Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) broke his silence about the election on Monday, declining to acknowledge President Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden and defending Trump’s court challenges, though McConnell did not endorse outright Trump’s voter fraud conspiracy theories.
On the Senate floor, McConnell said Trump is “100% within his rights” to open legal challenges into allegations of voter fraud, arguing the courts should weigh these accusations and Trump should not be shamed into conceding to Biden in the meantime.
McConnell said states should count all legal ballots and reject illegal ballots, echoing Trump’s baseless claim that last week’s election was riddled with illegal voting, and he said the process should be observable by all sides, possible alluding to a false claim circulating among Trump and his allies that pollwatchers were banned in some states.
Unlike Trump and some of his allies like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), McConnell did not repeat any specific fraud allegations or falsely imply Trump was the rightful winner, possibly leaving an exit for himself if the president’s legal challenges are unsuccessful.
He scolded media outlets for projecting a Biden victory and said no state has officially certified its results yet, though in most recent presidential races, news outlets have traditionally called a winner and both candidates have accepted the outcome well before the weeks-long election certification process wraps up.
“President Trump is 100% within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options,” McConnell said Monday. “If any major irregularities occurred this time of a magnitude that would affect the outcome, then every single American should want them to be brought to light.”
McConnell accused Democrats of hypocrisy for demanding a concession from Trump. He pointed to the fact that Al Gore did not concede to George W. Bush until Dec. 13, 2000 — though that concession was stalled due to a recount process that sparked a Supreme Court challenge — and he suggested Democrats never accepted the results of the 2016 election. In reality, 2016 challenger Hillary Clinton delivered a concession speech the morning after Election Day, though she still maintained later on that Russian interference was partly to blame for her loss.
Trump has not conceded to Biden yet, instead lodging baseless allegations of voter fraud and inaccurately suggesting he would have won if not for a unified Democratic effort to rig the race. His campaign has launched legal challenges in multiple states alleging voter fraud and violations of poll-watchers’ right to observe the counting process, but several of these lawsuits were swiftly rejected last week due to a lack of evidence, and most experts believe these legal efforts are unlikely to alter the results of the election. Some close Trump allies like his wife Melania and son-in-law Jared Kushner have privately encouraged the president to concede, CNN reported, though the White House denied this claim.
That’s the number of Republican Senators who have congratulated Biden. Moderate Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Ben Sasse (R-Nev.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have all acknowledged Biden’s win, though more doctrinaire congressional Republicans have sided with Trump and refused to accept the election’s results.
-By Joe Walsh, Forbes Staff