(AP) — With mounting desperation, Donald Trump declared Monday night he would “fight like hell” to hold on to the presidency and appealed to Republican lawmakers to reverse his election loss to Joe Biden when they convene this week to confirm the Electoral College vote.
Electoral votes won by President-elect Biden are “not gonna take this White House!” he shouted as supporters cheered at an outdoor rally in Georgia. Trump’s announced purpose for the trip was to boost Republican Senate candidates in Tuesday’s runoff election, but he spent much of his speech complaining bitterly about his election loss — which he insists he won “by a lot.”
Earlier, in Washington, he pressed Republican lawmakers to formally object Wednesday at a joint session of Congress that is to confirm Biden’s victory in the Electoral College, itself a confirmation of Biden’s nationwide victory November 3.
Though he got nothing but cheers Monday night, Trump’s attempt to overturn the presidential election is splitting the Republican Party. Some GOP lawmakers backing him are rushing ahead, despite an outpouring of condemnation from current and former party officials warning the effort is undermining Americans’ faith in democracy.
All 10 living former defense secretaries wrote in an op-ed that “the time for questioning the results has passed.”
It’s unclear the extent to which GOP leaders in Congress will be able to control Wednesday’s joint session, which could drag into the night, though the challenges to the election are all but certain to fail. Trump himself is whipping up crowds for a Wednesday rally near the White House.
Vice President Mike Pence, who is under pressure to tip the results for Trump, will be closely watched as he presides in a ceremonial role over Wednesday’s joint session.
“I promise you this: On Wednesday, we’ll have our day in Congress,” Pence said while himself campaigning in Georgia ahead of Tuesday’s runoff elections that will determine control of the Senate.
Trump said in Georgia: “I hope that our great vice president comes through for us. He’s a great guy. Of course, if he doesn’t come through, I won’t like him quite as much.” He added, “No, Mike is a great guy.”
One of the Georgia Republicans in Tuesday’s runoff — Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who faces Democrat Raphael Warnock — told the crowd she will join senators formally objecting to Biden’s win. The other Republican seeking reelection, David Perdue, who is running against Democrat Jon Ossoff, will not be eligible to vote.
Trump repeated numerous times his claims of election fraud, which have been rejected by election officials — Republican as well as Democratic in state after state — and courts up to the US Supreme Court. His former attorney general, William Barr, also has said there is no evidence of fraud that could change the election outcome.
The congressional effort to keep Trump in office is being led by Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas, along with rank-and-file House members, some on the party’s fringe.