WASHINGTON (AP) — Some Republicans are breaking with President Donald Trump’s attempts to falsely declare victory in the election and halt vote counting in Pennsylvania and other states, leaving him without key voices of support as he continues to trail Democrat Joe Biden in his bid for reelection.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Trump ally who won reelection Tuesday in Kentucky, told reporters that “claiming you’ve won the election is different from finishing the counting.” Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who spoke at a recent Trump campaign rally, said in a tweet that “taking days to count legally cast votes is NOT fraud.” And Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, urged “everyone to be patient” as results come in. “It is critical that we give election officials time to complete their jobs, and that we ensure all lawfully cast ballots are allowed and counted,” she said in a statement.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., addressed Trump directly on Twitter: “Stop. Full stop,” he wrote Wednesday in response to Trump’s claim that Democrats were trying to “steal” the election.
“The votes will be counted and you will either win or lose,” Kinzinger told Trump. “And America will accept that. Patience is a virtue.”
The comments by the Republican lawmakers and other GOP leaders were rare, public rebukes of Trump, who has demanded — and generally received — loyalty from fellow Republicans throughout his four-year term. Most in the GOP take pains to avoid directly criticizing Trump, even when they find his conduct unhelpful or offensive to their values and goals.
Trump’s tweets declaring victory and calling for officials to “STOP THE COUNT” were an early test of how strongly he can keep Republicans in line as he tries to challenge the voting process in court.
While Biden was close Thursday to the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House, it was unclear when a national winner would be determined after a long, bitter campaign dominated by the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on Americans and the national economy.
In remarks Wednesday at the White House, Trump baselessly claimed victory and alleged “major fraud on our nation” as state election officials continued counting ballots amid a huge increase in voter turnout.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Trump ally who is an analyst for ABC News, said there was no basis for Trump’s argument. “All these votes have to be counted that are in now,” he said.
Christie called Trump’s attack on the integrity of the election “a bad strategic decision” and “a bad political decision, and it’s not the kind of decision you would expect someone to make … who holds the position he holds.”
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, said Wednesday on Fox News that while he supports Trump, “if it ends up being Biden, all of us will accept that.”
As elected officials, Republicans and Democrats “believe in the rule of law,” DeWine said. “Every vote has to be counted. We as a country accept election results.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a moderate who briefly considered challenging Trump for the Republican nomination, called Trump’s comments “outrageous and uncalled for and a terrible mistake.”
“Regardless of where you stand on this race and what party you are and who you voted for, most Americans really want a free and fair election process, and they want us to count the votes,” Hogan said at a Washington Post event.
Trump’s family, never shy about expressing their support, took to Twitter to question why GOP lawmakers were not rushing to the president’s defense. “Where are Republicans! Have some backbone. Fight against this fraud. Our voters will never forget you if your sheep!” Trump’s son Eric tweeted.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said states administer U.S. elections, not the federal government. “We should respect that process and ensure that all ballots cast in accordance with state laws are counted. It’s that simple,” Portman said in a statement.
“It’s best for everyone to step back from the spin and allow the vote counters to do their job,” added Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.
John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser who has become a Trump critic since leaving the White House, called Trump’s false claim that he had won reelection a “disgrace.”
In an interview with the British network Sky News, Bolton said Trump’s claims were “some of the most irresponsible comments that a president of the United States has ever made.”
Even as Trump pushed to stop vote counting in Pennsylvania and other states where results were trending against him, he and some Republicans pushed to finish counting ballots in Arizona and Nevada, where Trump narrowly trailed Biden but hoped to catch up to the former vice president.
“Let’s count the votes — all the votes — before making declarations,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, tweeted. “Arizonans turned out in historic numbers for this election, and we owe it to them to count their vote.”
On that point, at least, both parties could agree.
Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.