Jim Inhofe retirement, election fraud
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) speaks with media members on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Tulsa. (Dylan Goforth / The Frontier)

WASHINGTON — Oklahoma’s senior senator broke ranks with the Republican Party today, saying there was no evidence of election fraud despite months of unsubstantiated allegations and claims at this past weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference convention.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, a staunch Trump ally, has remained largely silent about the former president’s election fraud claims, saying initially that Trump “has a lot of reasons to believe there is fraud” before voting to certify Biden’s electoral college victory on Jan. 6.

Gaylord NewsThis story was reported by Gaylord News, a Washington reporting project of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.

“(Other Republicans) are trying to say that there’s so much fraud in the election, and it just wasn’t true,” Inhofe said. “But even (Trump’s) own attorney general, (William) Barr (…) said no, there was theft, and there’s corruption in every election, but not to the level that would have changed the outcome.”

After the Nov. 3 election, former Attorney General William Barr said that he had “not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election.” Barr also refused to name a special counsel to investigate Trump’s claims.

Trump gave his first speech since leaving office at the CPAC convention on Sunday, repeating false claims that “illegal aliens and dead people” voted in the election. He said he would not be creating a new political party

“This election was rigged, and the Supreme Court and other courts didn’t want to do anything about it,” Trump said to cheers from the audience.

But Inhofe said Tuesday that those claims were false.

The day before, an election lawyer speaking as part of a panel at CPAC said “there’s zero evidence” voting machines switched votes, a false but popular election fraud theory.

Inhofe did not attend or participate in CPAC.

U.S. Sen. James Lankford is the only member of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation who participated in the conference. Lankford spoke Friday about the freedom of religion aspect of the First Amendment, and he decried pandemic restrictions which he said unfairly restricted places of worship but not bars and restaurants.

The widespread support for election fraud claims at CPAC and Trump’s insistence that he still represents the Republican party shows a sharp divide between Inhofe and his party on this issue.

Because of his break with Trump and other Republicans on these claims, Inhofe said he’s the current “bad guy” in his party.

“So I’ve taken that position, and they’re all mad at me,” Inhofe said. “They’ll get over it.”