Thursday, March 23, 2023

Mike Pence breaks with Donald Trump’s allies over election challenge

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Mike Pence has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought against him by Republican lawmakers who want the US Vice President to overturn the results of the November 3 election, in a blow to Donald Trump and his allies who continue to wrongly insist on the rigging of the vote.

In a 14-page dossier filed on behalf of the vice president, Justice Department lawyers on Thursday called the trial a “walking legal contradiction” and argued that Mr Pence was not the appropriate person to bring a lawsuit in justice. The federal judge in charge of the case has not yet set a hearing date.

The lawsuit brought by Louie Gohmert, an American Republican representative from Texas, and several Arizona Republicans seeks to abolish the rules on how Congress certifies presidential elections, in a bid to give Mr. Pence the opportunity to reject the results next week.

Voters gathered in state capitals and the District of Columbia in December to officially select Joe Biden as President-elect of the United States, and their ballots are expected to be counted and certified by both houses of Congress on Wednesday.

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives filed an amicus brief on Thursday also calling for the trial to be dismissed. “The Gohmert trial has no legal merit and is another sabotage of our democracy,” said Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House.

Lawyers for Mr Gohmert and the 11 Arizona Republicans submitted a new response on Friday, dismissing the arguments in an attempt to pressure the court to consider their case.

They claimed Congress was “ready for a showdown” on Wednesday, declaring
more than 140 MPs have pledged to oppose Mr Biden’s victory.

Lawyers further argued that Mr Pence could run Wednesday’s joint session of Congress “as he sees fit”, dismissing what they said was a legal interpretation that gave the vice president a purely ceremonial role in as a “Chief Glorified Envelope Opener”.

The vice president’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday, but Mr Pence’s earlier legal response claimed he was the “wrong defendant” in the case.

On Friday, Mr. Trump retweeted a message from the pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” group, which is planning a rally in Washington on Wednesday to protest the election results.

“The calvary [sic] is coming, Mr. President! tweeted Kylie Jane Kremmer, the founder of the group, promising a “big demonstration”.

Josh Hawley, a Republican senator from Missouri, has previously said he will oppose Wednesday’s electoral college certification process. Mr Hawley’s objection will lead to a vote in both houses of Congress on whether to accept the results.

Mr Hawley said in a statement he was acting to raise “the failure of some states, particularly Pennsylvania, to follow their own election laws” and to highlight “the unprecedented effort of mega-corporations, including Facebook and Twitter, to interfere in this election.

U.S. media reported that Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican who discouraged senators from opposing the Electoral College certification process, asked Mr. Hawley to explain his reasons during a conference call with GOP senators on Thursday, but the Missourian was not on call.

Many in Washington view Mr. Hawley’s support for Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud as an effort to curry favor with the president’s right-wing base of supporters for a possible 2024 presidential bid.

Ben Sasse, a Republican senator from Nebraska, criticized the efforts to overturn the election result, saying Wednesday night: “The president and his allies are playing with fire.”

Although Mr Sasse did not name Mr Hawley, he did refer to the “incendiary members of Congress who will oppose the electoral college vote”. He added, “Let’s be clear what’s going on here: we have a group of ambitious politicians who believe there is a quick way to tap into the president’s populist base without causing real long-term damage.

Additional reporting by Katrina Manson in Washington


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