WASHINGTON (AP) — Key Republican lawmakers, including 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, on Friday slammed President Donald Trump’s claim that Democrats are trying to “steal” the election. But some GOP leaders struck a more neutral tone — and others urged the White House to fight.
Clinton County’s congressman, U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R- 15th District, Ohio), released a statement shortly after 8 a.m. Friday.
“We must count every vote that was legally cast. And we must accept the results,” Stivers stated. “If there is proof of fraud or illegal activity in this election, it should be taken to the prosecutors, the courts, and the public immediately.
“However, baseless allegations undermine the public’s confidence in our electoral system, which is the foundation of our Republic,” added Stivers in his public statement.
Romney meanwhile, now a senator from Utah, said Trump was within his rights to request recounts and call for investigations where evidence of irregularities exists.
But Trump “is wrong to say the election was rigged, corrupt and stolen,″ Romney said on Twitter. Trump’s claim “damages the cause of freedom here and around the world … and recklessly inflames destructive and dangerous passions,″ he said.
Romney is Trump’s most vocal critic within the Republican Party and voted to convict Trump in the president’s impeachment trial earlier this year.
His comments came as GOP Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania — whose state is a key battleground in the presidential election, where votes were still being tallied Friday afternoon — called Trump’s claim of fraud “very disturbing.”
“There’s simply no evidence anyone has shown me of any widespread corruption or fraud,” Toomey told “CBS This Morning.”
“The president’s speech last night was very disturbing to me because he made very, very serious allegations without any evidence to support it,” said Toomey.
While he voted for Trump, “I want the next president to be the person who legitimately wins the Electoral College and I will accept whoever that is,” Toomey said.
Trump, who has complained for weeks about mail-in ballots, escalated his allegations late Thursday, saying at the White House that the ballot-counting process is unfair and corrupt. Trump did not support his claims with any details or evidence, and state and federal officials have not reported any instances of widespread voter fraud.
Yet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell struck a more neutral tone, and other top Republicans more defiantly urged Trump to fight to defeat Democrat Joe Biden.
“Every legal vote should be counted,” McConnell tweeted early Friday. “All sides must get to observe the process.”
McConnell grew testy during a press conference later in Kentucky when he was repeatedly asked to say more. “Beyond that, I don’t have anything to say,” McConnell said. “It won’t make any difference how many times you ask, I’ve already given my answer.”
Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of the GOP leadership, said Friday that Trump “should turn this discussion over to his lawyers,” adding that the Trump campaign was making inconsistent arguments.
“You can’t stop the count in one state and decide you want the count to continue in another state. That might be how you’d like to see the system work but that’s not how the system works,” Blunt said at the Capitol.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy took a more confrontational tone, insisting that Trump “won” the election — even though officials in several states were still counting Americans’ ballots.
“So everyone who’s listening, do not be quiet, do not be silent about this. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes,” McCarthy, R-California, said Thursday on Fox News. “Join together and let’s stop this.”
Other GOP senators, governors and other elected officials pushed back against Trump.
Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan, a potential 2024 presidential hopeful who has often criticized the president, said: “There is no defense for the president’s comments tonight undermining our democratic process. America is counting the votes, and we must respect the results as we always have before.”