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Trump faces pressure from Republicans to drop 'corrosive' fight to overturn election

The Guardian logo The Guardian 2 days ago Miranda Bryant in New York and agency
Donald Trump sitting in a car: Photograph: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Donald Trump faced growing pressure from Republicans on Sunday to drop his chaotic, last-ditch fight to overturn the US presidential election, as victor Joe Biden prepared to start naming his cabinet and a Pennsylvania judge compared Trump’s legal case there to “Frankenstein’s monster”.

Donald Trump wearing a hat: Donald Trump at his golf club in Sterling, Virginia as more Republicans rounded on him for failing to concede defeat in the presidential election. © Photograph: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images Donald Trump at his golf club in Sterling, Virginia as more Republicans rounded on him for failing to concede defeat in the presidential election.

Despite Republican leadership in Washington standing behind the president’s claims that the 3 November election was stolen from him by nationwide voter fraud, other prominent figures, including two of his former national security advisers, were blunt.

Related: US election: what happens between now and inauguration day?

Former Trump national security adviser John Bolton said that Biden would be sworn in in January and added: “The real question is how much damage Trump can do before that happens.”

The president’s efforts were designed mainly to sow chaos and confusion, he told CNN’s State of the Union show, as a demonstration more of “raw political power” than a genuine legal exercise.

Bolton noted that the Trump campaign has so far lost all but two of more than 30 legal challenges in various states.

“Right now Trump is throwing rocks through windows, he is the political equivalent of a street rioter,” Bolton said.

And another former Trump administration national security adviser, HR McMaster, told CBS’s Face the Nation that Trump’s efforts were “very corrosive” and warned that his actions were sowing doubt among the electorate.

“It’s playing into the hands of our adversaries,” he said, warning that Russia, for example, “doesn’t care who wins” as long as many Americans doubt the result, undermining US democracy.

On Sunday evening, hours after former New Jersey governor and adviser to the president Chris Christie said Trump’s legal team was a “national embarrassment” the campaign issued a statement distancing itself from lawyer Sidney Powell, who has been a prominent figure arguing the Trump case that the election was fraudulent, while positing wild theories but no evidence.

Meanwhile, Maryland governor, Larry Hogan, another Republican, said he also was confident Biden would be sworn in on schedule on 20 January and said “I’m embarrassed” at the lack of party leadership speaking out to recognize the election result.

Hogan added that he thought Trump’s pressuring last week of state legislators “to somehow try to change the outcome” was “completely outrageous”.

The US used to supervise elections around the world but was now “beginning to look like we’re in a banana republic,” Hogan told CNN’s State of the Union politics show.

Hogan later tweeted, in response to a critical tweet from Trump, who had gone to the golf course for the second time this weekend: “Stop golfing and concede.”

Despite the advice, Trump posted a confused tweet on Sunday night that claimed “there were more votes than people who voted, and in big numbers” in certain swing states. He also repeated baseless claims of fake ballots.

In certain swing states, there were more votes than people who voted, and in big numbers. Does that not really matter? Stopping Poll Watchers, voting for unsuspecting people, fake ballots and so much more. Such egregious conduct. We will win!

On Friday, the president met with Republican leaders from Michigan at the White House in a wild attempt to sway them and leaders in other battleground states in the electoral college to set aside the will of the people and declare Trump the winner, despite officials at local and federal level declaring it the most secure election in American history.

In the latest setback to Trump’s efforts, Matthew Brann, a Republican US district court judge in Pennsylvania, threw out the Trump campaign’s request to disenfranchise almost 7 million voters there.

“This claim, like Frankenstein’s Monster, has been haphazardly stitched together from two distinct theories in an attempt to avoid controlling precedent,” he wrote in a damning order, issued on Saturday.

It came after similar failed court bids in Georgia, Michigan and Arizona to prevent states from certifying their vote totals.

Ruling that Pennsylvania officials can certify election results in the state, where Biden has a lead of more than 80,000 votes, Brann said the Trump campaign presented “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations… unsupported by evidence” in its attempt to challenge a batch of thousands of votes.

Brann also suggested that the Trump campaign’s case demonstrated a failure to understand the US constitution, writing: “Plaintiffs seek to remedy the denial of their votes by invalidating the votes of millions of others. Rather than requesting that their votes be counted, they seek to discredit scores of other votes, but only for one race. This is simply not how the constitution works.”

For Trump to maintain any hope of staying in the White House, he would need to eliminate Biden’s 81,000-vote lead in Pennsylvania. The state is due to start certifying its results on Monday – as is Michigan.

Kristen Clarke, president of the lawyers’ committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said of the Pennsylvania result and forthcoming result certification: “This should put the nail in the coffin on any further attempts by President Trump to use the federal courts to rewrite the outcome of the 2020 election.”

On Sunday afternoon, the Trump campaign filed an appeal against Brann’s ruling in Pennsylvania.

But Christie agreed that it was time for the president to concede and said the legal team fighting to overturn the election was “a national embarrassment”.

Last week, lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell represented the Trump campaign in court and held a long press conference side by side at the Republican National Committee headquarters that was characterized by lies and wild claims about a fraudulent election, without presenting credible evidence.

Related: Sweaty Rudy Giuliani suffers hair malfunction in latest bizarre press conference

Then the Trump election campaign abruptly issued a statement on Powell.

“Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own,” Trump campaign lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis said in the Sunday evening statement. “She is not a member of the Trump Legal Team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity.”

Powell recently represented Michael Flynn, who was briefly Trump’s national security adviser before he was fired and prosecuted, in his tangled criminal case.

Biden has garnered the most votes of a presidential winner in history, recording 6 million more votes than Trump.

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