Donald Trump appeared to back the idea of trying to overturn the election result in Congress on 6 January in a series of tweets on Saturday morning in which he once again made unfounded claims of electoral fraud.
A joint session of House and Senate politicians will meet on 6 January to count the electoral votes, which gave a 306 to 232 victory to Joe Biden.
In what is usually a rubber-stamping exercise, sealed certificates submitted by each state are opened by the vice president, who oversees the process. However, if there are written objections from members of both the House and Senate, a vote by both chambers can be triggered.
Several Republican congressmen have said they will object. Incoming Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville has suggested he might, despite GOP leader Mitch McConnell telling his party members not to.
On Saturday morning, Mr Trump tweeted: “The ‘Justice’ Department and the FBI have done nothing about the 2020 Presidential Election Voter Fraud, the biggest SCAM in our nation’s history, despite overwhelming evidence. They should be ashamed. History will remember. Never give up. See everyone in D.C. on January 6th.”
The tweet was immediately tagged with the phrase “This claim about election fraud is disputed” by Twitter.
In another tweet, also tagged as disputed, he wrote: “If a Democrat Presidential Candidate had an Election Rigged & Stolen, with proof of such acts at a level never seen before, the Democrat Senators would consider it an act of war, and fight to the death. Mitch & the Republicans do NOTHING, just want to let it pass. NO FIGHT!”
A third read: “The U.S. Supreme Court has been totally incompetent and weak on the massive Election Fraud that took place in the 2020 Presidential Election. We have absolute PROOF, but they don’t want to see it – No ‘standing’, they say. If we have corrupt elections, we have no country!”
Mr Trump then claimed his incoming successor was a “fake president” and compared the 2020 election unfavourably to those held in Afghanistan.
He wrote: “A young military man working in Afghanistan told me that elections in Afghanistan are far more secure and much better run than the USA’s 2020 Election. Ours, with its millions and millions of corrupt Mail-In Ballots, was the election of a third world country. Fake President!”
If Republican lawmakers do object during the vote-counting on 6 January, the ploy is unlikely to work. The rules stipulate that both chambers must vote to support the objections and the House of Representatives is controlled by the Democrats.
The membership of the Senate will be decided on 5 January with two run-off elections in Georgia, where incumbent Republicans are trying to hang on to their seats. If Democrats win both, the parties will be even, with 50 senators each. In the case of tied votes, the president of the Senate – currently vice president Mike Pence, then from 20 January Kamala Harris – casts a deciding vote.
The move has been tried before, including in 2017 when half a dozen Democrats rose to object to Mr Trump’s victory. In a twist of irony they were overruled by none other than Joe Biden, who as vice president was overseeing the count. He pointed out that none of the objections had been properly made in writing, adding: “It’s over.”
Mr Trump, who is at Mar-a-Lago in Florida for the Christmas holidays, also tweeted about the joint stimulus and omnibus spending bill which he has refused to sign, meaning unemployment benefits could be affected and risking a government shutdown from next week.
He wrote: “I simply want to get our great people $2000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill. Also, stop the billions of dollars in ‘pork’.”
His refusal to sign is a challenge to fellow Republicans, who had resisted Democratic efforts to increase payments to Americans. However, many of the items he complained about in a video recorded at the White House this week, such as foreign aid, came directly from his own budget demands.
Amid concern over his intentions for the stimulus and spending bill – and the defence bill which he has vetoed, complaining it does not address issues of internet regulation – the president has been mocked for apparent inaction during a time of multiple crises.
The White House has issued guidance for three days in a row claiming Mr Trump will “continue to work tirelessly for the American People” over the Christmas holidays. However, he has spent much of the past two days playing golf and tweeting about conspiracy theories and TV shows.
He also found time to amplify a complaint that his wife Melania had not been featured on enough magazine covers since becoming first lady.