Challenges to US election are ‘anti-democratic’, says former Republican House Speaker

By on 05/01/2021 | Updated on 05/01/2021
Despite losing to the Democrats’ Joe Biden, some Republicans are determined to see Donald Trump retain the White House. Credit: Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

Republican legislators’ attempts to challenge states’ electoral college votes are “anti-democratic and anti-conservative”, former Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has said, arguing that attempts to “sow doubt about Joe Biden’s victory strike at the foundation of our republic”.

In a statement, Ryan criticised the declared intention of some Republican legislators to object to electoral college votes at Wednesday’s meeting of Congress, and said he’s confident that Biden won the election legitimately. “The Trump campaign had ample opportunity to challenge election results, and those efforts failed from lack of evidence,” he said.  

Despite losing to the Democrats’ Joe Biden, some Republicans are determined to see Donald Trump retain the White House – even as a recording of the president appeared to show him pressurising Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to “find 11,780 votes”.  Legal experts have suggested this could have broken election laws.

“The legal process was exhausted and the results were decisively confirmed,” said Ryan. “The Department of Justice, too, found no basis for overturning the result. If states wish to reform their processes for future elections, that is their prerogative. But Joe Biden’s victory is entirely legitimate.” 

“It is difficult to conceive of a more anti-democratic and anti-conservative act than a federal intervention to overturn the results of state-certified elections and disenfranchise millions of Americans. The fact that this effort will fail does not mean it will not do significant damage to American democracy.” 

Trouble in transition

Meanwhile, the transition to Biden’s administration has hit further problems. Last week, Biden’s team complained that politically-appointed directors in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) were undermining coordination between the team and civil servants. Similar complaints have been made about directors in the Pentagon. 

In an online press briefing, the transition executive director, Yohannes Abraham, said that his team had encountered “obstruction from political leadership” at various agencies, most notably the Department of Defence and the OMB. 

“Make no mistake, this lack of cooperation has real-world implications, most concerningly as it relates to our national security,” Abraham said. “This intentionally generated opacity makes it harder for our government to protect the American people moving forward.” 

He added that the lack of cooperation from the OMB was hampering efforts to prepare an effective plan for tackling the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. “OMB leadership’s refusal to fully cooperate impairs our ability to identify opportunities to maximise the relief going out to Americans during the pandemic, and it leaves us in the dark as it relates to COVID-related expenditures and critical gaps,” Abraham said. 

Vought out?

OMB director Russell Vought, who joined the department shortly after Trump’s inauguration in 2017, denied the charges. In an open letter to Ted Kaufman, Biden’s chief of staff and head of the transition team, he said that the OMB had “fully participated in appropriate transition efforts”.  

“OMB has provided significant briefing materials on its operations, and has provided factual information about ongoing programs to the BTT [Biden transition team] upon request,” Vought wrote. “We have taken more than 45 meetings with your staff to discuss specific issues, operational questions, and more. We have provided all information requested from OMB about ongoing programs.” 

However, Vought argued that it was not the OMB’s responsibility to help the Biden team prepare their policies. “What we have not done and will not do is use current OMB staff to write the BTT’s legislative policy proposals to dismantle this administration’s work,” he said.  

“OMB staff are working on this administration’s policies and will do so until this administration’s final day in office. Redirecting staff and resources to draft your team’s budget proposals is not an OMB transition responsibility.” 

According to Nancy Cook, Bloomberg’s White Hall correspondent, it is normal for outgoing administrations to assist transition teams with the drafting of first-year budgets.

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