ST. PAUL — A day before President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, the leader of the Minnesota Republican Party continued to raise questions about the validity of the 2020 election, despite bipartisan acceptance of the results and no evidence of widespread fraud.
Minnesota Republicans denounced the violence at the U.S. Capitol in the days following the Jan. 6 riot, and most affirmed that Biden had won the presidency. But very few publicly walked back or denounced prior claims about the election being "stolen" or otherwise invalid despite several investigations and court orders affirming the contest's results.
Such allegations of a "rigged" election originated with President Donald Trump and repeated by lawmakers and party leaders throughout the country, even after election results were certified in all 50 states and by Congress. The false allegations ultimately spurred the violent demonstrations at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month that resulted in the death of five people and led law enforcement groups around the country to prepare for similar dust-ups at state capitol buildings, including in Minnesota.
In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz last week called in the Minnesota National Guard to protect the state Capitol against similar threats and several state and local agencies activated members to stand guard ahead of expected demonstrations there over the weekend.
On a Tuesday, Jan. 19 press call, Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party leaders called on Republican Party leaders and elected officials to denounce the election fraud claims in order to avoid additional violence from Trump's extreme supporters in the days to come.
“Enough lying, enough hedging, enough doublespeak, this is unacceptable," Minnesota DFL Chair Ken Martin said during a virtual news conference. "It is dangerous, it has to stop and at this point, we’re here today to demand that Republican leaders in Minnesota correct their false statements and they state clearly, without hedging, that the 2020 elections were free and fair and that Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States of America."
Minnesota Republicans responded to the call on Tuesday, accusing Secretary of State Steve Simon of overstepping his executive authority when he altered rules to expand remote voting access due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The changes were upheld despite court challenges, though one judge ruled that absentee ballots that arrived after Election Day had to be separated. State Republicans have since called for bipartisan reviews of Minnesota's election laws.
“We saw an enormous number of lawsuits brought forth in advance of the November election across the country in battleground states to change our election laws," Minnesota GOP Chair Jennifer Carnahan said in a statement Tuesday. "When we make helter-skelter changes to our election laws, people naturally have concerns and we need to address those concerns."
At the national level, meanwhile, U.S. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday placed blame for the U.S. Capitol break-ins at the president's feet.
"The mob was fed lies," McConnell, a Republican representing Kentucky, said. "They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like."