There appears to be a loyalty test for aspiring Republican vice presidents: Will you question the 2020 election on TV?
In an interview that aired on This Week With George Stephanopoulos yesterday, Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio)—the infamous former never-Trumper who is now reportedly under consideration to be Trump’s running mate—told the ABC News host that he would not have certified the 2020 election results, and unfurled a litany of disproven election lies to explain himself.
“If I had been vice president,” Vance told Stephanopoulos, “I would have told the states, like Pennsylvania, Georgia, and so many others that we needed to have multiple slates of electors and I think the US Congress should have fought over it from there.” Here Vance seems to be referring to the potential of endorsing the slate of fake, pro-Trump electors in seven swing states who planned to try to overthrow the election—many of whom have since faced criminal charges.
“That is the legitimate way to deal with an election that a lot of folks, including me, think had a lot of problems in 2020,” Vance continued. “I think that’s what we should have done.”
Stephanopoulos clapped back: “So it’s very clear, you would have done what Donald Trump asked you to do there, not what Vice President Mike Pence did.” (Vance disputed this, claiming that “it’s not about what Donald Trump asks somebody to do.”)
Vance also trotted out a litany of other disproven claims or half-baked theories easily refuted by the facts: “Do I think there were problems in 2020? Yes, I do. Do I think it was a problem that big technology companies, working with the intelligence services, censored the presidential campaign of Donald Trump? Yes. Do I think it’s a problem that Pennsylvania changed its balloting rules in the middle of the election season in a way that even some courts in Pennsylvania have said was illegal? Yes, I think these were problems, George, and I think there is a political solution to those problems.”
Let’s take each of those claims:
- As a Washington Post analysis notes, Vance was falsely suggesting here that the government’s efforts to work with social media companies to tackle misinformation about voting and the pandemic targeted the Trump campaign.
- His comments about Pennsylvania appear to refer to the state’s expansion of mail-in voting—a measure passed by Republican lawmakers in 2019. As Mother Jones previously reported, after Biden won Pennsylvania on the strength of that turnout, Republicans tried to have 2.6 million of those mail-in ballots invalidated, but the state Supreme Court tossed the lawsuit and the US Supreme Court declined to take it.
Vance’s talking points suggest he’s more interested in currying favor with Trump and auditioning for the job of vice president than sticking with the facts. After all, he previously called Trump “an idiot,” a “cynical asshole,” and “America’s Hitler” before securing his endorsement ahead of a successful 2022 Senate race.
As I reported last month, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), another VP hopeful, told NBC’s Kristen Welker on Meet the Press that she wouldn’t commit to certifying this November’s election results—even though two independent firms hired by the Trump campaign to investigate the results found no evidence of wrongdoing, and more than 60 lawsuits filed by Trump challenging the legitimacy of the election were found to be without merit:
When Welker pressed for clarity, Stefanik said she would only commit to certifying the results “if they are constitutional.” She then proceeded to repeat the unfounded and discredited conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was stolen.
And for Stefanik, too, it seemed like a political strategy:
Of course, Stefanik’s promotion of the falsehood is unsurprising: The onetime moderate, who at one point called Trump misogynistic, rose to her position as the highest-ranking Republican woman in the House by riding this very wave of election denialism, successfully booting Liz Cheney from the post in the process. And in the hours after the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, Stefanik was one of 147 Republicans who voted to overturn election results.
So don’t be surprised if, over the next few weeks and months—as Trump continues to rise in the polls—you hear more GOPers falsely claiming the election was stolen. And when they do, keep in mind: they’re most likely auditioning for a job in the Trump administration.