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'Highly destructive attack' | Former US Sen. Danforth calls out Hawley's plan to challenge election results

The former U.S. senator called the move “radical” and a “highly destructive attack on our constitutional government”

WASHINGTON — A former U.S. senator from Missouri is calling out Senator Josh Hawley’s plan to challenge the votes when Congress meets to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the election.

Former U.S. Senator John Danforth called the move “radical” and a “highly destructive attack on our constitutional government” in an emailed statement sent to 5 On Your Side.

Hawley announced last week that he plans to formally object during the Electoral College certification process, which is set to take place Wednesday. He is echoing unfounded claims by President Donald Trump of election fraud in November. Hawley said he wants to “highlight the failure of some states, including notably Pennsylvania, to follow their own election laws.” He did not offer any specifics or evidence of his claims.

The move will force House and Senate votes that are likely to delay — but in no way alter — the final certification of President-elect Joe Biden's win.

Danforth, a former three-term senator from Missouri, supported Hawley’s successful campaigns for Missouri attorney general in 2016 and the U.S. Senate in 2018. Danforth said several people asked for his comment on Hawley’s decision to object. Below is the full statement he released.

“Citing my support for Josh Hawley's campaigns, a number of people have asked me to comment on his decision to challenge votes of the electoral college.

“Lending credence to Trump's false claim that the election was stolen is a highly destructive attack on our constitutional government. It is the opposite of conservative; it is radical. As one friend asked me, 'What are my grandchildren to think of America if they are told that elections are fraudulent?'

“At a time of extreme polarization the populist strategy is to drive America even farther apart by promoting conspiracy theories and stoking grievances. We must reject this strategy and reclaim America's historic purpose of holding our diverse nation together as one people.”

Danforth has criticized Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. He said that by alleging widespread fraud, Trump sought to “undermine Americans’ belief in the legitimacy of the election and therefore in the foundation of our democracy. He is causing incalculable damage to our country.”

READ MORE: Here's how Congress will count Electoral College votes

Sen. Hawley isn’t the only member of Congress representing Missouri who plans to object during the Electoral College count. Representatives Vicky Hartzler (R, MO-04), Sam Graves (R, MO-06), Billy Long (R, MO-07) and Jason Smith (R, MO-08) co-authored a letter published to Smith's website declaring their intention to object.

A range of nonpartisan election officials and Republicans have confirmed there was no fraud in the November contest that would change the results of the election. That includes former Attorney General William Barr, who said he saw no reason to appoint a special counsel to look into the president’s claims about the 2020 election. He resigned from his post last week.

Trump and his allies have filed roughly 50 lawsuits challenging election results, and nearly all has been dismissed or dropped. He’s also lost twice at the U.S. Supreme Court.

When Congress convenes to certify the Electoral College results, any lawmaker can object to a state’s votes on any grounds. But the objection is not taken up unless it is in writing and signed by both a member of the House and a member of the Senate.

When there is such a request, then the joint session suspends and the House and Senate go into separate sessions to consider it. For the objection to be sustained, both chambers must agree to it by a simple majority vote. If they disagree, the original electoral votes are counted.

As president of the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence will preside over the Jan. 6 session and declare the winner.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had asked his caucus not to participate in a futile quest to overturn the results.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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