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‘Has ambition so eclipsed principle?’: Romney blasts GOP senators who plan to join Trump in effort to overturn election

Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) boarded an elevator while leaving the Capitol in Washington, on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020.STEFANI REYNOLDS/NYT

A number of Republican lawmakers announced their plan to join President Trump’s fruitless endeavor to overturn the election on Saturday — and Utah Senator Mitt Romney had some strong words for his colleagues and their effort to subvert the will of American voters.

In a joint statement released by Texas Senator Ted Cruz, the coalition of 11 senators and senators-elect pledged to reject the results of the presidential election, which President-elect Joe Biden decisively won, when Congress meets next week to count the Electoral College votes and certify Biden’s win.

Biden won the Electoral College 306-232.

While the senators largely acknowledged that they would not succeed in preventing Biden from being inaugurated, they vowed to vote against certain state electors on Wednesday unless an electoral commission is appointed by Congress to conduct an audit of the election results.


Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, called his fellow Republican senators’ plan to reject electors “an egregious ploy.”

“The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic,” Romney said. “The congressional power to reject electors is reserved for the most extreme and unusual circumstances. These are far from it.”

Cruz and Missouri Senator Josh Hawley — the first to go against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s urging to not attempt to overturn what has been concluded a free and fair vote by nonpartisan election officials — are both among potential 2024 presidential contenders.

Though Trump has refused to accept his defeat, Romney outlined that there has been no evidence of election fraud presented — and that more Americans “participated in this election than ever before, and they made their choice.”

“President Trump’s lawyers made their case before scores of courts; in every instance, they failed,” Romney said. “The Justice Department found no evidence of irregularity sufficient to overturn the election. The Presidential Voter Fraud Commission disbanded without finding such evidence.”


Trump has lost dozens of election-related lawsuits — and judges have issued some particularly blistering court rulings in response to the baseless claims made by his lawyers.

Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short on Saturday issued a statement that said Pence “welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections.”

In response to Cruz and his fellow co-signers arguing that the “rejection of electors or an election audit” would restore trust in the electoral process, Romney called the reasoning “nonsense.”

“This argument ignores the widely perceived reality that Congress is an overwhelmingly partisan body; the American people wisely place greater trust in the federal courts where judges serve for life,” Romney said.

He added: “Members of Congress who would substitute their own partisan judgement for that of the courts do not enhance public trust, they imperil it.”

If Congress were to reject state electors, Romney said, “partisans would inevitably demand the same any time their candidate had lost.”

“Congress, not voters in the respective states, would choose our presidents,” he said.

Romney was not the only Republican who came out against the cadre of senators on Saturday who announced their intention to join Trump in attempting to overturn the election.

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski said in a statement that she swore an oath to “support and defend the Constitution” and that she will vote to affirm the presidential election next week.


“The courts and state legislatures have all honored their duty to hear legal allegations and have found nothing to warrant overturning the results,” Murkowski said.

Murkowski urged her colleagues to “recognize” that no evidence of election fraud has been found and to join her “in maintaining confidence in the Electoral College and our elections so that we ensure we have the continued trust of the American people.”

In a lengthy Twitter thread, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey said that a “fundamental, defining feature of a democratic republic is the right of the people to elect their own leaders.”

Toomey said the efforts of Hawley, Cruz, and others to overturn the results of the election “in swing states like Pennsylvania directly undermines this right.”

The evidence that Biden won the election, Toomey said, “is overwhelming.”

“His narrow victory in Pennsylvania is easily explained by the decline in suburban support for President Trump and the president’s slightly smaller victory margins in most rural counties,” Toomey said.

While Toomey acknowledged he cast his for Trump in the election, he said that on Wednesday — when Congress meets — he intends to “vigorously defend our form of government by opposing this effort to disenfranchise millions of voters in my state and others.”

Romney said in addition to the “ill-conceived endeavor” of the 11 senators “is the President’s call for his supporters to come to the Capitol on the day when this matter is to be debated and decided.”


“This has the predictable potential to lead to disruption, and worse,” Romney said.

This is not the first time Romney has gone against Trump or has criticized the governing of his administration. On Friday, he assailed the government for the slow rollout of the coronavirus vaccine across the country — and he was the lone Republican to vote to convict Trump on the abuse of power charge last February.

“I could never have imagined seeing these things in the greatest democracy in the world,” Romney concluded. “Has ambition so eclipsed principle?”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her @shannonlarson98.