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Trump allies shouldn't be sworn into office until cleared of their own claims of election fraud

The voter fraud allegations made by Republicans elected to office would mean their own elections would be illegitimate, too.
Image: Senate Republicans Hold Media Availability After Policy Luncheon
Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley announced his intention to object to the election results from Pennsylvania.Stefani Reynolds / Getty Images file

The political coup by President Donald Trump and his Republican co-conspirators aiming to overturn the 2020 election is not over. The next apparent plot to impose Trump as president despite losing the election comes Wednesday when Congress holds a joint session to conduct the traditionally perfunctory event of counting the electoral votes already lawfully cast for President-elect Joe Biden.

The political coup by President Donald Trump and his GOP co-conspirators to overturn the 2020 election is not over.

But this time, some GOP members of Congress have indicated they will object — or are considering objecting — to counting the electoral votes from key battleground states, claiming without proof that there was widespread voter irregularities or fraud that renders the election results illegitimate.

On the Senate side, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley announced his intention to object to the election results from Pennsylvania, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and 10 other Republican senators on Saturday voiced their collective threat to object to the electoral votes from other “disputed states.” There are also reportedly at least 140 House GOP members from across the nation who will object.

As a practical matter — since it takes a majority in both the House and Senate to agree to reject the electoral votes from any state — this latest effort to disenfranchise millions of voters in the service of Trump will most likely fail, given that Democrats control the House. It may, however, delay the proceedings for several hours as members debate and vote on the objections.

But here’s the bigger question: How can any congressional Republican-elect who claims there was fraud or other voter irregularities in their own states be sworn into the new Congress when it commences on Sunday? After all, they are telling us their own election is likely illegitimate.

On Thursday, eight GOP members of Congress from Pennsylvania, including Trump’s stalwart ally Rep. Mike Kelly, released a statement declaring they will "vote against the certification of Pennsylvania's electors on January 6." These Republicans, who represent various parts of the Keystone State, didn’t raise issues specific solely to Biden’s win of the state but slammed the entire statewide election process, writing, “The Pennsylvania election could be summed up as a free-for-all with no oversight and different standards applied throughout the Commonwealth.”

They then alleged various reasons why all of the 2020 election results in Pennsylvania are suspect, citing, for example, the allegedly “unlawful” practice of “not properly requiring signatures to match those on mail-in ballots or requiring dates” and unauthorized “use of unsecured drop boxes” to collect ballots. Consequently, they claimed these “unlawful … activities resulted in a highly questionable and inaccurate vote total.”

What can we do but take them at their word?

Think about that for a moment. We have candidates who purportedly won elections in Pennsylvania telling us all the election results in the state — which would include their own — are “highly questionable and inaccurate” because of alleged widespread illegality. What can we do but take them at their word?

Given that, there’s simply no way come Sunday at noon, when the new Congress takes over, that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can allow them to be sworn into office until there has been an investigation to ensure the validity of their alleged victories. This is exactly what Biden has had to endure since early November with nearly 60 lawsuits filed by Trump and his allies contesting the validity of his election victories in the key battleground states — including Pennsylvania. Biden prevailed in each of these cases, including in cases considered by members of the federal courts whom Trump personally appointed.

There is precedent for not seating members of Congress if there are legitimate questions of systemic voter irregularities, as we saw after the 2018 election in connection with a congressional race in North Carolina’s 9th District. The evidence of election fraud on the part of the GOP candidate who had purportedly won, Mark Harris, was so rampant that the North Carolina elections board refused to certify the results.

Consequently, the House leadership, headed by Pelosi, did not permit Harris to take office until the fraud issues could be resolved. This congressional seat remained open as an investigation was conducted over the next two months that led to even Republican Harris conceding — after a hearing that February — that there had indeed been election fraud by a GOP operative who was later charged with election-related crimes. Ultimately, a new election was held to fill the seat.

[I'm not finding in either of those links or other coverage that Harris admitted that the GOP operative committed election fraud. At the hearing, Harris said a new election was warranted because public confidence in the election had eroded, not that there needed to be a new election because there was fraud.]

There is precedent for not seating members of Congress if there are legitimate questions of systemic voter irregularities.

This same standard should apply to any other elected official who announces prior to Sunday that she or he will be objecting to counting the electoral votes from their own state because of fraud. And if they are sworn in but they continue to assert that their election was marked by fraud and other illegalities, then they should be removed by way of a two-thirds vote of the House.

These Republicans can’t have it both ways — on one hand asserting voter irregularities in their state deems Biden’s win illegitimate, while on the other hand accepting their own elections. Unless of course these Republicans are arguing that there should be a double standard when it comes to elections: one for Democrats and one for themselves.

Pelosi should take seriously the allegation by any elected official that their own election may be illegitimate because of widespread illegality or wrongdoing. And like she did with Harris, she should not swear in anyone until the allegations are fully investigated. Any other result will undermine the public’s confidence in our election process — which is already dangerously under attack by Trump and his comrades in arms.