Donald Trump’s children and closest allies have accused Republican leaders of betraying him by failing to endorse the president’s baseless claims of fraud in the US presidential election.
Mr Trump’s supporters rounded on senior Republican members of Congress on Thursday night after the president attempted to cast doubt on results in several battleground states as Joe Biden, his Democratic rival, edged closer to victory.
Donald Trump Jr, the president’s eldest son, tweeted: “The total lack of action from virtually all of the ‘2024 GOP hopefuls’ is pretty amazing. They have a perfect platform to show they’re willing & able to fight but they will cower to the media mob instead.”
Eric Trump tweeted, but then deleted, a message saying: “Where is the GOP?! Our voters will never forget . . . ”
Brad Parscale, Mr Trump’s former campaign manager, warned: “It you want to win 2024 as a Republican I would probably start saying something.”
Mr Trump has erroneously claimed that the White House is being stolen from him because mail-in ballots — which he described as “illegal” and “late” — were cast disproportionately for his rival Joe Biden. In several swing states, these ballots were counted after election day votes, meaning his early lead disappeared when they were added to the tally.
However, his claims have been met either with criticism or silence from Republican party leaders, suggesting the president may struggle to find supporters as he seeks to challenge the vote count in the courts.
Shortly after Mr Trump first declared he was the victor in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader, told reporters: “Claiming you’ve won the election is different from finishing the counting.”
Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican senator, tweeted: “Taking days to count legally cast votes is not fraud.”
Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland, said there was “no defence for the President’s comment” which he said “undermin[ed]” the country’s democratic process.
“Counting every vote is at the heart of Democracy,” said Mitt Romney, the sole Republican senator who voted to remove Mr Trump from office in his impeachment trial.
Denver Riggleman, a Republican congressman from Virginia, was more straightforward, telling Mr Trump on Twitter: “Stop the Bravo Sierra [BS], Mr. President, and respect the democratic process that makes America great.”
Some in the party tried to hedge their bets by making ambiguous statements or staying silent, but this in itself has also angered some of Mr Trump’s allies.
Nikki Haley, Mr Trump’s former ambassador to the UN who is viewed as a potential 2024 contender for the Republican presidential nomination, tweeted: “We all owe [Donald Trump] for his leadership of conservative victories for Senate, House & state legislatures. He and the American people deserve transparency & fairness as the votes are counted.”
But Matt Gaetz, a Republican congressman from Florida and one of the president’s most vocal congressional allies, retorted that while “some of us are fighting for President Trump”, Nikki Haley was “eulogising” him.
Lindsey Graham, meanwhile, who attacked Mr Trump while he was running for office but then became a vocal supporter when in office, remained silent for several days.
This earned a Twitter rebuke from Donald Trump Jr, who retweeted a rightwing activist pointing out Mr Graham’s silence and commented: “No one is surprised.” Within hours, Mr Graham appeared on Fox News, promising $500,000 for the fund to fight legal battles, saying: “Philadelphia elections are crooked as a snake.”
But while public criticism appears to have stung some Republicans into backing the president, the Trump campaign is still struggling to find prominent Republican lawyers to lead the president’s legal fight, as James Baker did for George W Bush during the 2000 Florida recount.
Instead, Mr Trump is relying on figures such as Rudy Giuliani, his controversial personal lawyer; Pam Bondi, the former attorney-general of Florida; and Richard Grenell, Mr Trump’s former acting director of national intelligence.
Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor who gave more than $100,000 to Mr Trump’s re-election campaign this year, said: “Most of the [party] is taking a wait-and-see approach before sticking their neck out one more time for Trump.”