WEST PALM BEACH, Florida: Supporters hold up signs as the motorcade with US President Donald Trump drives past on Monday. – AFP

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump is urging supporters to amass in Washington on January 6 for a last-ditch rally to pressure Congress to not certify Joe Biden’s election victory. Thousands of supporters from around the country, from the Women for America First group, to StoptheSteal, to the violent Proud Boys, are expected to descend on the US capital pressing Trump’s unsupported claim that massive voter fraud was behind his defeat in the November 3 election.

Trump tweeted twice this weekend urging supporters to attend, labeling the election “the biggest SCAM in our nation’s history.” “See you in Washington, DC, on January 6th. Don’t miss it,” he wrote Sunday. The rally raised fears of fresh violence after the previous pro-Trump protest that included the Proud Boys on December 12 saw several people stabbed and dozens arrested. Trump appears to hope that the protestors could pressure Congress to reject the final count of state-based electors and reverse his election loss.

“We the People must take to the US Capitol lawn and steps and tell Congress #DoNotCertify,” StopTheSteal declared online. “Congress cannot certify this fraudulent Electoral College,” they said. On January 6 Vice President Mike Pence is to lead Congress in certifying the Electoral College votes submitted by each state, which represent the results of the popular vote. In the joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate, Pence is to open and read the certificates reporting elector tallies from each state, and then declare the victor.

That process should be, as it almost always is, a formality. Democrat Biden captured 306 electors while Republican Trump only won 232. Trump’s campaign has lost dozens of court challenges in several contested states, with judge after judge saying they showed no evidence of any significant fraud. But the session can be stalled if lawmakers from both houses submit formal objections to any state’s report. Alabama Representative Mo Brooks told Fox News on Monday that he has the support of “dozens” of lawmakers to formally challenge the counts.

Meanwhile Trump and supporters have pressured Pence to unilaterally reject some pro-Biden states’ elector certificates, a power legal experts say Pence does not have. Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger on Sunday said it was all an effort by “certain members of Congress and the president” to raise money. “It is a scam and it is going to disappoint the people that believe this election was stolen,” he told CNN.

Pentagon stalling transition
Meanwhile, president-elect Joe Biden said Monday that Donald Trump’s appointees at the Pentagon were stalling on the transition and warned that the United States faces security risks as a result. After he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were briefed by their transition teams on national security, Biden said that political appointees at the Pentagon as well as the Office of Management and Budget had put up “roadblocks.” “Right now, we just aren’t getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security area(s),” Biden said after the briefing. “It is nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility.”

Biden said he was seeking a “clear picture” from the outgoing administration on the force posture of US troops around the world. “We need full visibility into the budget planning underway at the Defense Department and other agencies in order to avoid any window of confusion or catch-up that our adversaries may try to exploit,” Biden said. Trump has refused to concede the November 3 election, which Biden won by some seven million votes and by 306-232 in the state-by-state Electoral College. The president has made unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud.

The Trump administration has drawn concern by shaking up the leadership of the Pentagon since the election including firing defense secretary Mark Esper, who had distanced himself from the president’s use of force against unarmed anti-racism demonstrators earlier this year. Trump’s new acting defense secretary, Chris Miller, has said that the outgoing administration had agreed with Biden’s people to pause briefings for the holiday season, an assertion that the incoming team called untrue.

Miller released a statement Monday saying the Pentagon’s coordination efforts with the transition team “already surpass those of recent administrations with over three weeks to go.” He added that Department of Defense officials would continue working in a “transparent and collegial manner” to support the transition. Trump’s last-minute installation of loyalists at the Pentagon comes amid high tensions with Iran, which Trump blamed for a rocket attack on the US embassy in Iraq ahead of the January anniversary of the US killing in Baghdad of a top Iranian general. – Agencies