Watch Steve Scalise Squirm While Being Asked About the 2020 Election
Is this a model other journalists should follow?
Hello, everyone. I hope you all had a good weekend. Today’s newsletter is about interviews.
It happened! A Sunday political talk show host repeatedly asked a Republican member of Congress whether Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election and shut him down after he refused to give a clear answer. This is pretty rare, save for a few notable exceptions.
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During his interview with House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA/David Duke Without the Baggage), ABC News’ This Week host George Stephanopoulos asked what should have been a straightforward question: Can you say, unequivocally, the 2020 election was not stolen?
The question came in response to outgoing Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO)’s announcement that he was retiring because “Our nation is on a collision course with reality, and a steadfast commitment to truth, even uncomfortable truths, is the only way forward. Too many Republican leaders are lying to America.”
Here’s a link to the clip via ABC News on YouTube.
And here’s a transcript of their exchange, as published on ABC News’ website (bolded emphasis is mine):
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: This week one of your former -- colleagues, Congressman Ken Buck, a Republican of Colorado, said he was leaving, retiring from Congress. And here's what he said on his way out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): Our nation is on a collision course with reality. And a steadfast commitment to truth, even uncomfortable truths, is the only way forward. Too many Republican leaders are lying to America, claiming that the 2020 election was stolen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: He said that you're one of those leaders who has been unequivocal in saying it was a clean election, that Joe Biden did not steal the election.
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): Well, Ken, I’ve worked with, on a number of issues, including getting spending under control, getting our economy back on track. He's talked about that 2020 election as well. You and I have, I think, have talked about that too. At the end of the day, getting our country back on track is our focus. And that’s what we’re focused on right now. That’s why we're moving bills out of the House to address our open border, which, by the way, you don't see this administration wanting to confront when you have people on the terrorist watch list coming across our open border. We want to get our economy moving again by getting energy prices under control.
We just passed a bill Friday that gets no press coverage that stands up to Iran’s ability to sell their oil on world markets. They've made $80 billion since Joe Biden took office, selling their oil on world markets, and then using that money to fund Hamas and other terrorist organizations.
We passed a strong bill will a very bipartisan vote Friday to push back and impose tough sanctions so Iran can't keep making that kind of money. Let's make our energy in America, not let Iran and other bad, hostile countries get that money that they use to fund terrorism. Those are bills we just passed. That’s what our focus has been on, getting our country back on track and supporting our allies and going after our enemies who are emboldened right now by the weakness from this administration. We need stronger action right now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Can you say unequivocally the 2020 election was not stolen?
SCALISE: What I’ve told you, there are states that didn’t follow their laws. That is what the state constitution – the U.S. Constitution requires. You know, I've seen in my own state where we had to send our elections commissioner to jail years ago for fraud and corruption. And we cleaned up our act in our state. Every state ought to follow the laws that are on their books. That’s what the U.S. Constitution says.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s not what I asked. I said, can you say unequivocally that the 2020 election was not stolen?
SCALISE: Look, Joe Biden’s president. I know you and others want to talk about 2020. We’re focused on the future. We’ve talked about 2020 a lot. We're talking about how to get our country back on track, how to get our economy moving, how to stand up to the bad actors around the world.
Xi is not slowing down in China. He's looking at Taiwan. You see what's going on in Russia. You see what Iran is doing to work with Hamas and other terrorist organizations. This administration needs to pick up the pace. They're not standing up to the bad actors around the world they need to. We're passing bills to address this through the House. The Senate needs to take action. The president needs to take action as well. That's what we're focused on in the House.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman, I know that Joe Biden is president. I'm asking you a different question. Can you say unequivocally that the 2020 election was not stolen?
SCALISE: What I’ve told you, and you’ve -- you've seen this -- there are states that didn't follow the laws that are on their books, which is what the U.S. Constitution says they have to do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you -- so you just refuse to say unequivocally that the 2020 election was not stolen?
SCALISE: So, you want to keep rehashing 2020. We’re talking about the future of (INAUDIBLE) threats this country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I just want an answer to the question, yes or no?
SCALISE: We've asked – look, we've talked about this before. But, again, will you acknowledge that there were states that didn't follow the actual state legislative enacted laws on their book, which the U.S. Constitution says they’re supposed to do? Do you know that?
STEPHANOPOULOS: I know that every single – I know that every court that looked at whether the election was stolen said it wasn't, rejected those claims. And I asked you a very, very simple question. Now I've asked it, I think, the fifth time that you can't appear to answer. Can you say unequivocally that the 2020 election was not stolen?
SCALISE: I told you – I told you there were a handful – there were a handful of – there were a handful of states that didn't follow their laws. The rest did. The rest followed. And, again, states that Trump won, States that Biden won that did follow their laws, there were a handful of states that didn’t follow the laws that were on the books. They went to secretaries of state to change the rules of the game and then the voters didn't know what the rules were because ultimately the state laws weren't followed in those states. That's not what the U.S. Constitution says. At some point, we should go back to following the Constitution, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The courts have all followed the Constitution. They all rejected the claims you just made. And I just want to say, again, for the record, you cannot say -- you cannot say that the 2020 election was not stolen?
SCALISE: Or they said there was no standard. They’re – some of them they didn’t reject some of those (INAUDIBLE) standing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes or no, was the 2020 election stolen?
SCALISE: What I've told you is Joe Biden's the president of the United States, and right now, he's failing the country on so many fronts that matter to families.
We're talking about what matters to families today. You can keep talking about 2020. I'm talking about what's wrong with our country today, how to fix the problems, how to secure America's border. You don't want to talk about that because Democrat mayors across the country are talking about how broken our border is, to the point where people on the terrorist watch list from some of these hostile countries are coming into our country today, not just bringing drugs that are killing young people but people that actually want to do us harm. And this president won't take action.
We've passed legislation to fix this problem, to secure our border. The president doesn't want to negotiate with us or with Democrat mayors who are telling him it's a major problem, to big cities like New York, that we should all be concerned about.
So the president can keep talking about the past. You can. We're going to talk about the future and how to help these families who are struggling across America with high gas prices, high prices when they go to the grocery store, every other problem that they're concerned about. That's what we're focused on in this House.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks for your time this morning.
I’m thankful that Stephanopoulos saw through the rhetorical dodge that was Scalise saying that Biden is the president. Yes, yes, we know that Biden is the president. The question is whether or not he was legitimately elected.
Scalise’s go-to claim was that states were not “following the constitution.” I remember this argument from back when I was working at Media Matters in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 election. It boiled down to this: Republicans sued (and almost always failed) in their efforts to block the expansion of early voting and vote-by-mail options for people.
See, there was this whole pandemic thing happening around then (and, well, COVID is still with us, unfortunately), and a lot of people around then were trying to minimize their physical exposure to strangers. As a public health measure, some states moved to make it easier to request a mail-in ballot. Republicans fought to have those votes, cast by eligible voters, thrown away. Republicans weren’t under some delusion that they actually had the support of a majority of voters in these states but sought out technicalities to disenfranchise people to give the GOP a victory it hadn’t actually won.
This strategy was tested, and it failed! Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit claiming that the results of the elections in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Georgia should be thrown out, citing unspecified “significant and unconstitutional irregularities.” Had Paxton gotten his way, the Republican-controlled legislatures of those states would have been given the chance to pick the winner of their state. This would have effectively flipped four states to Trump, handing him the presidency. Thankfully, the Supreme Court rejected this case outright, citing a lack of standing (the state of Texas can’t sue to overturn the results of other states).
Scalise, along with 125 other Republican members of the House, signed on to an Amicus brief filed by now-Speaker of the House Mike Johnson in support of Paxton’s lawsuit. Even Ken Buck, the guy retiring because Republicans are still pushing this three years later, signed on to this attempt to overthrow the Democratic order.
This was all before January 6th. This was the original coup attempt. In fact, I wrote about this on December 15th of that year, begging journalists to “never let Trump’s accomplices live down their attacks on democracy.” For all the attention that the violent mob descending on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th got, we all need to remember that Trump, with the help of guys like Scalise, repeatedly tried to overturn the results without basis.