Dominic Raab repeatedly refused to say whether all votes should be counted in the US presidential election in a jaw-dropping interview.
The foreign secretary insisted that he would not be “dragged into” questions over the legitimacy of the vote – which has been decisively declared in Joe Biden’s favour – in remarks branded “astonishing by Sky News anchor Sophy Ridge, who shook her head and rolled her eyes.
Raab has already courted controversy in his reaction to Donald Trump’s defeat, after qualifying his congratulations to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris with a warning that “some processes are still playing out” in a tweet on Saturday night.
‘Statement of fact’
Pressed on Sky, Raab denied that his tweet had played into Trump’s baseless claims that the election had been stolen from him.
“It’s a statement of fact that we haven’t had the formal statement by the Electoral College, and of course, there’ll be appeals going on and I make no apologies as foreign secretary for treading very sensitively and carefully whilst we waited for the clarity of the result,” he said.
“We’ve got that clarity and we offer the new administration, president-elect Biden and vice president-elect Harris, our full support, and we look forward to working with them in the future.
“But I think it’s right that we’re careful to respect the sensitivities, and indeed the integrity of the US process. That’s incumbent on me as foreign secretary.”
An outraged Ridge responded: “The question is, do you think all votes should be counted in a democratic election? I find it astonishing there’s not an answer to that.”
Asked to clarify his remark about “processes” still to be completed, Raab said: Asked what he meant about processes still to be completed, he said: “We know for example there’s going to be recounts. We know that in relation to some of the states, we know in relation to some of the Senate seats.
“But we can also say that the result is clear now, I don’t think that’s pre-empting those other processes, which is exactly why I said we should tread sensitively to respect the integrity of the process.
“I’ve been very clear we were very confident the checks and balances in the US system that will produce a definitive result, and I think we’ve got one now.”
‘Don’t want to get sucked in’
Raab eventually admitted that it was right “in principle” that all votes were counted. But, he added, “it is not for us to start adjudicating on the appeals, the legal claims and the counterclaims.
“But what we have said is the result is now very clear. It’s beyond reasonable doubt, in my view, and we welcome the new administration.
“I’m not going to get drawn into the legal claims about whether or not all the votes, have properly been counted when you look at the mailed votes, the votes in person, and the claims that have been made for example about the posted military ballots. So I just don’t want to get sucked into that.”
Watch the full exchange here.