In the US Congress, loyalists to President Trump are making one last attempt to turn his electoral defeat in November into a victory. The project has no chance of success, but that’s not the point.
Donald Trump’s last spark of hope for a subsequent election victory could be extinguished this Wednesday. The US President is clinging to the hope that a joint Senate / House meeting could undo his November defeat.
It is indeed his last chance: in court he has already failed with almost 60 lawsuits. Even with pressure on local politicians he got no further, as the call to the chief election officer of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, recently showed – he asked in vain to “find” more votes for him in order to secure the election victory in the state. And now Trump will probably fail again.
The act on Wednesday actually only serves to officially confirm the election winner in Congress. The election results and votes of the electorate are read out – which offers the opportunity to lodge an objection. That’s exactly what a group of Republicans want to do. You want to object to the results from Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Together, these states sent 79 voters – if they were all withdrawn from Biden, he would have only 227 instead of 306 votes and would be behind Trump, who received 232. At the same time, thousands of Trump supporters want to demonstrate in Washington against the alleged election fraud. The day seems to be a showdown, in a sense Trump’s last stand. That is how the President and his supporters see it. But that’s a big misunderstanding.
Because in order to actually make electoral votes invalid, both chambers of parliament would have to agree. In the House of Representatives, however, the Democrats have a clear majority and they will not cancel their own electoral victories. And in the Senate, too, the objections have little chance of success. For once in a while, the Republicans are not all on Trump’s line on this issue, but are divided. Top Senators such as Group Chairman Mitch McConnell and John Thune have spoken out against the protest show. Even Trump’s ally Senator Lindsey Graham said the plan had no chance of becoming a reality.
What is it really about
Then why are they doing it? Probably out of self-interest. The conservative “Wall Street Journal” accuses Senator Josh Hawley of only wanting to prepare his own 2024 presidential candidacy. He was the first senator to officially support the protest movements. He himself refuses to apply for a candidacy. In front of his own voters in Missouri – deepest Trump country – he now stands as a tough, Trump-loyal guy. And that will help in future elections. Similar considerations are likely to drive the eleven other senators who have now joined Hawley.
If you take a closer look, Hawley is officially not aware of Trump’s fraud allegations. In a communication he only spoke of “concerns about the integrity of the elections” which should be checked. The Democrats did the same after 2004 and 2016, he writes. He also accuses “mega-corporations” like Facebook and Twitter of interfering in the election in favor of Biden. The social networks had warned Trump’s false claims. Hawley calls for an investigation by Congress.
So he tries to give the action a respectable appearance. The “integrity of the elections” is beyond doubt after a number of lawsuits up to and including the Supreme Court. Republican governors, senators, and electoral officials have also recognized Biden’s election victory. Even the attorney general, William Barr, who had been loyal to Trump until then, saw no signs of decisive election fraud. In this respect, it is not to be expected that an investigation by the Congress would produce any new results. The comparison with the Democrats is also weak. They did not accuse nationwide election fraud when they objected in 2005. The defeated candidate John Kerry had long since admitted defeat. In 2017, there was not even a vote at the joint meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives because no senator had joined the cause.
Pence could fall out of favor
Above all, the impression will remain: Hawley and the other senators are at Trump’s side. Its benevolence is now certain, but it is criticizing it from within its own party Republican John Danforth. Former House Republican Chairman Paul Ryan wrote: “Efforts to reject the electoral body and cast doubts on Joe Biden’s victory go to the foundations of our republic.”
Senator Ben Sasse from Nebraska provided a real settlement with Hawley. In a long Facebook post, the Republican tore up the fraud allegations for every controversial state. “Yes, we should investigate all of the specific allegations, but we shouldn’t burn the whole process down along the way,” he wrote. There was simply no solid evidence of decisive fraud. Therefore no further investigation is necessary. Even if the November election was not flawless, there is good “reason to believe that it was fair, safe and lawful”.
Vice President Mike Pence, who chaired the meeting, is under particular pressure. “I hope he will join us,” said Trump during his campaign speech in Georgia. “If he doesn’t, I won’t like him that much anymore.” Pence has always been loyal to Trump so far. On the other hand, he avoids putting his absurd accusations into his own mouth. It can be assumed that in the end he will confirm Biden’s election victory. Because his role is less that of an “arbiter”, as Trump believes, it is said in the “New York Times”, but rather that of the people who open the envelope at the Oscars and announce the winner.
Trump is likely to stick to his allegations and continue to talk about election fraud. And pence could fall out of favor. Just like the senators who vote against the objections. What would be left is a divided party – but Trump would have had his final battle. And lost again.