United States (US) Vice President Mike Pence opened a joint session of Congress to formally certify Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, rejecting President Donald Trump’s demand that he unilaterally reject electoral votes.
Trump’s allies in Congress mounted a last-ditch bid to undo his election loss on the same day Trump’s fellow Republicans were poised to lose their majority in the Senate, in a session that could last past midnight.
“We will never give up,” Trump told thousands of cheering supporters on a grassy expanse near the White House called the Ellipse. “We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.”
Trump has accused Democrats of rigging vote counting:
Trump applied fresh pressure on Pence, who presided over the session, to try to reverse the election results.
In a statement, Pence said he shares the concerns about the “integrity” of the election but that is not correct that he should be able to accept or reject electoral votes unilaterally.
The US Constitution does not give Pence the power to unilaterally overturn the results of the election, but he is under pressure to do so from Trump.
“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” he said in the statement.
Biden won the election by 306-232 in the state-by-state Electoral College and by more than 7 million ballots in the national popular vote, but Trump continues to falsely claim there was widespread fraud and that he was the victor.
The Electoral College results were presented alphabetically, starting with Alabama. Republicans raised their first objection to results from Arizona, with possible objections to follow for Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Nevada.
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Republican lawmakers cheered and Democrats groaned when the Arizona objection was brought.
State and federal reviews have debunked Trump’s claims of widespread election fraud even as increasingly desperate legal efforts by his campaign and allies on the right to overturn the election have failed in numerous courts all the way up to the US Supreme Court.
Biden is due to take office on 20 January.