November 12, 2020

In Senate Floor Speech, Van Hollen Slams Republican Refusal to Accept Election Results

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) delivered a speech on the Senate Floor strongly admonishing Republicans’ unprecedented and dangerous refusal to accept the presidential election results and the current Administration’s continued attempts to stonewall the Biden-Harris transition. Video of the Senator’s speech is available here and a full transcript is available below.

“Yesterday, we came together as a country, not as Republicans, not as Democrats or Independents, but as Americans to recognize the service and sacrifice of our veterans. Men and women who served in uniform to protect our country and to defend our democracy. Mr. President, the ongoing attacks that President Trump has launched on our democracy are an insult to those who have sacrificed so much to defend it. And so, too, is the complicity of so many Republican Senators right here in this body who, through their silence or active incitement, are spreading Donald Trump's absurd false narrative that he won the election. Each of us, each of us in this body has sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, to stand up for our democracy, to support the peaceful transfer of power established there. My colleagues, it is time for every Senator to do your sworn duty and stand up for the Constitution and for our democracy.

“Make no mistake – on January 20th, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the next President of the United States and Kamala Harris will be sworn in as the next Vice President of the United States. But that does not mean that what Donald Trump is doing now is harmless. That does not mean that the silence or active complicity of so many Republican Senators is harmless. It is downright dangerous to the health of our democracy and to our national security interests.

“We have enough challenges protecting our democracy from foreign enemies and foreign adversaries who seek every day to undermine faith and confidence in democratic institutions – here in the United States and other democracies around the world. The last thing we need is for people to attack that confidence from within the United States. This is doing harm, Mr. President, in the short-term and the long-term to our national security – putting us at risk. 

“In the short-term, we are seeing a very dangerous purge of top national security officials at the Defense Department and other places. These are officials with whom I have many policy differences, but they are competent managers, they are qualified individuals, and what you are seeing this President do in the death throes of his Administration is purging those qualified individuals and replacing them with people whose only credentials is loyalty to President Trump – replacing competent qualified individuals with political lackeys. 

“That is dangerous at any time. It’s especially dangerous to mess around with the top leadership of our national security agencies during a transition of power. That’s what the 9/11 Commission told us. And yet what you're seeing President Trump do is play with matches when it comes to our national security – to put personal political peeves above the national security interests of the United States.

“In addition to purging individuals from some of our top national security agencies, the President is prohibiting the government of the United States, which belongs to the people of the United States, from providing daily intelligence briefings and other intelligence briefings to the incoming President, President-Elect Joe Biden. Now, we all know that President Trump has been notorious for not being interested in those intelligence briefings, but I think all of us who know Joe Biden from the time he served as Senator and Vice President, we know he takes these things seriously and he takes threats that might be learned through those intelligence briefings seriously. And to deny the next President of the United States access to those briefings – which is part of the tradition, part of the rules that we've developed to ensure steady transfer and making sure the next president has the information needed on day one – that is outright grossly negligent when it comes to our national security. And it's time for our Senate Republican colleagues to be speaking out loudly about that. 

“That, of course, is part of the consequence of the fact that the General Services Administration has been unwilling to provide the traditional funds to support the peaceful transfer of power. This is another gross abuse of the government, which belongs to the people of the United States, not to Donald Trump. In addition, you have the Secretary of State, Secretary Pompeo, instructing the Department of State not to pass along messages from foreign leaders to the next President of the United States, President-Elect Joe Biden. Again, another gross abuse of power, and of course, Secretary Pompeo undermined this faith in our transition to democracy himself when he talked about the fact that we're transitioning to the second Trump term. This is the person – this is the individual – who is supposed to represent the United States of America overseas, the person who is supposed to stand up for our democracy. And yet, here at home, he's undermining faith in that democracy. And who does that give aid and comfort to? Our adversaries and enemies abroad – people who want our democracy to fail. 

“I don't know if our Republican colleagues have noticed who has congratulated the President-Elect, Joe Biden, and who has not among foreign leaders. Well, our Democratic allies around the world have congratulated the next President of the United States, Joe Biden. The United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada – the leaders of democratic governments and countries have all acknowledged that our democracy is working – and that they are recognizing the next president of the United States.

“Who has refused so far to congratulate the next President of the United States, Joe Biden? Vladimir Putin, President Xi, the leader of North Korea. What President Trump is doing and what our Republican colleagues are doing by their silence is aiding and abetting these authoritarian leaders – these guys are smiling. If you're an authoritarian leader, you want nothing more than to see democracy fail – to see that model fail. These are leaders who often have their own sort-of election facades, where they pretend to have a free and fair election, and then it turns out to be 90 percent for them. They are smiling at what's happening here.

“So I hope our Republican Senate colleagues are looking at the company they're keeping among foreign leaders who are watching us – because the leaders of our democratic friends and allied countries have all recognized the outcome of this election, and it's the leaders of Russia and China and North Korea and others who have not. That is the company that is being kept by so many Republican Senators today. And that is going to do ongoing damage to our ability around the world – as the world's oldest democracy – to stand up for interests of liberty, freedom, and democracy. 

“Mr. President, I fear that that is not even the most damaging thing that's happening as a result of this fraud that's being perpetrated on the American people. The biggest danger is undermining the confidence of the American people themselves – or large numbers of the American people – in the outcome of this election. Seeding this false narrative that somehow Donald Trump was actually the winner and Joe Biden is somehow an illegitimate President-to-be. If you look at the recent polling in the last 48 hours, what you find is that 70 percent of Republicans believe this was not a free and fair election. That's two times as many as before the election, and that's when Donald Trump was telling everybody that if he lost, it meant the election was rigged. Are we really, through our silence – or sometimes encouragement – going to seed the idea that because Donald Trump lost the election it was rigged? All you have to do is look at the frivolous claims being made in courts around the United States and the reactions to those claims by judges appointed by Democrats and Republicans alike to realize what a charade this is.  

“Joe Biden, as a candidate, has said he wants to bring the country together. He and Kamala Harris want to find a way to bring us together to find common ground. And he’s looking for the opportunity to work on both sides of the aisle here in the United States Senate and in the House of Representatives to address urgent matters before our country. So I ask my Republican Senate colleagues, how are you going to take the extended hand of Joe Biden when you're telling so many of your constituents back at home that this is an illegitimate election? How are you going to do that?

“What we've seen in the aftermath of this election is scary. Because we saw so many times over the last four years that our Republican Senate colleagues refused to stand up to the abuse of power of this Administration – things that if the Obama Administration ever thought of doing, they would be out there every day crying foul and abuse of power. But everybody enabled that conduct. And now after the election when Joe Biden is already over five million votes ahead on the national vote and winning the Electoral College, you would think this is a moment for everybody to come together to give the next President of the United States a chance. 

“I think the scary thing, Mr. President – what this shows – is that the Republican Party has become the party of Donald Trump. And I just urge my colleagues to think about the consequences of feeding into this fraud that Donald Trump was actually the one who was elected. Because what you will be saying there to the 72 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump is that he is, in fact, the rightful President, and he will therefore also continue to call the shots within the Republican Party. He's doing that now even after he's lost an election.

“And so, I just urge my colleagues to think about what they’re doing each day that goes by that reinforces this false and fraudulent claim –  how it's harming our democracy, how it's harming our national security, how it's going to impede Joe Biden's ability to reach out to our Republican colleagues, not because he doesn't want to – he does. But because you will have undermined your ability to do it by telling tens of millions of Americans that somehow this was an illegitimate election. 

“I ask – I implore my colleagues to think more about this as every hour goes by. Because every hour that this lie continues and persists is another hour that you're harming the health of our democracy and our country.”