In more aftermath of violence at the U.S. Capitol this week, President-elect Joe Biden suggested Friday that Republicans emulate the courage of Sen. Mitt Romney as they rework their party after Donald Trump. Meanwhile, Utah’s other senator, Mike Lee, was working to stop Trump aides from resigning en masse.
Biden at a news conference hailed those Republicans who have stood up to Trump, including Romney by name, and hoped aloud that more will follow their example.
“I spoke to Mitt this morning again. This is a man of enormous integrity, enormous integrity, who lives his faith,” Biden said. “And I ran against him” with Barack Obama in 2012, when Romney was the GOP presidential nominee.
Biden praised how Romney and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., stood up to Trump and his supporters who tried to overturn the election by challenging electoral vote results.
Speaking about McConnell, Biden said, “I thought what he said on the floor of the U.S. Senate was in fact the right thing to do. He stood up.”
Biden said he has talked to many other Republicans who are ashamed of Trump’s actions
“There are others who should be ashamed of themselves. But they make up a minority of the Republican Party. This isn’t about Republican-Democrat anymore. This is about people who understand what this country is about, and the things we have to agree on and move together on.”
Biden added that he hopes Republicans will reshape their party after Trump leaves, and emulate the examples of such people as Romney and McConnell.
“They understand that we need a Republican Party, we need an opposition that is principled and strong. I think you’re going to see them going through [a discussion of] what constitutes the Republican Party.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Lee is quietly trying to help head off mass resignations of Trump administration officials who are upset at the president’s egging on of protesters who stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Lee’s office confirmed Friday that he called national security adviser Robert O’Brien and White House counsel Pat Cipollone and urged them to stay on the job through Jan. 20 to help with the presidential transition and to keep the Trump White House on track in its final days.
“Now more than ever the American people need strong and honorable people in the White House these final two weeks of President Trump’s term,” said Conn Carroll, spokesperson for Lee. “No one is properly served if the president is deprived of good counsel from these key positions.”
As first reported by The Washington Post, Lee and three other unnamed conservative senators have coordinated efforts to urge key officials to remain amid reports that many are considering resignation to protest Trump’s actions.
Among those who have resigned so far are Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao (who is married to McConnell, whom Trump has attacked in recent days) and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Others include Trump’s former chief of staff and special envoy to Northern Ireland, Mike Mulvaney; Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger; the first lady’s chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham; and Sarah Matthews, the deputy press secretary.
Lee and the conservatives with whom he is working are not the only senators urging key officials to stay on for the 12 days remaining in Trump’s term.
For example, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a news conference Thursday, “To those who believe you should leave your post now to make a statement, I would urge you not” to do that.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also issued a similar statement Thursday.
“I urge the good men and women honorably serving at all levels of the federal government to please stay at their post for the protection of our democracy,” he said. “The actions of a rogue president will not and should not reflect on you. Instead, your patriotism and commitment to the greater good of our country will be reaffirmed.”
Lee’s maneuvering comes after he voted “Hell no” instead of just “no” against a Trump-supported challenge to electoral votes — shortly after order was restored in the wake of Trump supporters storming the Capitol and breaching the Senate chamber as senators were rushed to safety elsewhere.
Lee recently had been a strong ally of Trump and campaigned for him — and even told Latter-day Saints as he stood by Trump at an Arizona rally that the president is akin to Captain Moroni, a warrior hero in the Book of Mormon, the signature scripture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
One protester at the Capital this week show up dressed like Captain Moroni carrying a copy of the “Title of Liberty” flag that character used in the Book of Mormon.
Trump had urged supporters to come to the nation’s capital Wednesday to protest as electoral votes were counted and told them at a rally that he was robbed in the election. He urged them to march to the Capitol. In an initial video that urged violence to stop, Trump reiterated that he had been robbed and also told the violent group, “We love you. You’re very special.”
Even after the Capitol was stormed, Utah GOP Reps. Chris Stewart and Burgess Owens voted against accepting electoral votes. Lee, Romney and Reps. John Curtis and Blake Moore voted to uphold results of the election.
On MSNBC on Friday, former GOP Rep. Denver Riggleman said he spoke with Owens about violence at the Capitol. “He told me that Antifa was involved in the storming of the Capitol, that we should be looking at Antifa,” a loose collection of left groups, rather than at Trump supporters. Owens’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Also Stewart — who has been silent about who is to blame for the Capitol violence — tweeted Friday, “The perpetrators responsible for this week’s attack must be found and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. What they did was nothing but violent thuggery.”
Meanwhile, Romney and Curtis have been especially critical of Trump, saying he incited the violence.
“What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the president of the United States,” Romney said in a Senate speech.
Curtis tweeted, “What happened was an act of domestic terrorism inspired and encouraged by our President.”
Also, Moore said in an interview that he was “frustrated and disheartened” with Trump for “disparaging Vice President [Mike] Pence for doing the duty that he was supposed to,” and for posting a video as rioters were storming the Capitol that “started with comments about the election and election fraud. That’s not the time. That’s not what we need out of presidential leadership.”
— Reporter Bryan Schott contributed to this story.