This story was updated at 6:52 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, with more information.
NASHVILLE — U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, said Friday that while there is a "right way" to contest an election such as seeking recounts or taking vote fraud allegations before courts, he thinks President Donald Trump and his allies are crossing a line in trying to persuade election officials or lawmakers to reverse the outcome of the election.
"The right way to contest is to ask for a recount where appropriate and if he finds fraud take it to court," Alexander, a three-term senator who ran for president in 1996 and 2000, told the Times Free Press in an interview. "The wrong way to do it is try to persuade state legislators to send a substitute slate of electors instead of letting the vote of the people determine the winner."
It's the strongest statement Alexander has made so far regarding the ongoing efforts by Trump and allies to nullify results showing Democratic nominee Joe Biden has won a majority of electoral votes in key states with Trump and others raising unproven allegations of widespread fraud.
The Associated Press earlier Friday reported Trump summoned a delegation of Republican lawmakers from Michigan, including the state's Senate majority leader and House speaker, in an apparent extension of his efforts to convince judges and lawmakers in the state to set aside Biden's 154,000-vote margin of victory and grant Trump the state's electors.
Also on Friday, U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, tweeted that "having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the President has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election."
Romney, Republicans' 2012 presidential nominee, also said "it is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President."
Noting it took 37 days and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling for Democrat Al Gore of Tennessee to finally concede the 2000 presidential race to Republican George W. Bush's victory, Alexander said that when Gore spoke he "made the best speech of his life and he accepted the result and congratulated the winner, which is what I would hope the loser would do to the winner in this case.
"And," Alexander added, "we're not far away from that conclusion because the electors vote Dec. 14 will be certified by the end of the month, so it's getting increasingly likely that Joe Biden is the president-elect."
Earlier Friday, Alexander said the Trump administration should begin providing Biden's transition team with access to materials to "ensure a smooth transition."
"If there is any chance whatsoever that Joe Biden will be the next president, and it looks like he has a very good chance, the Trump Administration should provide the Biden team with all transition materials, resources and meetings necessary to ensure a smooth transition so that both sides are ready on day one," Alexander said in a statement.
Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, said "that especially should be true, for example, on vaccine distribution."
The state's senior senator, who has up until now said little on Trump's ongoing efforts to press allegations of vote fraud in key states with no evidence of problems with a wide enough scale to impact the outcome, also said that "recounting votes and resolving disputes after a close election is not unprecedented and should reassure Americans that election results are valid."
He said "my hope is that the loser of this presidential election will follow Al Gore's example, put the country first, congratulate the winner and help him to a good beginning of the new term. The prompt and orderly transfer or reaffirmation of immense power after a presidential election is the most enduring symbol of our democracy."
Former Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker of Chattanooga weighed in earlier on Friday, saying on Twitter, "While the president has the right to legitimate legal challenges, responsible citizens cannot let the reckless actions by him and his legal team stand. Republicans have an obligation when the subject is of such importance to challenge demagoguery and patently false statements."
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