Donald Trump faced growing pressure from Republicans on Sunday to drop his chaotic, last-ditch fight to overturn the US presidential election, as victor Joe Biden prepared to start naming his cabinet and a Pennsylvania judge compared Trump’s legal case there to “Frankenstein’s monster”.
Despite Republican leadership in Washington standing behind the president’s claims that the 3 November election was stolen from him by nationwide voter fraud, other prominent figures, including two of his former national security advisers, were blunt.
Former Trump national security adviser John Bolton said that Biden would be sworn in in January and added: “The real question is how much damage Trump can do before that happens.”
The president’s efforts were designed mainly to sow chaos and confusion, he told CNN’s State of the Union show, as a demonstration more of “raw political power” than a genuine legal exercise.
Bolton noted that the Trump campaign has so far lost all but two of more than 30 legal challenges in various states.
“Right now Trump is throwing rocks through windows, he is the political equivalent of a street rioter,” Bolton said.
And another former Trump administration national security adviser, HR McMaster, told CBS’s Face the Nation that Trump’s efforts were “very corrosive” and warned that his actions were sowing doubt among the electorate.
“It’s playing into the hands of our adversaries,” he said, warning that Russia, for example, “doesn’t care who wins” as long as many Americans doubt the result, undermining US democracy.
The Maryland governor, Larry Hogan, another Republican, said he also was confident Biden would be sworn in on schedule on 20 January and said “I’m embarrassed” at the lack of party leadership speaking out to recognize the election result.
Hogan added that he thought Trump’s pressuring last week of state legislators “to somehow try to change the outcome” was “completely outrageous”.
The US used to supervise elections around the world but was now “beginning to look like we’re in a banana republic,” Hogan told CNN’s State of the Union politics show.
He added of Trump’s efforts to exert legal and political pressure: “It’s time for them to stop.”
On Friday, the president met with Republican leaders from Michigan at the White House in a wild attempt to sway them and leaders in other battleground states in the electoral college to set aside the will of the people and declare Trump the winner, despite officials at local and federal level declaring it the most secure election in American history.
In the latest setback to Trump’s efforts, Matthew Brann, a Republican US district court judge in Pennsylvania, threw out the Trump campaign’s request to disenfranchise almost 7 million voters there.
“This claim, like Frankenstein’s Monster, has been haphazardly stitched together from two distinct theories in an attempt to avoid controlling precedent,” he wrote in a damning order, issued on Saturday.
It came after similar failed court bids in Georgia, Michigan and Arizona to prevent states from certifying their vote totals.
Ruling that Pennsylvania officials can certify election results in the state, where Biden has a lead of more than 80,000 votes, Brann said the Trump campaign presented “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations… unsupported by evidence” in its attempt to challenge a batch of thousands of votes.
Brann also suggested that the Trump campaign’s case demonstrated a failure to understand the US constitution, writing: “Plaintiffs seek to remedy the denial of their votes by invalidating the votes of millions of others. Rather than requesting that their votes be counted, they seek to discredit scores of other votes, but only for one race. This is simply not how the constitution works.”
For Trump to maintain any hope of staying in the White House, he would need to eliminate Biden’s 81,000-vote lead in Pennsylvania. The state is due to start certifying its results on Monday – as is Michigan.
Kristen Clarke, president of the lawyers’ committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said of the Pennsylvania result and forthcoming result certification: “This should put the nail in the coffin on any further attempts by President Trump to use the federal courts to rewrite the outcome of the 2020 election.”
Republican Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey acknowledged that the ruling closed off any chance for a legal victory in the state and called on Trump to accept the result and praised Brann as “a fair and unbiased jurist”.
Liz Cheney, a member of the Republican leadership team in the House of Representatives, urged Trump to respect “the sanctity of our electoral process” if he cannot prove his voter fraud claims.
Biden has garnered the most votes of a presidential winner in history, recording 6 million more votes than Trump, and will begin naming people on Tuesday to fill his cabinet positions, chief of staff Ron Klain said on Sunday.