NASHVILLE — A number of Republican leaders in Tennessee and Georgia are lining up behind President Donald Trump on his so-far unsupported claims of fraud and "illegal votes" marring results in key states of his 2020 presidential contest with Democrat Joe Biden.
"We need transparency in our election system. What we're seeing is fraud, and it must be stopped," Republican U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Ooltewah alleged on Twitter.
In a statement, U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, called it "a shame that we have to fight for a fair election in the greatest democracy the world has ever known, but we do."
She urged supporters to contribute to Trump's legal defense fund as he prepares legal challenges to vote counts favoring Biden, who is running ahead in key states such as Georgia.
Trump, Blackburn said, "has always had our backs, and now, Tennesseans need to have his to make sure every single legally cast ballot is counted."
U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee, scoffed at the allegations, tweeting, "If it looks as though if you can't get elected president, you try to get litigated president."
Many Hamilton County voters, however, expressed a lack of confidence in the results of this year's presidential election even before the vote counting began. A Times Free Press survey of 267 local voters during last week's early voting as well as at nearly 20 precincts on Election Day Tuesday found only 13.2% of the respondents saying they were completely confident about the results.
On a 10-point scale with zero being no confidence and 10 being complete confidence, a third of the respondents gave a 5 or less and the average score among all voters sampled was slightly less than 6.6. Some doubts were raised by both Trump and Biden supporters.
Back in Georgia, state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, issued a statement decrying voting irregularities elsewhere in the state and nation.
"From allegedly counting ballots that arrived late in Chatham County, to dismissing poll watchers in Fulton County then resume so-called vote counting, to other suspect events in the metro-Atlanta area, the actions to undermine and steal this election by Democrat operatives is appalling," Mullis said. "Actions just like this are taking place all over America. Some states are not even allowing poll watchers to view the counting process and we have seen ballots from people who have been deceased for a long time.
"This lawlessness continues to illustrate that there is nothing 'democratic' about the Democrat Party. The people of Georgia deserve better than this. They deserve to have confidence in their electoral process."
Northwest Georgia's Republican Congresswoman-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene, who in the past has expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory — which holds among other things that as president Trump is carrying out a campaign against Satan-worshipping, blood-drinking Democratic pedophiles — sought to raise alarms about voting in a tweet stating, "Stop the Steal!"
She later criticized U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, who had tweeted that "if Trump loses, he loses. It was never an impossible outcome and we must accept the final results when it's over. But the unfortunate reality is that there is very little trust in the process, here irregularities have been flagrant and transparency lacking."
Tweeted Greene in response: "Republicans can't back down. This loser mindset is how the Democrats win. President Trump has fought for us, we have to fight for him. We won't forget. Trust me."
On Friday, Chattanooga Democrat Glenn Scruggs, who on Tuesday lost his state Senate District 10 challenge to incumbent Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, jabbed at Greene in a tweet in which he celebrated results showing Biden ahead of Trump in Georgia.
"Dear Georgia," wrote Scruggs, who carried Hamilton County portions of the state Senate District Tuesday, "This makes up for you guys sending Marjorie Greene to Congress...
Notably absent from the partisan warfare were Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, and retiring U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee. Spokespeople for both elected officials did not respond to a reporter's request for an explanation of why they're not entering the fray.
Republican U.S. Sen.-elect Bill Hagerty, Trump's former U.S. ambassador to Japan who will replace Alexander in January, did jump in.
"I agree with President @realDonaldTrump, we must protect the sanctity of the ballot box. That means every vote legally cast must be counted. We can't allow a lack of transparency to harm our election system," he tweeted.
As Trump began making allegations about illegal votes and other issues on Thursday, the bipartisan National Council on Election Integrity — a group of more than 40 former elected officials, former Cabinet secretaries, retired military officials and civic leaders — weighed in.
The group's members include one-time Republican U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, a Hamilton County Republican.
"The president spent 15 minutes using the podium of the White House to make false claims that undermine the integrity of our elections and do a disservice to the hard-working election officials around the nation who have performed their duties admirably," the group stated. "There is absolutely no basis for these irresponsible claims.
"Politicians can say whatever they choose, but it is the American people who decide their leaders, not the other way around. Our constitutional process demands we count every vote."
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 616-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1. Dave Flessner contributed to this article. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6340.