The second-ranking House Republican, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, repeatedly refused to say on Sunday that the 2020 election was not stolen, standing by Donald Trump’s lie that Democrat Joe Biden won the White House because of voter fraud.
More than 11 months after Americans picked their president and almost nine months after Biden was inaugurated, Scalise was unwilling to say the vote was legitimate.
“I’ve been very clear from the beginning,” he told Fox News Sunday. “If you look at a number of states, they didn’t follow their state-passed laws that govern the election for president. That is what the United States constitution says. They don’t say the states determine what the rules are. They say the state legislatures determine the rules.”
Pressed by host Chris Wallace on whether the election went beyond a few irregularities and could be considered “stolen”, Scalise said: “It’s not just irregularities. It’s states that did not follow the laws set which the constitution says they’re supposed to follow.”
In all, Scalise declined three opportunities to say the election was not stolen.
Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who with only one other Republican is serving on a House committee investigating the 6 January attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters seeking to overturn the election, slammed Scalise’s remarks.
“Millions of Americans have been sold a fraud that the election was stolen,” Cheney tweeted. “Republicans have a duty to tell the American people that this is not true. Perpetuating the big lie is an attack on the core of our constitutional republic.”
Trump left office in January, a few weeks after his supporters stormed the Capitol. As he mulls another White House run, he has been intensifying efforts to shame and potentially remove members of his party seen as disloyal, Cheney prominent among them.
At a rally in Iowa on Saturday, Trump argued falsely that he won Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Senator Charles Grassley and Governor Kim Reynolds stood by.
The election was not stolen. Trump’s second attorney general, William Barr, found no evidence of widespread election corruption. Allegations of voting fraud were dismissed by a succession of judges and refuted by state officials and the homeland security department.
Nonetheless the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, continues to defend Trump and his false assertions.
Scalise, McCarthy’s No 2, appeared to be referring to an argument made in several lawsuits that the constitution gives the power of election administration exclusively to state lawmakers.
The suits sought to invalidate pandemic-era accommodations including expanded mail voting put in place by governors, election officials and judges.
The high court turned away the cases. There is no indication in any of the suits that changing Covid-19 accommodations would have altered election results.