Donald Trump returned to Washington on Thursday, abruptly cutting short a holiday retreat to his private south Florida resort as the president’s allies on Capitol Hill prepare to mount a last-ditch challenge to Joe Biden’s election victory.
The president had reportedly been in a stormy mood since his arrival at Mar-a-Lago, where he decamped days before Christmas and was originally expected to remain through the New Year’s Eve celebrations.
It was not clear what triggered the president’s change of plans. He declined to answer questions upon boarding for his flight back to the White House on Thursday morning.
But hours before the White House announced that Trump would spend New Year’s Eve in Washington, the Republican senator Josh Hawley of Missouri announced that he would object to the electoral college result when Congress meets on 6 January to affirm Biden as the winner of November’s presidential election.
Trump had been goading his most loyal backers in Congress to stage a final intervention on the floor of the House to try to overturn the results of the election.
The effort to keep Trump in power is all but destined to fail, but it will test Republicans’ loyalty to the president, who maintains a vice-like grip on their party, even after Americans voted to remove him from office after a single term.
Many Senate Republicans had hoped to avoid such a showdown over the certification process, typically a formality. The move by Hawley, a conservative freshman believed to have presidential ambitions, will force his colleagues to publicly affirm or oppose the election results.
Trump lost several battleground states by clear margins. His volley of lawsuits alleging widespread voter fraud in six states he lost have been almost uniformly dismissed, including by the supreme court.
Officials at local and national level declared it the most secure election in American history, and the electoral college voted earlier this month to certify Biden’s 306-232 win.