The Utah Republican Party announced Thursday that it backs President Donald Trump in his quest to investigate allegations of fraud and irregularities in the election that has been called in favor of President-elect Joe Biden. Hours later, Sen. Mitt Romney released a harsh statement condemning the president’s actions.
Trump has refused to concede, instead insisting Biden only won because of fraud. There is no evidence that widespread fraud occurred in the presidential election.
“President Trump’s legal team held a press conference outlining evidence of what appears to be wide-spread improprieties in the elections practices in states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Nevada,” the Utah GOP said in a news release. “These allegations, if found to be substantiated, could change the outcome of the election.
“In light of the gravity of these allegations, they need to be thoroughly investigated, and if necessary, litigated.”
The news conference held by the president’s legal team on Thursday made numerous unsubstantiated allegations but presented no evidence of election fraud. Fact-checking by news organizations called out numerous untruths, including that former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013, was responsible for creating the voting software used by many U.S. states. Trump also has applied pressure to lawmakers in Michigan, urging them to reject the results of the election and select electors who would back him.
Romney released a statement Thursday evening that said, “Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the president has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election. It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American president.”
Beyond Romney, a group of prominent Utah Republicans, such as Gov. Gary Herbert, Gov.-elect Spencer Cox and Rep. John Curtis have all acknowledged that Biden won.
Herbert on Thursday joined Biden and a bipartisan group of governors for a video conference call about how states and the federal government can work together to solve the coronavirus pandemic.
“I wished the president-elect every success and am grateful for his efforts to engage the nation’s governors in these important discussions,” he said in a news release.
Romney was the first sitting Republican senator to congratulate Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
“Ann and I extend our congratulations to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris,” Romney tweeted on Nov. 7. “We know both of them as people of good will and admirable character. We pray that God may bless them in the days and years ahead.”
Cox also tweeted congratulations to Biden and Harris on Nov. 7. He thanked Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for their leadership over the past four years.
Sen. Mike Lee, U.S. Reps. Chris Stewart and Rob Bishop and Rep.-elect Burgess Owens have not recognized Biden as the winner of the election.
Utah Republican Party Chairman Derek Brown declined to speak with The Salt Lake Tribune about the news release on Thursday evening. Spokespersons for Romney and Cox both referred to the elected leaders’ previous statements when contacted Thursday for comment.
Brigham Young University political science professor Adam Brown said Trump is choosing power over the American republic by refusing to concede.
“Benjamin Franklin said the Philadelphia convention gave us ‘a republic, if you can keep it,’ ” said Brown. “When Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College, opponents gloated that it’s the Electoral College that counts. Knowing they were right, Clinton accepted the result. When Donald Trump lost both the popular vote and the electoral college, he chose to try keep power rather than keep the republic.”
Rob Taber, national director of the Latter-day Saints for Biden-Harris, said in a statement that senior Republican officials are attempting to thwart the peaceful transition of power and harming democracy when they refuse to acknowledge that Biden won. He said it is time for “all patriots” to set aside partisan politics and prepare for a peaceful power transition.
“The vote is the foundation of our democratic republic and our modern Constitution,” he said. “Baseless allegations of ‘fraud’ and ‘illegal votes,’ with false implications that they throw the outcome of the presidential election into doubt, undermine this foundation. Such allegations are an attack on the rule of law and the principles enshrined in the Twelfth Article of Faith.”