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Trump Clashes With Fellow Republicans As His Presidency Nears Its End


Events on Capitol Hill this week and next have been revealing rifts between President Trump and his fellow Republicans. The Republican-controlled Senate voted to override the president's veto of a massive annual defense bill, the first time this has happened to Donald Trump during his presidency. And now a group of Republican senators say they intend to vote on January 6 to reject electors from disputed states unless Congress sets up an electoral commission.

NPR's White House correspondent Tamara Keith joins us. Tam, thanks so much for being with us.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Glad to be with you.

SIMON: It looked as if Senator Hawley of Missouri was standing alone. What's recently happened in the past few minutes?

KEITH: Yeah, so it turns out he is not standing alone. In addition to all of the House members who are planning to object, we now know that 11 Republican senators also plan to object.

Now, to be clear, there isn't a vote happening on the 6th. This is a pretty basic process that is generally noncontroversial and just sort of a rubber stamp. This is - the Electoral College votes come in, and they are tabulated, and the end. However, because there are both House members and senators who say that they will object, that means that there will be a debate about the election. And that's what these senators say in their statement that they're looking for.

Interestingly, in this statement, these senators, which include Texas Senator Ted Cruz and others, in addition to Josh Hawley from Missouri - what these senators say is that there have been a lot of allegations of election fraud. Now, these senators don't actually say that they believe these allegations are true. They just say there have been a lot of allegations. And, in fact, there have been a lot of allegations - false allegations - from the president of the United States, who's denying the outcome of the election, which, to be clear, is that he lost. But they say that there should be a public debate about this in part because so many Republicans believe what the president is saying.

SIMON: And let's underscore this again. A, no doubt but that Joe Biden will be inaugurated president of the United States and has been elected. And, B, it doesn't matter if it's one, 10 or 20 senators who are objecting. There's no mechanism that in any way revisits the election.

KEITH: Well, yeah, that's right. Essentially, what this is going to do is make for a really long day on the 6th, make for a lot of theatrics and will allow Republicans to push a narrative that the president has been pushing hard that, somehow, Joe Biden isn't a legitimate president. However, he is a legitimate president, elected freely and fairly.

And some Republicans are very concerned. In fact, this completely goes against what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had been urging. He did not want senators to join onto this because what this is going to do is force Republican senators to go on the record - at least some of them - voting against President Trump.

SIMON: And it's quite a beginning to a new Congress, isn't it? A new period of amity and cooperation is at hand?

KEITH: Uh. Well, and this will all be happening...

SIMON: I think your uh answered it, Tam, but go ahead.

KEITH: I know.

...At a time of confusion because with the special - the runoff in Georgia, they may not know the result or which party controls the Senate until late next week.

SIMON: Tamara Keith, thanks so much.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.