GOP divided over Trump’s baseless allegations of electoral fraud

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WASHINGTON – A key Republican senator on Friday said he saw no evidence to support US President Donald Trump’s baseless claim that Democrats were trying to ‘steal’ the election, even as GOP leaders passed a your more neutral tone – and others have urged the White House to fight. Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, whose state is a key presidential election battleground, called the president’s fraud allegations “very disturbing.”

“There is simply no evidence that anyone has shown me corruption or widespread fraud,” Toomey told “CBS This Morning.”

“The president’s speech last night was very disturbing to me because he made some very, very serious allegations without any supporting evidence,” Toomey said.

He added: “I voted for President Trump. I approved of President Trump. I want the next president to be the person who legitimately wins the Electoral College and I will accept whoever it is. ”

Trump, who has complained for weeks about mail-in ballots, escalated his allegations Thursday night, telling the White House that the ballot counting process was unfair and corrupt. Trump has not substantiated his claims with details or evidence, and state and federal authorities have not reported any cases of widespread voter fraud.

Still, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took a more neutral tone, and other senior Republicans more defiantly urged Trump to fight to defeat Democrat Joe Biden.

“Every legal vote should be counted,” McConnell tweeted Friday morning. “All parties must be able to observe the process. ”

McConnell got nervous at a press conference later in Kentucky when he was repeatedly asked to say more. “Beyond that, I have nothing to say,” McConnell said. “It won’t make any difference how many times you ask, I’ve already given my answer. ”

Minority House Leader Kevin McCarthy took a more confrontational tone, mistakenly insisting that Trump “won” the election – even though officials in several states are still counting Americans’ ballots.

“So, all who are listening, don’t be silent, don’t be silent about this. We cannot allow this to happen in front of our eyes, ”McCarthy said Thursday on Fox News. “Join us and let’s stop this. ”

The split showed the hold Trump still has over his party, particularly after Republicans in Congress won seats in the House and Senate vying for re-election alongside the president.

One of Trump’s main allies, Senator Lindsey Graham, said on a call with reporters Friday that he supports Trump’s efforts to challenge the count of ballots in several states that have yet to be called. in the presidential election.

Graham said he was “not conceding” that Biden was going to win the presidency but that he would try to work with a Democratic administration if it is installed. He told Fox News Thursday night that he would donate $ 500,000 to the president’s “legal defense fund” and urged people to participate.

Other GOP senators, governors and other elected officials quickly pushed Trump away, a rare break with the president who keeps a firm hand on his party.

Republican Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, tweeted Thursday that the president’s fraud allegations were “going crazy.” If Trump has “legitimate” concerns about fraud, they must be evidence-based and brought to justice, Kinzinger said, adding, “STOP spreading demystified disinformation. ”

Maryland GOP Governor Larry Hogan, a potential 2024 presidential hopeful who has often criticized Trump, has said unequivocally: “There is no defense for the president’s comments tonight that undermine our democratic process. America counts the votes, and we must respect the results while we always ahead. ”

“No election or person is more important than our democracy,” Hogan said on Twitter.

Other criticisms, although less direct, came from members of Congress. Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida who spoke at a recent Trump campaign rally, said in a tweet that if a candidate believes a state is breaking election laws, they have the right to do so. challenge in court and produce evidence to support its claims. . ”

Rubio said earlier: “Taking days to count legally cast votes is NOT a fraud. And legal challenge to votes cast after the legal voting deadline is NOT deletion. ”

Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah., The party’s 2012 presidential candidate, sought to provide a reassuring note. Counting the votes is often “long” and “frustrating,” Romney said.

If irregularities are alleged, “they will be investigated and ultimately resolved in court,” Romney tweeted. “Have faith in democracy, our Constitution and the American people.”

Trump’s tweets earlier Thursday declaring victory and calling on officials to “STOP THE ACCOUNT” were a test of how strongly he can keep Republicans in line as he attempts to challenge the voting process in court.

Before Trump’s speech in the White House briefing room, several Republicans challenged his attempts to stop the vote count in Pennsylvania and other battlefield states.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, urged “everyone to be patient” when the results arrive. “It is essential that we give election officials time to complete their work and ensure that all legally cast ballots are authorized and counted.” she said in a statement.

Representative Will Hurd, a Republican from Texas who did not seek re-election, called Trump’s comments on corruption “dangerous” and “bogus.” Trump’s remarks undermine the American political process and “the very foundation upon which this nation was built,” Hurd said.

As Biden drew near on Friday the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House, it was unclear when a national winner would be determined after a long and bitter campaign dominated by the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on Americans and the national economy.

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut told The Associated Press on Thursday that he hoped Republicans would step up their response to Trump’s unsubstantiated claims. While Republicans may want to give Trump time to “make his case”, when it becomes clear that the claims are baseless, “I hope Republicans put public and private pressure on him,” he said. Murphy said.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Trump ally who is an analyst for ABC News, said Trump’s argument was unfounded. Christie called Trump’s attack on the integrity of the election a “bad strategic decision” and “a bad political decision, and it is not the kind of decision one would expect someone to do. ‘a take… who occupies the post he occupies ”.

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Associated Press editors Mary Clare Jalonick and Lisa Mascaro in Washington and Meg Kinnard in Columbia, SC, contributed to this report

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