WASHINGTON — As President Donald Trump refused to concede defeat Saturday, top Republican congressional leaders followed suit, refraining from releasing the customary statements congratulating the victor that have been standard among senior lawmakers in both parties when a presidential election has been declared.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. and the majority leader, declined Saturday to acknowledge Biden’s victory, with an aide instead pointing reporters to a generic “count all the votes” statement McConnell released Friday before the results were known.
His silence Saturday came as other Republican leaders also kept mum about the results and some openly questioned it.
“The election isn’t over until all legal votes are counted and certified,” Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the second-ranking Republican, said on Twitter. “There are still serious legal challenges that have been made, and until that process is resolved, the election is not final. The American people deserve a fair and transparent process.”
The reactions suggested that Republicans on Capitol Hill, who have spent four years clinging tightly to Trump or at least have avoided publicly countering him for fear of provoking an angry tweet, were sticking to those approaches even after his loss.
In the weeks leading up to the election, as Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, some Republicans, including McConnell, gently pushed back without directly rebuking the president, making it clear that if he were to lose, they expected him to abide by the results.
But Trump’s reluctance to accept his defeat and his angry and false insistence Saturday that he had in fact won raised questions about whether any senior Republican would be willing to contradict him.
Only a handful of rank-and-file Republicans, including some who are not likely to face voters again, offered their good wishes for Biden.
Several Republicans who are regarded as rising stars in the party said any congratulations were premature, portraying the election results as a creation of the news media and alluding to the possibility of legal action that could change them.
“The media do not get to determine who the president is,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. “The people do. When all lawful votes have been counted, recounts finished, and allegations of fraud addressed, we will know who the winner is.”
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