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GOP senators shrug off Trump's conspiracies over election results: 'He can say whatever he wants'

Posted November 16, 2020 4:58 p.m. EST

— Top Senate Republicans seemed unmoved Monday by President Donald Trump's baseless charges that the election was "rigged" and his false assertions that he actually won the election, even though the results show he lost the race despite his efforts to sow distrust over a cornerstone of US democracy.

As Democrats reacted with alarm to Trump's weekend Twitter rants, Republicans shrugged it off.

"He can say whatever he wants," said Sen. Deb Fischer, a Nebraska Republican who advises Senate GOP leadership.

Asked if she were bothered by Trump's comments, Fischer said: "If I was bothered by everything that everyone around here says, I couldn't come back."

While a growing number of Republicans say that the formal transition process should begin, that Biden should get classified intelligence briefings and are skeptical that Trump's legal challenges will succeed, few are willing to challenge Trump's lies that the election was stolen from him, an allegation rejected by GOP and Democratic election officials across the country.

The indifference marks a familiar pattern through four years of Trump's presidency: He stokes a major controversy, and Republicans on Capitol Hill largely ignore it. But this time, Trump is launching one conspiracy theory after another that many fear could sow unrest and have lasting ramifications on trust in US elections and faith in democracy.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the most senior Senate Republican who supports Biden getting classified briefings, downplayed Trump's false claims that he won the election and baseless charges that the election was rigged.

Asked Monday if Trump should be making such comments, Grassley said: "All that'll be settled by December the 14th," referring to when electors meet in their state capitals to cast their ballots.

"There's no sense worrying about anything else except just the number of electors, and whoever got 270 electors is going to be the next president," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said that Trump is within his legal rights to challenge the election, sought to reassure the public last week that the transition would not be interrupted. But on Monday, McConnell was silent when asked if he agrees with Trump's false claims that he "won the election."

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Monday that he has no concerns that Trump is sowing doubt in the democratic process, arguing it's "fair game" for him to claim victory because "we don't know yet" who won, despite election results clearly showing Biden on track for an Electoral College victory.

"I'm not concerned about the President saying that he thinks he won the election," Hawley said. "I think that's totally fair game. He can go out and make his argument."

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