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Utah GOP supports Trump’s election fight; Mitt Romney calls president’s actions ‘undemocratic’

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks during a ceremony outside of the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, where Interior Secretary David Bernhardt transferred ownership of two federal water projects to the state.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks during a ceremony outside of the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, where Interior Secretary David Bernhardt transferred ownership of two federal water projects to the state.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

In perhaps his strongest rebuke of President Donald Trump since voting to remove him from office earlier this year, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney is among a growing chorus of Republicans criticizing the president’s legal challenges to the election results.

Romney and Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, one of the first Republicans to recognize Democrat Joe Biden as the president-elect, both made strong statements Thursday on the heels of Rudy Giuliani’s press conference claiming widespread voter fraud.

“Based on what I’ve read in their filings, when Trump campaign lawyers have stood before courts under oath, they have repeatedly refused to actually allege grand fraud — because there are legal consequences for lying to judges,” Sasse said in a statement.

Sasse said “wild” press conferences erode the public trust.

“So no, obviously Rudy and his buddies should not pressure electors to ignore their certification obligations under the statute,” he said. “We are a nation of laws, not tweets,”

Trump was to meet with Michigan’s GOP statehouse leaders on Friday as the state moves toward certifying election results that currently show Biden leading by more than 150,000 votes.

Giuliani said there was a “centralized” plan to execute voter fraud in big cities controlled by Democrats, but offered no specifics on how it was carried out.

Jenna Ellis, a legal adviser for the Trump campaign, likened the press conference to an “opening statement” outlining a court case. There is also no indication any court action presented by Trump’s lawyers will change the outcome of the election.

Biden is projected to win the Electoral College vote 306 to 232. He also has 6 million more popular votes than Trump.

Romney after the Giuliani press conference strongly denounced the assertions the president and his lawyers are making.

“Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the President has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election,” Romney tweeted. “It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President.”

Actor Scott Baio, of “Happy Days” and “Charles in Charge” fame, chided Romney in a tweet Friday.

“Hey @MittRomney, beautiful golf courses in Utah......maybe I’ll move there, play a few rounds and unseat you. P.S. My wife is still waiting for her $2600 refund. Remember your wife canceled that Beverly Hills political luncheon fundraiser? But your campaign kept the money,” Baio, a conservative Republican, posted on Twitter.

Former GOP Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker called on Republicans to challenge falsehoods coming from Trump and his legal advisers about the election.

“While the president has the right to legitimate legal challenges, responsible citizens cannot let the reckless actions by him and his legal team stand. Republicans have an obligation when the subject is of such importance to challenge demagoguery and patently false statements,” he said on Twitter.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, criticized comments from the press conference made by Sidney Powell, one of the lawyers representing the Trump campaign, according to Politico. Powell, without providing evidence, said “we have no idea how many Republican or Democratic candidates … paid to have the system rigged to work for them.”

“To insinuate that Republican and Democratic candidates paid to throw off this election I think is absolutely outrageous, and I do take offense to that,” Ernst said during an interview with Fox News Radio’s Guy Benson.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., also weighed in on the presidential election Friday, saying it looks like Biden has a “very good chance” to win and that the Trump administration should provide him transition information, including plans for distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Recounting votes and resolving disputes after a close election is not unprecedented and should reassure Americans that election results are valid,” he tweeted, adding Al Gore didn’t concede until 37 days after the 2000 election.

The Utah Republican Party issued a statement Thursday after the press conference supporting Trump’s court challenges, saying it “stands firmly” with the president and that his lawyers outlined evidence of what appears to be widespread improprieties in the elections practices in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Nevada.

“These allegations, if found to be substantiated, could change the outcome of the election,” according to the statement. “In light of the gravity of these allegations, they need to be thoroughly investigated, and if necessary, litigated.”

The Utah GOP said Americans deserve to know whether the allegations are true or false.

“If there is any truth to the concerns about connections between the Dominion voting machines, Smartmatic voting software, and coordinated attempts to interfere with the outcome of the election, it is in our country’s best interest to shed light on what has happened,” the statement said.