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 did not get any further, as the call to the 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 Together, these states sent 79 voters – if they were all withdrawn from Biden, he would have only 227 instead of 306 electoral votes and would be behind Trump, who had received 232.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 election victories. And even in the Senate, the appeals 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 merely trying 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” such as 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 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. In 2005, the Democrats did not raise allegations of national election fraud in their appeals. 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 matter.
Pence could fall out of favor
Above all, the impression will remain: Hawley and the other senators are at Trump’s side. They are now certain of its benevolence, but it is criticizing it from within its own party: “Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen to give credibility is a highly destructive attack on our constitutional government,” said the former Missouri Senator Republican John Danforth. Former Republican Chairman of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan wrote: “Efforts to reject the electoral body and cast doubts on Joe Biden’s victory are deepening 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 each controversial state. “Yes, we should investigate all of the specific allegations, but we shouldn’t burn down the whole process 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”.
Under particular pressure is Vice President Mike Pence, who chaired the meeting. “I hope he joins 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. 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 still likely to stick to his allegations and continue to talk about electoral fraud. And pence could fall out of favor. Just like the senators who vote against the objections. What would be left is a split party – but Trump would have had his final battle. And lost again.