”

“I could never have imagined seeing these things in the greatest democracy in the world,” he continued. “Has ambition so eclipsed principle?”

-ABC News’ Trish Turner

Jan 02, 6:06 pm
Toomey accuses GOP objectors of trying to undermine democracy

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., has released a stinging statement defending his state’s vote for Biden — and essentially accusing GOP objectors of trying to undermine democracy and “disenfranchise millions.”

“Allegations of fraud by a losing campaign cannot justify overturning an election. They fail to acknowledge that these allegations have been adjudicated in courtrooms across America and were found to be unsupported by evidence,” the statement reads.

“A fundamental, defining feature of a democratic republic is the right of the people to elect their own leaders. The effort by Senators Hawley, Cruz, and others to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in swing states like Pennsylvania directly undermines this right,” the statement continues.

It is rare for Republicans to feud publicly, but that is what’s happening in light of Trump’s insistence that the 2020 election be overturned. Toomey’s statement, which comes on the heels of another from Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, supporting the certification of a Biden victory, follows a statement earlier in the day by 11 senators and senators-elect saying they would join Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., in objecting to the certification of election results.

“I voted for President Trump and endorsed him for re-election,” Toomey concludes. “But, on Wednesday, I intend to vigorously defend our form of government by opposing this effort to disenfranchise millions of voters in my state and others.”

-ABC News’ Trish Turner

Jan 02, 5:39 pm
Murkowski says she’ll vote to affirm 2020 election

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, put out a statement saying she will uphold the Electoral College vote on Wednesday when a joint session of Congress meets, imploring other members to join her.

“I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and that is what I will do January 6—just as I strive to do every day as I serve the people of Alaska,” the statement reads. “I will vote to affirm the 2020 presidential election. The courts and state legislatures have all honored their duty to hear legal allegations and have found nothing to warrant overturning the results. I urge my colleagues from both parties to recognize this and to join me in maintaining confidence in the Electoral College and our elections so that we ensure we have the continued trust of the American people.”

Her statement came on the heels of a statement from 11 senators and senators-elect saying they would join Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., in objecting.

Federal law requires the states to deliver certified Electoral College results to the vice president, serving as president of the Senate, and other parties by Dec. 23. Then, on Jan. 6, a joint meeting of Congress is held to certify the electoral votes and officially declare the winner of the presidential election.

In the 2020 presidential election, Biden received 306 votes and Trump received 232 votes from the Electoral College, with 270 votes needed to declare a winner.

-ABC News’ Trish Turner

Jan 02, 1:17 pm
GOP Senators put out statement vowing to object during joint session of Congress on Wednesday

A group of GOP senators has come out with an extraordinary claim about “allegations of voter fraud” and “irregularities” that they say hasn’t been seen “in our lifetimes” — claiming they will object on Wednesday during a joint session of Congress to count electoral votes to the certification of electors in some states where votes were disputed. No list of states was given.

Also, no widespread fraud has been found by any court to date and such claims have been refuted by secretaries of state.

The senators — Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Ron Johnson, R-Wis.; James Lankford,  R-Okla;, Steve Daines, R-Mont.; John Kennedy, R-La., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Mike Braun, R-Ind., as well as Senators-Elect Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.; Roger Marshall, R-Kan.; Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn.; and Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala. — say that although they expect their efforts to fail, they will object “unless and until” a 10-day audit of election returns in disputed states is completed.

“The election of 2020, like the election of 2016, was hard fought and, in many swing states, narrowly decided.  The 2020 election, however, featured unprecedented allegations of voter fraud, violations and lax enforcement of election law, and other voting irregularities,” the statement says, though none of these allegations has been supported by fact-finding efforts.

This is an extraordinary bucking of GOP leadership, which had hoped to avoid objections. However, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did, according to senators, tell them privately to vote their conscience.

-ABC News’ Trish Turner

Jan 02, 1:09 pm
More than 3 million have voted early in Georgia Senate runoff

More than 3 million Georgians have already voted in the Jan. 5 runoff election, a figure that both smashes the previous turnout record for a statewide runoff in the Peach State and exemplifies the urgency of the dual Senate runoffs that will determine which party controls Congress’s upper chamber.

According to Georgia Votes, which is analyzing data from the secretary of state’s office, 3,001,017 voters had cast ballots in the runoff election following the last day of the three-week advance in-person voting period. Of those votes, 928,069 are absentee by mail and 2,072,948 are from in-person early voting.

-ABC News’ Quinn Scanlan

Jan 01, 10:32 pm

Judge tosses suit against VP seeking reversal of election

A judge has tossed out Rep. Louie Gohmert’s effort to overturn the results of the presidential election by forcing Vice President Mike Pence to override the electors when votes are finalized by Congress on Jan 6.

“The problem for Plaintiffs here is that they lack standing,” Judge Jeremy Kernodle wrote in rejecting the case against Gohmert and several alternate Arizona electors Friday evening. “Plaintiff Louie Gohmert, the United States Representative for Texas’s First Congressional District, alleges at most an institutional injury to the House of Representatives. Under well settled Supreme Court authority, that is insufficient to support standing.” 

 He also said that the intervening electors “allege an injury that is not fairly traceable” to the vice president.

 Pence had argued that Gohmert should have sued the House and the Senate, not the vice president in his presiding role.

“The other Plaintiffs, the slate of Republican Presidential Electors for the State of Arizona (the “Nominee-Electors”), allege an injury that is not fairly traceable to the Defendant, the Vice President of the United States, and is unlikely to be redressed by the requested relief,” Kernodle wrote. 

Kernodle also wrote that Gohmert didn’t allege any harm done to himself as an individual. 

“He does not identify any injury to himself as an individual, but rather a ‘wholly abstract and widely dispersed’ institutional injury to the House of Representatives,” the judge wrote.

Following the ruling, Gohmert and the alternate Arizona electors filed a notice of appeal to the Fifth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

-ABC News’ Meg Cunningham

Jan 01, 3:52 pm

Gohmert says 140 House members will object to election

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) is continuing his push to reverse the results of the presidential election by trying to legally force Vice President Mike Pence to override the electors when votes are finalized by Congress on Jan 6.

In a legal brief filed this morning, attorneys for Gohmert responded to Pence’s argument that they should have sued the House and the Senate, not the vice president in his presiding role. 

Gohmert’s attorneys wrote that there are 140 House members who are expected to object to the congressional certification of the Electoral College vote on Wednesday.

“On January 6th, a joint session of Congress will convene to formally elect the President. The defendant, Vice-President Pence, will preside. Under the Constitution, he has the authority to conduct that proceeding as he sees fit,” they wrote.

“He may count elector votes certified by a state’s executive, or he can prefer a competing slate of duly qualified electors. He may ignore all electors from a certain state. That is the power bestowed upon him by the Constitution.” 

Gohmert’s attorneys say Gohmert and the “over 140” House members will object on Wednesday due to “mounting and convincing evidence of voter fraud.”

“For over a century, the counting of elector votes and proclaiming the winner was a formality to which the prying eye of the media and those outside the halls of the government paid no attention. But not this time,” they wrote.

“This country is deeply divided along political lines,” the filing adds. “This division is compounded by a broad and strongly held mistrust of the election processes employed and their putative result by a very large segment of the American population.” 

A small group of Michigan’s GOP would-be electors also intervened in the case, and a Biden elector from Colorado did the same in support of Pence.

-ABC News’ Meg Cunningham

Jan 01, 2:38 pm

Senate votes to override Trump veto on defense bill

The Senate voted on Friday to override President Donald Trump’s veto on the defense spending bill in a rare New Year’s Day session.

The stinging rebuke by members of Trump’s own party represents the first time in his term that a veto has been overturned.

The vote was 81-13. A supermajority is needed to override a presidential veto.

Jan 01, 2:33 pm

‘Referendum on our democracy’

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, confirmed today that Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, called the upcoming joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, which will affirm the results of the presidential election, “the most consequential vote” of his lengthy tenure.

“I see that as a statement that he believes it’s a — it’s a referendum on our democracy,” Romney told reporters.

Sources said that McConnell asked Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., on a New Year’s Eve call with Republicans to explain to his colleagues why he is planning to object to the certification of Biden’s electoral win during the joint session. McConnell had privately warned his colleagues weeks ago against doing this as it would put his conference in the position of having to oppose Trump (and thereby his base) publicly.

Hawley, in joining the last-ditch bid by Trump’s House allies to overturn the election results, said he objected to states not following their election laws. 

“At the very least, Congress should investigate allegations of voter fraud and adopt measures to secure the integrity of our elections,” Hawley said in a statement. There has been no evidence of widespread election fraud.

-ABC News’ Trish Turner

Jan 01, 1:32 pm

Senate Republicans block two more attempts to vote on $2,000 stimulus checks

In a very rare New Year’s Day session, Senate GOP leadership rejected two attempts to debate and vote on the House-passed CASH Act, which would give most Americans $2,000 in direct COVID relief payments. It was an effort by both Sens. Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders.


Jan 01, 1:19 pm
Senate Republicans block two more attempts to vote on $2,000 stimulus checks

In a very rare New Year’s Day session, Senate GOP leadership rejected two attempts to debate and vote on the House-passed CASH Act, which would give most Americans $2,000 in direct COVID relief payments. It was an effort by both Sens. Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders.
 
Republicans are continuing to argue that the House bill — which would allow those making up to $350,000 to receive some cash under the act, albeit a smaller amount than those making less — amounts to “socialism for the rich.”
 
The chamber’s socialist, Sen. Sanders — continued to argue that Republicans were “hypocrites” — blocking this effort but approving big tax breaks for the rich.
 
He was joined by conservative Sen. Josh Hawley, who slammed the fight by his own leadership.
 
“With all due respect, this doesn’t seem to be Republicans against Democrats. This seems to be the Senate against United States of America,” said Hawley.

Jan 01, 10:35 am
Senate prepares to cast preliminary vote to override Trump defense bill veto

The Senate is set to cast a preliminary vote this afternoon on overriding President Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act — which would be the first of his term.

The House voted overwhelmingly earlier this week to override Trump’s veto of the $740 billion legislation, which funds the military and that members from both parties have said is vital to both the troops, who get a raise under the measure, and national security.

Trump has called the bill a “gift” to China and Russia.

In vetoing the measure (which has passed every year for 59 years), Trump demanded that Congress include a repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives broad legal immunity to tech companies over contents posted by users. He also wanted lawmakers to nix a provision authored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren that requires DOD to rename military bases and installations that honor Confederate generals.

Congress originally passed the measure with veto-proof majorities, and the House recently voted to override the veto. If the Senate votes to override — as it is expected to — the bill would become law.

Today’s test vote (which should be similar — if not identical — to the final vote) is expected to show more than the two-thirds majority required to override Trump’s veto.

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