Growing number of Trump loyalists in the Senate vows to challenge Biden’s victory

A group of 11 Republican senators and senators-elect, led by Ted Cruz of Texas, vowed to join Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) in challenging votes from some contested states, calling for an “emergency 10-day audit” to investigate Trump’s unfounded claims. Hours later, Trump wrote on Twitter that there would be “plenty more to come.”

The move amounts to an open rebellion against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who last month pleaded with GOP senators to avoid a public debate over the legitimacy of November’s election results. McConnell has personally congratulated Biden on his victory.

The high drama at the Capitol is set to punctuate a momentous week in politics that will delineate power at the dawn of the Biden presidency. The new Congress to be sworn in Sunday will reduce the size of the Democratic House majority. Trump and Biden will both campaign Monday in Georgia ahead of twin runoff elections for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday that will determine which party controls the upper chamber. Later in the week, members of the Republican National Committee will gather at a Florida beach resort to chart the party’s future beyond Trump’s presidency.

“What’s happening [Wednesday] foreshadows what’s going to be happening for the following 24 months,” said Peter Hart, a veteran Democratic pollster. “It’s a question of do we start to move to the future or get locked into the past. . . . This [could] continue to rip apart the fabric of this country that has already been torn through.”

Congress is all but certain to drive a final stake through the heart of Trump’s dream of four more years on Wednesday. But the gulf between the reality of the certification process and Trump’s fantasy of subverting the vote to stay in office is politically perilous for Republicans — none more than Trump’s unfailingly deferential No. 2, Vice President Pence.

As president of the Senate, Pence will wield the gavel when the electoral votes are counted and Biden is declared the winner by a wide margin, 306 to 232.

Though Pence’s role is strictly ceremonial, lawyer Sidney Powell and other conspiracy-minded Trump allies are trying to convince the president that Pence has the power to overturn the election by rejecting some of Biden’s electors, according to two senior administration officials with knowledge of the conversations. After Pence labored for four years to stay in the mercurial president’s good graces, his performance on Wednesday could risk a rupture on their 14th-to-last day in office.

While the growing GOP chorus to challenge Biden’s victory may ease the burden on Pence to lead the charge for Trump, it increases the likelihood of a volatile, discomfiting debate. And it virtually guarantees that Republicans will face a vote that forces them to decide whether they will honor the collective will of the voters or stand with Trump — a vote that could long serve as a litmus test for the GOP base.

With dozens of House Republicans expected also to challenge the election results, Wednesday’s event is likely to be a very public showcase of Trump’s two-month campaign to delegitimize Biden’s presidency, even as Washington barrels inexorably toward Biden’s inauguration.

For days, Trump has been urging supporters to converge on Washington on Wednesday — in a showing that could offer a measure of the enduring popular appeal of his unfounded claims of fraud.

As many as four rallies are expected to draw pro-Trump demonstrators to the Washington Monument, Freedom Plaza and the Capitol. The Proud Boys, white supremacists and members of armed right-wing groups have pledged to attend, while threats of violence and calls for an “armed encampment” on the Mall are proliferating online.

“I’m focused on the long-term damage rather than the short-term turbulence — the formation of a very large group of people who simply will not accept the legitimacy of Joe Biden as president of the United States or the legitimacy of the processes by which he ascended to the presidency,” said William A. Galston, the chairman of governance studies at the Brookings Institution. “That, in my view, is the fundamental danger.”

Trump has made plain his goal with the certification process: to overturn the results of an election he insists was “rigged,” though he has produced no evidence to support that claim. But so far, at least, he has not provided clear directives about how, procedurally, he intends for that goal to be accomplished.

Trump wants Pence and others to help recruit lawmakers to join the effort led by Hawley and Cruz in the Senate and a handful of Trump allies in the House, and to publicly present what he considers evidence of voter fraud, according to a senior administration official, who, like others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly discuss internal deliberations.

Pence and others have explained to Trump that the vice president does not have the power to take…

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