Governor Charlie Baker said Tuesday that continued attempts by fellow Republican President Trump to challenge the results of the presidential election are harming the country at a time when steady leadership is needed during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Baker’s unusually sharp criticism came as Trump has continued to refuse to concede the election to Democrat Joe Biden and to make unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud.
“What this president is doing at this point in time is not in the best interest of this country,” Baker said during a State House press conference. “The administration needs to move forward and cooperate with the president-elect’s transition team immediately.”
Days after news organizations declared Biden had won the race, the Trump campaign is challenging the election results in several key states in court, and US Attorney General William Barr on Monday directed his prosecutors to review any allegations of substantial fraud. No evidence of large-scale voter fraud has been presented.
“I’m dismayed to hear the baseless claims coming from the president, from his team, and from many other elected Republican officials in Washington,” Baker said in an apparent reference to Trump’s allies, including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who have not yet acknowledged Biden as president-elect.
Baker said the “latest move to [involve] the Department of Justice in all of this is so wildly inappropriate,” and that stalling the normal transition process during a pandemic is “equally unacceptable.”
Citing the health crisis, Baker said he “can’t think of a worse time to stall a transition than amid a deadly pandemic that the federal government continues to own primary responsibility for responding to.”
The General Services Administration on Monday held off on formally beginning the transition, preventing Biden’s team from gaining access to federal agencies. Baker said that Biden transition officials need to be able to work with the current administration, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic enters a critical period where new cases and deaths are rapidly increasing across the country.
“It’s critically important that there be a focus in our nation’s capital on this issue,” Baker said of the pandemic.
If there are legitimate legal challenges, Baker said, they should be dealt with swiftly and fairly by the courts.
However, he added, “I’m aware of no legitimate claims of wrongdoing anywhere near the scale it would take to affect this outcome, and there’s no credible third party entity that’s verified the president’s claims in any way.”
“Continuing to make these claims erodes trust in the system when in fact the election system is working exactly as it was designed to do,” he said.
Baker made the comments as COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts continue to climb toward levels last seen in the spring, and as he announced that state officials are working to once again set up field hospitals to treat patients if more capacity is needed.
Baker has been critical of the federal government’s response to the pandemic and has said he didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 or 2020.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.