During a hearing Wednesday, Republican senators continued to spew nonsense about the 2020 election, advancing an effort to sow doubt in the election’s results even after a majority of members of the Electoral College formally cast their votes for President-elect Joe Biden.
Between “just asking questions” rhetorical games and outright falsehoods about the election results, the senators bolstered President Donald Trump’s effort to assert that widespread voter fraud had delivered the presidency for Biden.
They were aided by several witnesses who claimed the same, including Jesse Binnall, the Trump campaign attorney who unsuccessfully sought to overturn the results in Nevada, and Ken Starr, the Fox News contributor and former independent counsel and Trump impeachment lawyer.
Near the end of the hearing, Trump praised Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and said Nevada’s results should be overturned based on the hearing alone.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 16, 2020
For his part, Johnson put on an exemplary display of passive voice.
“Lax enforcement, denying effective bipartisan observation of the complete election process, and failure to be fully transparent or conduct reasonable audits has led to heightened suspicion,” the chairman said in his opening remarks.
“The fact that the last two presidential elections have not been accepted as legitimate by large percentages of the American public is a serious problem that threatens our republic,” he added later.
Left unsaid: The President and his Republican allies in Congress and elsewhere have lied for months about widespread voter fraud, cannibalizing Americans’ faith in the democratic process. They continued to do so Wednesday.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), for example, falsely said that “the courts have not said there wasn’t fraud. The courts just simply didn’t rule on or hear from the fraud.”
In fact, numerous courts have rejected Trump and his allies’ claims on the merits, not just on procedural grounds as Paul asserted. Often, though, Trump’s own legal team claimed widespread fraud in press conferences only to inform judges that they weren’t making those claims in court, instead focusing on procedural fights. Attorney General Bill Barr also said the Justice Department had not seen evidence of fraud affecting the outcome of the election.
That didn’t stop Paul.
“The fraud happened. The election in many ways was stolen, and the only way it’ll be fixed is by, in the future, reinforcing the laws,” he said.
“The election in many ways was stolen,” Rand Paul lies, citing no evidence pic.twitter.com/G4m7mU7qRV
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 16, 2020
Democrats and their witnesses, including former DHS cybersecurity official Chris Krebs, who was fired by the President in a tweet for not supporting his assertions of a rigged election, tried at times to combat the Republican claims.
“Mistakes do happen in elections,” the committee’s ranking member, Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) said in his opening remarks. “But there’s a difference between a clerk making an error that gets caught and corrected during routine audits and calling the entire election fraudulent or stolen when there is no evidence, just because you do not like the outcome.”
“We’re past the point where we need to be having conversations about the outcome of this election,” Krebs said later, pointing to the electoral college vote for Biden. “Continued assaults on democracy and the outcome of this election that only serves to undermine confidence in the process is ultimately corrosive to the institutions that support elections.”
Later, he took aim at false information — like that in one group’s report on Antrim County, Michigan — about voting machines.
“I’m seeing these reports that are factually inaccurate continue to be promoted,” Krebs said, adding: “We have to stop this, it’s undermining confidence in democracy.”
The hearing blew up at one point when Johnson accused Peters of spreading Russian disinformation and lying about him.
A very heated moment between Ron Johnson and Gary Peters pic.twitter.com/e1zuGb9Kbr
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 16, 2020
But the disinformation about the 2020 election, at least by Wednesday’s hearing, was baked in: Senators didn’t have to claim outright theft or widespread fraud in order to push Trump’s narrative. Rather, they quoted supposed constituents doing the same.
“In Florida, we have a lot of people that moved from South America,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) said. “A lot of them said to me, ‘How is this different than what Maduro is doing?”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), when it came time for his diatribe, recounted a meeting Tuesday with 30 constituents: “Every one of them told me that they felt they had been disenfranchised, that their votes didn’t matter, that the election had been rigged,” he said.
“Seventy-four million Americans are not going to shut up,” Hawley added, voice rising for dramatic effect. “And telling them that their views don’t matter, and other concerns don’t matter and they should just be quiet, is not a recipe for success in this country.”