JANUARY 4, 2021
Multiple congressional Republicans on Monday chided President Donald Trump over his attempt to privately pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” ballots that would overturn Joe Biden’s win.
While no Republicans went so far as to describe Trump’s behavior as criminal or an impeachable offense, as some Democrats have, several GOP lawmakers did not hold back their criticism and made clear they were uncomfortable with Trump’s phone call.
Sen. Pat Toomey, who is retiring in 2022, described the hourlong conversation as a “new low in this whole futile and sorry episode.”
“I commend Republican election officials across the country who have discharged their duties with integrity over the past two months while weathering relentless pressure, disinformation, and attacks from the president and his campaign,” Toomey said.
The bombshell audio — first obtained by the Washington Post — is just the latest example of how Trump’s long-shot push to remain in power has splintered his own party ahead of two crucial runoff races in Georgia that will determine whether Republicans keep their Senate majority.
GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican who frequently calls out the president, said the recording is “deeply troubling” and urged people “to listen to the full hour of it.”
And Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), one of the most vocal Trump critics in recent months, labeled the recorded conversation as “absolutely appalling.”
“To every member of Congress considering objecting to the election results, you cannot – in light of this – do so with a clean conscience,” he tweeted.
News of Trump’s recorded conversation comes as the GOP is preparing for an intraparty showdown on Jan. 6, when Congress is slated to certify the Nov. 3 election results. Dozens of House Republicans, led by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala), and at least 12 Senate Republicans plan to object to Biden’s win, following Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud.
The president has been relatively quiet about the call to Raffensperger, but on Monday he dubbed those Republicans unwilling to challenge Biden’s electoral win as the “surrender caucus.”
Most of the Republicans who were critical of Trump’s call are the same lawmakers planning to oppose the anti-certification effort. But even some of its supporters acknowledged Trump’s conversation with Raffensperger is doing the GOP no favors.
“One of the things, I think, that everyone has said is that this call was not a helpful call,” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) on Fox and Friends. Blackburn is one of the 12 Senate Republicans planning to object to Biden’s victory on Wednesday.
Other Republicans, however, came to Trump’s defense or shrugged off the episode entirely. While House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy declined to answer questions from reporters in the Capitol about the call, he seemed to downplay the conversation during an interview on Fox News.
“The president’s always been concerned about the integrity of the election,” said McCarthy, a close Trump ally. “And the president believes that there are things that happened in Georgia, and he wants to see the accountability for it.”
Meanwhile, libertarian Republican Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) — who is not planning to challenge the election results, based on constitutional reasons — quipped that Trump’s call with Raffensberger was “pretty mild compared to the calls I’ve received” from the president before.
Congressional Democrats, for their part, have also begun strategizing for Wednesday’s lengthy session. House Democrats held a caucus call Monday, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged members to be “dignified” throughout the whole process.
Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), who was tapped by the Biden administration to be White House engagement director, also advised his colleagues to have cool heads ahead of the GOP’s Electoral College gambit.
“You don’t argue with fools, because at a distance you can’t tell who the fool is,” Richmond told members, according to multiple people on the call.
The Raffensperger call, however, has renewed calls from some Democrats to impeach Trump, who has 16 days left in office. But House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) made clear at his weekly presser that that’s not an avenue the House will pursue.
“We’re not looking backward, we’re looking forward,” he said.