Utah Rep. Chris Stewart joins challenge to electoral votes

Like Burgess Owens, he joins long-shot bid to keep President Trump in office.

(Photo courtesy of the White House) Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, posted this photo on Twitter on Nov. 5, 2019, in a meeting with President Donald Trump. Stewart said Monday, Jan. 4, 2020 he will not vote to certify electoral votes in Congress on Wednesday.

Utah Rep. Chris Stewart said Monday — like fellow Rep. Burgess Owens did earlier — that he will join a challenge against electoral votes in a long-shot attempt to keep President Donald Trump in office.

“After serious thought and consideration, I will not vote to certify the election,” the Utah Republican tweeted. “I believe there are critical questions that need to be answered concerning our presidential election.”

He added a few other tweets to explain his decision to challenge electoral counts on Wednesday when Congress formally receives them, even though courts have consistently and universally rejected all claims about voter fraud by Trump and allies for lack of evidence.

“Until we have resolved the issues surrounding voting irregularities, ballot integrity and security, and the implementation of state election laws, I cannot, in good conscience, uphold the oath I took to protect and defend our Constitution by voting to certify the election,” he tweeted.

“By my objection to certify the election, I am safeguarding the sanctity of each vote,” he said. “President-elect Joe Biden deserves to enter his presidency without this cloud hanging over him, President Trump deserves answers, and most importantly the American people deserved to have their confidence in our elections restored.”

Stewart did not list any specific instances of fraud or other evidence to support his decision.

Stewart has been one of Trump’s strongest supporters, even though during the 2016 campaign he had referred to Trump as “our Mussolini,” but later insisted he had been joking in making a comparison to the fascist Italian dictator.

Last week, Owens said he will also join the challenge to the electoral votes. In an interview, Owens used a football analogy to explain why he is joining the challenge.

“In 10 years in the NFL, I played in a lot of losing games,” he said. “If you leave everything on the field and you’ve done everything you can and there’s nothing left, then it’s a winning game regardless of what the score might be.”

He added, “I plan to leave everything on the field” for Trump by helping to challenge electoral votes in states he believes Trump actually won. Owens added, “There’s no question in my mind that I think he won.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Mitt Romney has denounced plans to challenge the electoral vote.

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

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

Also on Monday, Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, criticized Trump for his phone call that sought to pressure Georgia’s secretary of state to shift enough votes for him to win the election there.

“No matter how you voted in the presidential election, we should all be disappointed with attempts to pressure Georgia officials to ‘find’ votes.” Curtis tweeted. “Under Republican leadership, the GA presidential results have gone through multiple recounts and legal challenges. It is what it is.”

Curtis and Rep. Blake Moore and Sen. Mike Lee also have said they do not plan to join the challenge against the electoral counts.

The challenge is considered a long shot because both houses would need to agree to reject votes from any state — and Democrats control the House. Also in the GOP-controlled Senate, many Republicans have strongly opposed the challenge.

Sen. Lee — even though he has been a strong ally of President Donald Trump — also has been circulating to some fellow senators a statement opposing the challenge by many Republicans.

However, Lee’s spokesperson said the senator sent around statement written by Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, and others — which Lee himself had decided not to join because it did not include changes he sought. “We are looking to issue our own statement tomorrow or Wednesday,” said Conn Carroll, Lee’s spokesperson.

That came after Alex Isenstadt, a reporter for Politico, tweeted on Monday that Lee was sending around a letter of opposition that included saying, “With respect to presidential elections, there is no authority for Congress to make value judgments in the abstract regarding any state’s election laws or the manner in which they have been implemented.”

Carroll then tweeted that the quote came from a joint statement that Lee had been working on with Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, and others that he never joined. “Sen. Lee wanted more changes and decided not to sign on to this statement,” Carroll tweeted.

Carroll told the Tribune Lee shared “with some select senators, not everyone,” was “the final Chip Roy statement, which he did not sign onto.”

Meanwhile, Roy and a group of six other House Republicans put out that lengthy statement Sunday to other House members opposing the effort to challenge the election.

They argue that the Constitution makes clear that states — not Congress — are responsible for selecting electors, though they said they “are outraged at the significant abuses in our election system.”

“We must respect the states’ authority here,” the lawmakers wrote in their statement. “Though doing so may frustrate our immediate political objectives, we have sworn an oath to promote the Constitution above our policy goals. We must count the electoral votes submitted by the states.”

After the Electoral College formally cast ballots last month, Lee finally issued a written statement that recognized, sort of, Joe Biden as president-elect.

“Absent new information that could give rise to a judicial or legislative determination altering the impact of today’s Electoral College votes, Joe Biden will become president of the United States on Jan. 20,” Lee acknowledged in the written statement.

Still, Lee added at that time, “Concerns regarding fraud and irregularities in this election remain active in multiple states, and those concerns need to be addressed by Congress and state and local officials throughout the country.”