US Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has said Donald Trump is “100% within his rights” to question election results and consider legal options after his defeat by Joe Biden.
The senior Republican’s first public comments since the result was declared came as the president’s allies on Capitol Hill have been reluctant to congratulate Mr Biden or push Mr Trump to accept the outcome.
Mr McConnell said the process will play out and “reach its conclusion”.
Mr Trump has declined to concede the presidential race and is mounting legal fights, but there has been no indication or evidence of voter irregularities or widespread fraud in the election.
“Our institutions are actually built for this,” Mr McConnell said as he opened the Senate. “We have the system in place to consider concerns and President Trump is 100% within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options.”
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the Republicans’ refusal to stand by the election results is “extremely dangerous, extremely poisonous to our democracy”.
He said election lawsuits can be valid but they must be based on evidence and facts.
“Joe Biden won the election fair and square,” Mr Schumer said.
While some Republican state officials invoked the Trump mantra that only “legal votes” should be counted, others emerged to counter the campaign narrative and urge voters, and perhaps the president, to support the results.
“The process has not failed our country in more than 200 years, and it is not going to fail our country this year,” said Republican senator Susan Collins, who won her re-election bid in Maine and has congratulated Mr Biden on his victory.
Across the country, Republicans have complained about problems with the signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on ballots, the inability of their poll watchers to scrutinise them and the extensions granted for mail-in ballots to arrive.
However, judges largely rejected the Republican challenges as the campaign sought to interrupt the vote count as it leaned toward Mr Biden.