Romney decries martial law discussion in Trump's White House
Photo: Patrick Semansky / AP
Donald Trump's flirtation with declaring martial law in battlefield states and appointing a conspiracy theorist as special advisor to support his attempt to overcome the defeat against Joe Biden is "really sad" and "crazy and insane," Mitt Romney said on Sunday .
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"He's leaving Washington with a whole bunch of conspiracy theories and things so crazy and insane that people shake their heads and wonder what on earth got into this man," said the Utah Republican Senator.
Joe Biden won the November 3rd election with 306-232 on the electoral college and leads the referendum with more than 7 million ballots. Even so, Trump has fancy plans to stay in office, spurred on by allies like former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, whom Trump apologized for lying to the FBI, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney.
During a Friday meeting at the White House, first reported by the New York Times and then extensively covered elsewhere, Trump discussed the security clearance for Sidney Powell, a conspiratorial attorney who was expelled from Trump's legal team for campaigning.
It was unclear whether Trump would actually attempt to appoint Powell as special adviser, a position appointed by the U.S. Attorney General rather than the President. Numerous Republicans, from outgoing Attorney General William Barr to governors and state officials, have repeatedly stated that there is no evidence of Trump's alleged electoral fraud.
"It's not going to happen," Romney told CNN. "This is not going anywhere. And I understand that the president is trying to find a way to get a different outcome than what was delivered by the American people, but it's really sad and embarrassing in many ways.
"Because the president might be writing the final chapter of this administration, with a victory round on the vaccine [Covid-19]. After all, he aggressively pushed for the vaccine to be developed and distributed, and in a short timeframe. He could go out and work for this extraordinary achievement.
"Instead ... this final chapter suggests what he will be known for."
Trump's campaign and his allies have filed around 50 election fraud lawsuits - almost all of which have been dismissed. Trump lost to judges on both parties, including some he appointed, and some of the strongest rebukes come from Conservative Republicans. The Supreme Court, which has a Conservative majority of 6-3 and three people appointed by Trump, has refused to open cases.
During the Friday meeting, Giuliani urged Trump to seize voting machines. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made it clear that it had no authority to do so. It is unclear what such a move could do.
Barr told the Associated Press earlier this month that the Department of Justice and DHS had been looking at voting machines "which were essentially programmed to skew election results ... and so far we have seen nothing to prove it." Paper votes were used to check the results, including in Georgia where two audits of its voting results were carried out to confirm Biden’s victory.
Flynn went even further, suggesting that Trump could impose martial law and use the military to run the election again. Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and White House attorney Pat Cipollone raised objections, people familiar with the Friday meeting told news agencies. Trump, who had spent much of the weekend tweeting and retweeting election fraud claims, responded on Twitter.
"Martial law = fake news," he wrote. "Just knowingly bad reporting!"
John Bolton, a successor to Flynn as national security advisor, told CNN that the idea of martial law was "appalling" and that Trump was "incompetent." Trump replied, "What would Bolton, one of the dumbest people in Washington, know?"
Mitt Romney speaks to reporters at the US Capitol in Washington. Photo: Erin Scott / Reuters
Trump is keeping a tight grip on the Republican party, apparently guaranteeing challenges for the electoral college in Congress on Jan. 6. Such objections will be for political purposes and it will most likely not be possible to reverse the election result. Democrats hold the house and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has announced he will put down the challenges in the Senate.
Related: America's Democracy Is In Crisis - How Can Joe Biden Establish Voting Rights?
On Sunday, Trump called Georgia Senator David Perdue, who will be re-elected in one of two crucial runoff elections in January, “a great guy and a patriot” for apparently intending to challenge himself.
At NBC's Meet the Press, Romney, who outperformed Trump in 2016 and 2020 in his loss to Barack Obama in 2012, was asked if his party could ever escape Trump's grip.
"I think the Republican Party has changed pretty dramatically," he said. “And by that I mean, the people who consider themselves Republicans and who voted for President Trump are, in my opinion, a different cohort than the cohort that voted for me.
"... You look at those who are thinking of running in 2024, trying to figure out who can be most like President Trump. And that suggests that the party doesn't want to go any other way. "
Josh Hawley from Missouri, Tom Cotton from Arkansas and Ted Cruz from Texas are among the senators believed to succeed Trump in the White House - should he not run himself - and therefore question the result of the electoral college.
On Sunday, the Axios website reported that Trump had given up plans to announce his own 2024 candidacy before Biden is inaugurated "because it would show that his base has given up his fight" to discard this year's result.
"I don't think anyone who wants to run in 2024 has the style and shtick that President Trump has," Romney said. "He has a unique and capable politician ... But I think the direction you are seeing is one that he has set.
"I'd love to see a different version of the Republican Party. But my side is very small these days ... I think we realize that character actually matters."
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