The GOP’s Shameful Embrace of Trump’s Fake Election Fraud


President Trump is aware there is no evidence of massive voter fraud resulting from an international conspiracy — hatched not only by Democrats in every swing state but also Republican state officials and Republican judges and the FBI and the DOJ — to steal the November election from him. Republicans in Congress know this too. They know there was no global plot, no widespread fraud, no evidence presented in court and no way Trump “won by a lot.” Attorney General Bill Barr said this gently on Tuesday, but GOP leaders refuse to do the same — they’re down for the con.

Brad Raffensperger, a partisan Republican Trump donor and voter who happens to be the secretary of state in Georgia, has now been dubbed “the enemy of the people” by the president of the United States for following the law and not cheating on Trump’s behalf. His family faces death threats, as do many election officials across the country who are protecting the integrity of their state results in places where Trump is disappointed with the outcome. Raffensperger is asking his fellow Republicans to please have his back and to “get a grip on reality.” He said he has been asked to break the law, to “get to 270,” and to help throw the election to Congress. “If Republicans don’t start condemning this stuff, then I think they’re really complicit in it,” Raffensperger said. “It’s time to stand up and be counted. Are you going to stand for righteousness? Are you going to stand for integrity? Or are you going to stand for the wild mob?”

One of Raffensperger’s deputies, Gabriel Sterling, pleaded with the president and with senators of his party late Tuesday to condemn the threats of violence Trump’s false fraud story has inspired. Noting the lawmakers’ silence, he said: “This is elections. This is the backbone of democracy, and all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this.” 

For now the wild mob is no problem for GOP leadership focused solely on not ticking off Trump until they can win two Senate runoffs in the Peach State on Jan. 5, thus keeping a majority in the upper chamber. Listen to the vice president, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, the Senate majority leader and the House minority leader — nothing. Pressed on Tuesday, Mitch McConnell said only that “the future will take care of itself.” Polls continue to show large percentages of the 74 million Americans who voted for Trump last month believe he won but that the election was rigged. With the exceptions of Sen. Mitt Romney and Reps. Denver Riggleman, Adam Kinzinger and Paul Mitchell, congressional Republicans are silent not only on Trump’s scam but — more importantly — his false claims designed to destroy the credibility of the election. They mutter things about the president’s right to pursue legal remedies but never speak of the appalling effect his attacks and lies will have on our system. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul have made statements stoking the ruse, as has Rep. Kevin McCarthy and some other GOP House members. Sen. Ron Johnson, miffed by Barr’s statement Tuesday that “we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” wants the AG to “show everybody” a lack of evidence of mass fraud, because “there’s enough suspicion” and “irregularities” — though Johnson offered no details of any. 

Meanwhile, Trump World has raised nearly $170 million from small donors at a record pace, with more than 500 alarming pitches for dollars despite losing 39 court cases — all in just four weeks. While some of the money is used for recounts and court fights, which is essentially a public relations campaign and not a viable legal one, much of it is headed to a new PAC that Trump started to fund his future political pursuits. For small donors who have not reached the maximum amount, 75% of their contribution goes to the PAC.

Trump and his allies promise voters mountains of evidence and then in court not only fail to present it, they don’t allege any fraud. Why? Because lying to a court will get these lawyers disbarred. So instead they lie to the voters and waste the court’s time. “Calling an election unfair does not make it so,” Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Trump appointee, wrote of the campaign’s suit filed in Pennsylvania last week. “Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.” Bibas also noted that the Trump campaign’s suit never alleged “any ballot was fraudulent or cast by an illegal voter.”

Trump isn’t hiding his attempt to literally steal a free and fair election. “It will take a brave judge or a brave legislature,” he said Sunday on Fox News Channel. “Brave” means corrupt, as he is asking officials sworn to uphold the Constitution to help him overturn legally cast votes without evidence of widespread fraud.

Complicating the scheme to overturn legitimate results is the assessment not only of Barr but of the Department of Homeland Security where the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency announced Nov. 12 that the 2020 election was “the most secure in American history.” Officials stated that across the country 95% of ballots cast had paper backup, and that “there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes or changed votes or was in any way compromised.”

As soon as Chris Krebs, the head of CISA, made this statement, Trump fired him by tweet, calling the assessment — which in a normal world would be welcome news and a huge accomplishment in the face of multiple and diverse threats to our elections — “highly inaccurate,” as Trump falsely alleged more “mass improprieties and fraud.”

Some Republicans complimented Krebs, including Sen. Ben Sasse, who said “he obviously should not have been fired.” Former Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr said in a statement: “Chris Krebs is a dedicated public servant who has done a remarkable job during a challenging time. Chris and his team at CISA have worked diligently to strengthen our election infrastructure, helping to shore up vulnerabilities and build trust between State and Federal Governments.”

Clearly Burr appreciated Krebs securing the election, but he is not trying to tell Republican voters inhaling Trump’s lies that they are not true. Indeed, any Republican calling for the transition to begin, or even referring to Joe Biden as “president-elect” but still not telling the truth to millions of voters who believe Trump, is not defending democracy. Romney’s statement Monday is the only one made by any Senate Republican that acknowledges how damaging Trump’s lies are. “I think making serious accusations of fraud and an election theft without seriously presenting evidence of substantial fraud is irresponsible and dangerous,” he told CNN. 

National Review  is calling out Trump — but not his enablers — in an editorial this week titled “Trump’s Disgraceful Endgame.” It states: “Flawed and dishonest assertions like this pollute the public discourse and mislead good people who make the mistake of believing things said by the president of the United States.” And the conservative publication noted that law-abiding officials loyal to the Constitution have saved us from Trump’s repugnant intent. 

“Trump’s most reprehensible tactic has been to attempt, somewhat shamefacedly, to get local Republican officials to block the certification of votes and state legislatures to appoint Trump electors in clear violation of the public will. This has gone nowhere, thanks to the honesty and sense of duty of most of the Republicans involved, but it’s a profoundly undemocratic move that we hope no losing presidential candidate ever even thinks of again.”

GOP leaders knew Trump would react this way if he lost; they had months to prepare. He repeatedly said, throughout this year, that mail-in ballots would allow “cheating” and the election would be “rigged.”

Abdicating their oath to the Constitution, in service to keeping peace with Donald Trump, was always going to be temporary for congressional Republicans. That is what they told themselves. Yet the damage from their refusal to counter Trump’s fraud is not short-term. It will eviscerate what faith many Americans had left in our elections, not just now but forever. And they will have helped not only delegitimize Biden’s presidency but future Republican presidents as well. 

Many Trump outrages look and sound the same. The language is always familiar, and the reaction of Republicans to not see or hear it is as predictable as the sunrise. But this is the worst thing he has ever done to the country, and abiding it is Republicans’ worst dereliction. 

A.B. Stoddard is associate editor of RealClearPolitics and a columnist. 

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