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Attention, Andy Harris: Supporting Trump’s lies about the election is unpatriotic | COMMENTARY

In 2016, then President-elect Donald Trump, Rep. Andy Harris (center, top) and Rudy Giuliani (right) shared a suite box on the Navy side during the second quarter of the Army-Navy football game in Baltimore. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)
In 2016, then President-elect Donald Trump, Rep. Andy Harris (center, top) and Rudy Giuliani (right) shared a suite box on the Navy side during the second quarter of the Army-Navy football game in Baltimore. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun) (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)

On his Facebook page since Election Day, Maryland’s 1st District Rep. Andy Harris saluted veterans on Veterans Day and the Marines on the 245th anniversary of the Corps. It’s what you’d expect from a member of Congress and particularly Harris, who served 17 years as a medical officer in the Naval Reserve.

Honoring the U.S. military at every turn, in social media or in speeches at public events, affirms the nation’s gratitude for the service of active and retired members of the U.S. military. It also shores up a politician’s patriotic credentials. There’s no surer — or easier — way for a congressman to affirm love of country than by consistently and publicly saluting our military.

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But, also since Election Day, Andy Harris has done something thoroughly unpatriotic. The Republican congressman has helped spread the lie that our election was rigged or deeply flawed.

Harris, who won reelection last month in his very red and very gerrymandered district, has supported President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that the election was “stolen,” and that Trump was the winner, not Joe Biden.

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In media interviews, Harris claimed without evidence that there had been “widespread voter irregularities, maybe even the creation of ballots.” He made some of the same far-fetched claims that have been made by Trump and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, in numerous lawsuits that by now have been dismissed as groundless.

Trump’s repeated accusations that our election was rigged are poisonous to our democracy, and congressional Republicans, either with expressed support or silence, are complicit in Trump’s efforts to build the myth of illegitimacy.

A few leading Republicans have started to come around to acknowledge Biden’s victory.

On Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr said the FBI and the Department of Justice had not found any evidence of fraud that would have changed the outcome of the election, a stunning statement from a man who has served more as the president’s counsel than as the nation’s top law enforcement official.

Given that — and given that elections officials of both parties in dozens of states have found no fraud, and given Biden’s wide margin of victory (approaching 7 million votes) — I sent the following questions to Harris’ staff:

  1. Does Rep. Harris acknowledge Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election and as president-elect?
  2. Does Rep. Harris believe there were irregularities and/or acts of fraud in the election, as President Trump repeatedly suggests, or has he moved off that opinion?
  3. Does the congressman believe President Trump should concede?

Harris did not respond to my questions.

So it’s reasonable to assume that he is still onboard with Trump as the president continues to lie about the election and seed doubt about the Biden victory.

It’s a sound assumption given Harris’s signature on a letter that he and four other Republican representatives sent to Barr last Friday.

This regards Giuliani’s disgraceful efforts to overturn the election.

In a recent column, I cited federal and state sanctions for attorneys who bring frivolous lawsuits. The batch of lawsuits Giuliani and other Trump lawyers unleashed over the last month appear to fit that category of litigation, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. More than 30 such lawsuits in Texas, Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Nevada have been dismissed by judges or dropped.

In a particularly goofy news conference on Nov. 19, Giuliani stood next to attorney Sidney Powell as she issued wild conspiracy theories about the election — so wild that the Trump campaign had to disavow her. Powell’s performance, with Giuliani standing by, was comically bizarre.

But there’s nothing funny about any of this.

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Polling suggests that substantial numbers of Republicans believe the election was rigged. Trump’s incessant lying about the results and Giuliani’s lawsuits are responsible for that; they exploit the predisposition of Trump supporters that only widespread fraud could account for Biden’s win. We are left with the real possibility that the myth of a stolen election already has taken hold.

A Democratic congressman from New Jersey, Bill Pascrell, decided to do something about this. He filed complaints in five states against Giuliani and nearly two dozen other attorneys, alleging ethical breaches in the filing of frivolous lawsuits on Trump’s behalf. Pascrell thinks the attorneys should be disbarred.

Andy Harris?

He thinks Pascrell should be investigated.

Harris is one of five House Republicans who claim Trump’s civil rights are being violated with Pascrell’s call for the disbarment of his attorneys. It’s a counteroffensive based on the claim that Trump has every right to litigate the election. His attorneys, the Republican House members told Barr, should not be punished “solely because those attorneys attempted to represent President Donald Trump in his efforts to secure the integrity of the 2020 Presidential Election.”

But, of course, there is no evidence that the election was rigged in Biden’s favor. The accusations are based on nonsense. The assertions of irregularities have been dismissed by courts, national security officials and now even Trump’s Attorney General.

Andy Harris knows all this.

He claims high ground when it comes to being a faithful, troops-supporting American, but he’s part of a Republican campaign to weaken confidence in the outcome of our election.

This isn’t about political ideology. It’s about facts. It’s about recognizing the winner and supporting the next president to get the country you claim to love through a horrible pandemic and economic misery. There is nothing patriotic about supporting a loser’s poisonous attacks on our democracy.

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