U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, Mississippi’s senior Republican in the Senate, says he will oppose attempts by some in his party to overthrow American democracy and stop the elected incoming presidential administration from taking power.
He is at odds with at least one other GOP member of Mississippi’s congressional delegation, U.S. House Rep. Steven Palazzo, who yesterday embraced the effort to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory.
“I cannot vote to certify the results of an election in certain states that millions of Americans and I do not wholeheartedly trust. … I stand with millions of Americans who do not approve or accept the submission made by the electoral college until a complete and thorough investigation of all evidence has been conducted,” Palazzo said in a statement that WLOX first reported on Sunday.
The “certain states” Palazzo cited consist only of swing states Biden won that swung the election in his favor. Even after two months of tossing out vague claims of electoral fraud, the Trump campaign has not made specific allegations of voting irregularities that would have changed the election’s outcome, nor have they produced evidence to back up their many wild claims.
In his statement, Rep. Palazzo claimed that counting voters in swing states Biden won—such as Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania—would harm Mississippi, which voted for Trump by a 57-41 margin.
“I cannot idly stand by and watch Mississippi be disenfranchised while other states knowingly violated their Constitution and side-stepped their legislatures in the 2020 election,” Palazzo said yesterday, referring to decisions that election officials in those states made to make voting more accessible and safer amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mississippi’s own secretary of state, Republican Michael Watson, also made adjustments to the process, such as allowing an absentee ballot signature “cure” process. Palazzo and others who support overthrowing the election outcome have not questioned that move nor the legitimacy of Mississippi’s election, but some have challenged the legality of decisions Pennsylvania officials made to adopt ballot curing processes in that state.
Trump Pressured Georgia Official to ‘Recalculate’
After WLOX reported Palazzo’s position, the congressman posted the statement to his social-media accounts this morning—even after a tape emerged of President Donald Trump secretly urging Georgia’s top election official to “recalculate” the election results and “find” enough votes for him to “win” the Peach State.
The president also floated a vague threat, saying Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, was taking a “big risk” by not adhering to his wishes.
“All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state,” Trump said on the hour-long call that The Washington Post published yesterday.
Raffensperger previously resisted efforts from Trump allies to help the president in his effort to overturn Biden’s victory.
After the November election, Wicker, along with other Republicans in Mississippi’s congressional delegation, declined to acknowledge Biden’s victory, backing Trump’s early efforts to overturn the election results with dozens of legal challenges.
Wicker: ‘We Must Respect the Constitutional Process’
After the electoral college voted in December to affirm Biden’s victory, Wicker relented, though, saying in a statement that Biden “will be the next President of the United States,” but that he was “disappointed” in the outcome.
“Nevertheless, we must respect the constitutional process and move on,” Wicker said.
After a number of federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, rejected Trump’s dozens of election-related lawsuits, he and some of his staunchest allies began pushing the idea that Congress could overrule American democracy.
Last week, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri announced, along with about a dozen members of Congress, that he would try to stop Biden from taking office and keep Trump in power by voting against certifying the electoral college. On New Year’s Day, though, Wicker rebuffed the effort, which constitutional experts say has no basis in law.
“I’m going to vote to certify the election. I don’t think it’s a good idea, and I don’t understand his reasoning,” Wicker told Politico on Jan. 1.
Biden won the electoral college by a sizable 306-232 margin. Similarly, he won the national popular vote by a 7 million-vote margin. Certification is a normally non-controversial, constitutionally prescribed, formal step Congress takes weeks after the electoral college has met to vote.
Wicker’s statement earned praise on Twitter from Mississippi Republican Brice Wiggins, a powerful state senator, who said the senator deserves credit for “respecting the Constitution and states’ autonomy.”
On Christmas Eve, Wiggins criticized the president for issuing pardons to former aides and associates who had been caught up in criminal investigations related to the Trump administration and his campaigns, saying they “smack of cronyism and political favors.”
‘The Egregious Ploy’
Wicker is one of several Republicans who have spoken up against the ongoing plot to overturn the legitimate election results.
On Jan. 2, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, released a statement calling it an “ill-conceived endeavor” with the “predictable potential to lead to disruption, and worse.”
Today, ABC News reported that 340 National Guard members will amass in Washington, D.C. this week to assist as the city prepares “for potentially violent protests surrounding Congress’ expected vote to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.”
“The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic,” Romney said on Jan. 2. “The congressional power to reject electors is reserved for the most extreme and unusual circumstances. These are far from it. 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.”
Fellow Republicans, like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, were speaking “nonsense” when they claimed that halting certification pending an “election audit by Congress would restore trust in the election,” he said.
“Members of Congress who would substitute their own partisan judgment for that of the courts do not enhance public trust, they imperil it. Were Congress to actually reject state electors, partisans would inevitably demand the same any time their candidate had lost. Congress, not voters in the respective states, would choose our presidents,” the Utah Republican said, adding that he “could never have imagined seeing these things in the greatest democracy in the world.”
After the U.S. House voted to impeach Trump last year amid accusations that he sought to use foreign aid to extort Ukraine’s president into helping him hurt Biden’s candidacy, Romney was the only Republican in the U.S. Senate who voted to convict the president and remove him from office.
Wicker and Mississippi’s other Republican senator, Cindy Hyde-Smith, voted to acquit Trump. Both senators also voted against allowing witnesses at the Senate trial, even though dozens of officials came forward with evidence and offered to provide testimony.
Hyde-Smith, Other Mississippi Republicans Silent
Unlike Wicker, Hyde-Smith has remained silent about the attempt to stop certification of the electoral college outcome.
Since former Gov. Phil Bryant appointed her to fill the vacancy that the late Sen. Thad Cochran left when he retired in 2018, Hyde-Smith has repeatedly affirmed her support for Trump, highlighting her pro-Trump voting record. During the 2018 U.S. Senate special election, Trump held three rallies across Mississippi to help Hyde-Smith beat a tough challenge from Democrat Mike Espy.
In a statement about the swearing-in ceremony for her first full term in the Senate yesterday, Hyde-Smith said she will “do everything (she) can to help build a stronger Mississippi and country as we overcome this global pandemic and look toward a brighter, prosperous future.” She did not mention Trump or the 2020 election, however.
Aside from Palazzo, the other two Mississippi Republicans in the U.S. House, Trent Kelly and Michael Guest, have also remained silent about their views on certification.
U.S. House Rep. Bennie Thompson, the only Democrat in Mississippi’s congressional delegation, made his position clear in a tweet yesterday.
“How can any Member of Congress challenge the legitimacy of Trump’s defeat when they were elected from the SAME ballot?” Thompson wrote.