Republicans face growing split over attempt to block US Election results

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Nick Allen
·3 min read
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Trump - Reuters
Trump - Reuters

Republicans faced a deepening split last night over whether to back Donald Trump's last ditch attempt to overturn the US presidential election result.

It emerged over 140 Republicans in the House of Representatives may be ready to back a move not to certify the outcome at a joint session of Congress on Jan 6.

Senior Republicans tried to rein in colleagues arguing that their bid to publicly show loyalty to Mr Trump was "playing with fire" and would only further undermine public faith in the electoral system.

The president cut short a trip to Florida and headed back to Washington on New Year's Eve.

But even with that level of support the attempt to block the result still had no chance of success in Congress.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, privately urged colleagues to accept it.

Mr McConnell called his own vote on Jan 6 the "most consequential I have ever cast" - more important than on war or impeachment.

McConnell - Reuters
McConnell - Reuters

Meanwhile, it emerged that staffing changes were to be made to the Secret Service's presidential detail when Joe Biden takes office on Jan 20.

Mr Biden's camp was said to have expressed concerns that current agents might be politically supportive of Mr Trump. 

Instead, senior agents who guarded Mr Biden when he was vice president will be brought back.

Amid the row a spokeswoman for the Secret Service said the agency was "wholly apolitical".

The move to oppose the election results was ignited by Josh Hawley, a Republican senator from Missouri.

He will object, forcing a two-hour debate, followed by a vote in the Senate, and in the House of Representatives.

In an open letter Ben Sasse, the Republican senator from Nebraska, called it a "dangerous ploy”.

He said: "The president and his allies are playing with fire. Let’s be clear what is happening here. We have a bunch of ambitious politicians who think there’s a quick way to tap into the president’s populist base without doing any real, long-term damage.

"But they’re wrong, and this issue is bigger than anyone’s personal ambitions. Adults don’t point a loaded gun at the heart of legitimate self-government."

In a conference call with Republican senators Mr McConnell  said it was a conscience vote.

He asked Mr Hawley to explain himself, but it then emerged Mr Hawley was not even on the call.

Mr Hawley later said Republican voters were frustrated with Congress for taking no action.

He said: "If you've been speaking to folks at home, I'm sure you know how deeply angry and disillusioned many, many people are."

But Adam Kinziger, a Republican congressman from Illinois who has been critical of Mr Trump, said: "I’m just over the undermining of democracy and the frankly massive damage that’s being done with this."

One group of Republican politicians has sued Mike Pence, the vice president, asking a court to give him the power not to accept the election results.

Mr Pence has a ceremonial role in the joint session on Jan 6.

However, the US justice department said the case should be thrown out.

The session in Congress takes place a day after two run-off races in Georgia which will determine whether Republicans or Democrats control the Senate.

David Perdue, one of two Republican candidates, announced he would spend the final days of the campaign in quarantine after possible exposure to the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump issued a New Year video message hailing "historic victories" on the economy and fighting the pandemic. He said: "We have to be remembered for what's been done."

In the final weeks of his term the president was also facing ongoing battles with Congress after he vetoed the annual defence bill and called for stimulus cheques to Americans to be increased. He also faced growing friction with Iran.