Tensions between Trump and GOP lawmakers increase amid attempt to overturn election, COVID relief efforts

Jeanine Santucci
 
| USA TODAY

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COVID-19: President Trump denounces new relief bill, demands changes

President Trump denounced the new COVID-19 relief package he’s expected to sign and urged congressional leaders to make several changes to the bill.

Staff video, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — A rift has been growing between President Donald Trump and some of the Republicans whom he once praised, as he continues his baseless attempts to overturn the 2020 election results and President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office in less than a month.

Meanwhile, Republicans are battling to keep their Senate majority with two seats up for grabs in January runoff elections, and Americans are waiting on further economic relief amid the coronavirus pandemic. All these circumstances have seen contentious moments between Trump and his party members.

Here’s a look at the fractured relationships with GOP officials Trump has left in his wake:

Trump rails against GOP swing state leaders

Much of Trump’s focus has been placed on Georgia, where Republicans are campaigning for incumbent Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue — and where Trump insists he must have won the presidential race, with no evidence, despite the state’s electors voting for Biden and an 11,000-vote margin.

The president has blamed Georgia’s Republican officials, Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, for refusing to go along with his attempts to overturn the state’s results. Raffensperger has said there was no evidence of widespread fraud, and the state’s recounts showed Biden won.

Trump, who endorsed both Kemp and Raffensperger in their previous elections and sung their praises, tweeted last month that they were “hapless” and “obstinate.” He has also singled out Republican Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona.

Officials out after contradicting fraud claims

Attorney General Bill Barr left the Justice Department this week after serving as one of Trump’s staunchest supporters, before ultimately breaking with the president’s efforts to overturn the November election.

Barr said this month that the Justice Department had found no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the vote, in contrast to Trump’s repeated claims of fraud. 

Barr submitted his resignation this month while questions about whether Trump would dismiss him circled. On Monday Barr again indicated there was no reason have a special counsel to pursue the unfounded claims of election fraud.

Earlier this election season Trump dismissed Chris Krebs, who was the former election security chief for the Department of Homeland Security, after he concluded that the November general election was the most secure in the country’s history. Krebs has since called on Republicans to oppose harassment and threats against election officials who have countered the baseless claims of fraud.

Republicans acknowledge Biden’s election victory

Trump’s election efforts have virtually all met dead ends, and Republican lawmakers have had to answer to whether they will admit his loss or prop up his claims of election fraud.

After state electors convened on Dec. 14 to cast their votes, confirming that Biden will be the next president, more Republicans began publicly acknowledging Biden’s win for the first time, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

McConnell said form the Senate floor, “The Electoral College has spoken,” as he offered congratulations to Biden, referring to him as “the president-elect.” He had previously not acknowledged Biden as the winner despite Biden’s victory being evident for weeks.

Trump later tweeted, “.@senatemajldr and Republican Senators have to get tougher, or you won’t have a Republican Party anymore. We won the Presidential Election, by a lot. FIGHT FOR IT. Don’t let them take it away!”

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Joe Biden declares ‘clear victory,’ Sen. Mitch McConnell congratulates him

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell congratulated president-elect Joe Biden on winning the presidency.

Staff video, USA TODAY

Trump decries COVID-19 relief bill 

Trump slammed the sweeping government spending package and COVID-19 relief legislation that was passed through Congress on a bipartisan basis — after months of stalled negotiations between top leaders in both parties. 

“It’s called the COVID relief bill, but it has almost nothing to do with COVID,” he said in a video, appearing to conflate the government spending measure with the attached COVID relief bill.

The president demanded that Congress up the amount that would go directly to Americans from $600 to $2,000, a proposal that Democrats in Congress quickly jumped on board with. Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., already have drafted language for a proposal to raise the amount.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Democrats had been pushing for $2,000 in payments, but Republicans led by McConnell shot the idea down during negotiations. The amount Congress approved in the deal passed on Monday was proposed by Trump’s own Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

‘Ridiculously low’: Donald Trump demands bigger stimulus checks in $900 billion COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress

Contributing: Ledyard King, Nicholas Wu

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