Putting the presidency back together: McNally recognizes Biden presidency as congressmen seek Trump removal

By: - January 7, 2021 5:33 pm
(Photo: Alex Kent)

(Photo: Alex Kent)

Recognition of Joe Biden’s presidential election victory started trickling in Thursday from Tennessee Republicans as congressional leaders tried to figure out the nation’s next step in the wake of a U.S. Capitol insurrection by Trump supporters.

At least four people died, including one Air Force veteran shot by U.S. Capitol Police, in the melee, and numerous officers sustained injuries when hundreds of people stormed the building in an attempt to upend the ceremonial counting of Electoral College votes that would put Biden in office Jan. 20. Biden received 306 to Trump’s 232.

Republican leaders on the federal and state level condemned the violence, but only after they refused to acknowledge Joe Biden as president-elect for weeks after the Nov. 3 election. 

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally became the first Tennessee Republican leader to accept the Democrat’s victory in the presidential election.

“I am grateful to see order restored in the U.S. Capitol this morning. Yesterday’s violent challenge to our democratic process has been quelled. Whether it is a challenge from the left, right or center, or republican form of government will not be deterred by the mob,” McNally said in a tweet Thursday, hours after Vice President Mike Pence announced Biden as president-elect when efforts to oppose the Electoral College failed in the House.

“While many had passionate views regarding the election and even how it was carried out, America always respects the results of certified elections. @JoeBiden is our President-elect. He will be inaugurated on January 20. I congratulate him and wish him well as he leads our nation.”

The Senate and House Republican caucuses refused to recognize Biden’s win in the weeks after the Nov. 3 election, casting doubt on the vote totals in battleground states. Tennessee also joined a Texas challenge of the election results, but some 60 lawsuits against the outcome were rejected by courts, twice by the U.S. Supreme Court.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton’s office did not respond Thursday to questions about whether he accepted the outcome of the presidential election. But Sexton referred to Biden as president during an early December interview when discussing the state’s economic outlook.

“And we’ll have to be cautious about what next year looks like with President Biden and what they may try to do,” Sexton said of the incoming Biden administration and potential economic or COVID-19 policies.

House Majority Leader William Lamberth did not respond to a phone call either.

Tennessee Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro of Nashville said Thursday Republican politicians who refused to publicly accept the election outcome and repeated lies by the president need to change their behavior.

Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)
Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)

“Tennessee’s GOP elected leaders’ nearly uniform refusal to acknowledge Biden’s election was leadership of a type. It was leadership that fostered misinformation, delusion and anger – leadership that emboldened the president to invite and incite a mob that assaulted democracy,” Yarbro said in a Thursday statement.

In contrast, state Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, a Republican from Lancaster, attended the protest and sent this tweet: “One word to describe today? Absolutely Epic and Historic. Estimated as 3.2M PEACEFUL patriots journeyed to DC on this day and marches to the Capitol. There is a whole lotta propaganda going on that is simply NOT TRUE!! Anything to make us “deplorables” to be the bad guys. To those who did damage? Antifa Shame on you!!!”

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee called on Weaver and another Republican lawmaker to resign for rallying with a group that tried to overthrow the election.

Congressional fallout 

Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Sen. Bill Hagerty, who was sworn into office Wednesday, both flipped after the Capitol invasion and voted to ratify the Electoral College votes in Biden’s favor after saying for weeks they felt a congressional inquiry should be conducted into the votes in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona. 

Blackburn and Hagerty both condemned the violent mob on Wednesday, just hours after saying they were standing with President Trump, both noting several people from Tennessee participated in the pro-Trump rally.

Neither senator, though, explained their votes on Twitter or with statements. Blackburn and Hagerty spokespeople could not be reached for comment.

Blackburn and Hagerty both condemned the violent mob on Wednesday, just hours after saying they were standing with President Trump, both noting several people from Tennessee participated in the pro-Trump rally.

Neither senator, though, explained why they changed their minds, nor did they address criticism about whether they were complicit in causing the attack.

Instead, they issued a joint statement Thursday night saying, “Yesterday was a shocking day of lawlessness. We watched in horror as rioters breached the security of both houses of Congress and inflicted significant property damage upon those historical halls.

“Our republic will rise above the chaos that ensued yesterday at the Capitol. These violent assaults on our democratic processes threaten to unwind the fabric of this country. As Americans, we must unite in our commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law,” they said.

Other than their vote to ratify Biden’s win, the pair came as close as they’ve come so far to acknowledging he is the president-elect, saying, “On January 20th, we will prove to the world that America is still the shining city on the hill.”

Meanwhile, Congressman Jim Cooper called for the 25th Amendment to be invoked, a move that would enable Vice President Pence to take over the presidency because of Trump’s unfitness to hold office.

Cooper also called for another impeachment vote of the president in the waning days of his four-year term, a move that could pass since Democrats now hold a majority in the House and 50 seats in the Senate, though Pence could cast a tie-breaking vote. The House previously impeached Trump for trying to shake down a foreign leader.

“I supported impeachment before and I agree we need it now more than ever,” Cooper said in a tweet.

Cooper also broached the possibility that U.S. Capitol police were complicit in the breach, according to television reports, saying he’s never seen a group of protesters so unafraid of police. Video showed at least one officer posing for a selfie with a protester.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for the resignation of the U.S. Capitol Police chief, even though officers said they were met with pipe-wielding protesters who stormed the Capitol. The House Sergeant at Arms was to resign too.

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D, who is supporting impeachment, said he has never seen a group of protesters so unafraid of police and suggested U.S. Capitol Police may have been complicit in the breach.

Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis agreed that Trump needs to be removed as soon as possible, but he raised doubts such a move could be done because it would be “politically difficult to impossible.”

The 25th Amendment requires a majority of the president’s cabinet, and he said getting those votes is unlikely because of the weakness of Trump’s administration. 

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao resigned Thursday, and Cohen speculated she might have stepped down because of the insurrection and the possibility she might be asked to take a stand on Trump’s ability to hold office.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 13: Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., votes to approve the second article of impeachment as the House Judiciary Committee holds a public hearing to vote on the two articles of impeachment against U.S. President Donald Trump in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill December 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)
Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. (Photo by Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)

“His cabinet’s basically his guys. They’re second-string Trump people,” Cohen said. “There’s no time for impeachment. The Senate wouldn’t take it up. They’ve adjourned, and I don’t think they would take it up anyway. And there’s no other way.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly said Thursday the House could impeach Trump again if the 25h Amendment is not invoked.

But with that unlikely to come to fruition in the Senate, Cohen speculated that Trump’s mental health could be questioned, though it would take extraordinary action in a court to force him out. Short of that, Trump would remain in office for 13 more days, giving him time to pardon more friends and family, change rules and regulations, seek money to pay off debts and possibly even bomb a nation that upsets him, Cohen said.

“He’s a rogue. There might be some country that wants some action taken on some other country, and he may do it with the idea that that country and their wealthy people will take care of him later on,” Cohen said.

Cohen, Cooper and Republican David Kustoff of East Memphis were the only members of Tennessee House delegation to vote to uphold Electoral College votes. 

Kustoff initially said he would vote against the Electoral College vote but then opted to uphold them in Arizona and opposed them in Pennsylvania. He did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

Congressman Mark Green of Erin in Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District, joined several other Tennessee lawmakers in opposing the Electoral College. 

“While today’s certification of electoral votes by Congress is the final step in this election, it cannot, and will not be the end of our fight to ensure fair and free elections in the future. I will continue to fight for stronger election laws for our republic,” he said in a statement. Green did not address the violence incursion into the Capitol.

Congressman John Rose, a Cookeville Republican representing the 6th Congressional District, voted to object to ratification of the vote from Arizona and Pennsylvania, saying he is fighting for election integrity so Americans can trust the process. He did not cite specific cases of voter fraud.

Formal objections to vote counts in Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin did not take place as House members convened after the mob was brought under control.

“The violence we witnessed today did not prevail. We returned to the House chamber, carried out our constitutional duty of debate and moved forward with the great American tradition of a peaceful transfer of power. Only through diligence can we hope to restore your trust,” Rose said on his website.

Others voting to oppose the Electoral College results were Republican Reps. Chuck Fleischmann, Scott DesJarlais, Tim Burchett and Diana Harshbarger.


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Sam Stockard
Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard is a veteran Tennessee reporter and editor, having written for the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, where he served as lead editor when the paper won an award for being the state's best Sunday newspaper two years in a row. He has led the Capitol Hill bureau for The Daily Memphian. His awards include Best Single Editorial and Best Single Feature from the Tennessee Press Association.