After President Donald Trump early Wednesday called the election a fraud without any evidence, proclaimed that he already won and sought intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court as counting continued, some Utah politicians urged everyone to take a deep breath and calm down.
That included Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, a stalwart Trump supporter who campaigned for him in the race’s final weeks — and even compared Trump to the Book of Mormon hero Captain Moroni as he urged Latter-day Saints to vote for him.
“Once again, we have an extremely close presidential election on our hands. It’s best for everyone to step back from the spin and allow the vote counters to do their job,” Lee said in a written statement. “The most important thing is that we have a fair count that the American people can trust.”
Gov.-elect Spencer Cox, who as the current lieutenant governor is also Utah’s top election official, called Trump’s comments “very concerning.”
“I have a deep concern every time we call into question the process of elections without any evidence,” Cox, who voted for Trump’s reelection, said during a phone interview Wednesday.
The lieutenant governor said the tight margins in the presidential race were going through his mind as he delivered his victory speech Tuesday night — even though his contest had distracted him from paying close attention to the national returns that evening.
“But I didn’t need to to know that we were maybe headed to a worst-case scenario. One thing I’d said was my only hope is that whoever wins, that it’s not close,” Cox said. “It was pretty clear by that point that it was going to be really close.”
Cox sent out a tweet Wednesday urging people to be patient and to wait for the final vote counts.
“I hope you all slept more than me. Just a little reminder that there is nothing nefarious about taking a few days to count all legitimate votes," he said. “So take a deep breath and look for the good around you.”
Cox also linked to a series of tweets he had sent earlier in response to a Trump aide who had asserted that the president’s opponents would try to steal the election after Trump had a lead on election night.
“Hey guys, please ignore this type of garbage,” Cox tweeted earlier. “The truth is that elections are never decided on election night. In Utah (and most states) it takes 2 weeks to finalize counting and certify results.”
He added, "It really doesn’t matter who is ahead on election night, it only matters when every eligible vote is counted and each county canvasses and certifies the vote totals. Yes, it’s true that when a race isn’t close the media may ‘call’ the race, and candidates may concede or declare custody, but such actions are technically meaningless.
“While it’s true that vote-by-mail may make it more difficult to call a close race on election night as many legally postmarked ballots arrive late (like the Utah GOP primary this year, where it took 6 days for the AP to call our race), this was also common before vote-by-mail.”
Cox added, “The good news is that now, thanks to changes by our Legislature, we get updates as new ballots are processed almost every day after the election until every ballot is counted. … So be kind and patient. And ignore the conspiracies.”
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden tweeted late Tuesday that “It’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to declare the winner of the election. It’s the voters' place.”
He added, “Keep the faith, guys. We’re gonna win this.”
The Salt Lake Tribune requested comment about Trump’s claims from other members of Utah’s congressional delegation, but most did not respond.
Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, declined to comment on the situation. He leads in his reelection bid but is awaiting results of his close race with Republican Burgess Owens. Two years ago, McAdams had to wait two weeks for results before he finally beat then-incumbent Rep. Mia Love by just 694 votes.
Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jeffrey Merchant also tweeted Wednesday, “I’m getting a lot of messages from nervous @UtahDemocrats. Hang in there! We have a long way to go, and we have a lot to be optimistic about. We all wished a blowout, but we really did anticipate this being close. Stay positive!”
Latter-day Saints for Biden also issued a statement saying, “We must reject attacks on voting rights and the electoral process, including attempts by politicians to sully the process through partisan interests. We warn against allowing a repeat of past affronts to our electoral process. When the vote is suppressed, no matter who ‘wins,’ we all lose.”
At an early morning gathering at the White House, Trump in talking about processing of the election, said Wednesday, “This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.”
So, he said, “We will be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at 4 o’clock in the morning and add them to the list. OK? It’s a very sad, it’s a very sad moment. To me, this is a very sad moment, and we will win this, and as far as I’m concerned, we already have won it.”
Tribune reporter Bethany Rodgers contributed to this story.
The Salt Lake Tribune will update this article.