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GOP increasingly accepts Trump’s defeat — just not in public

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WASHINGTON — When Kamala Har­ris returned to the Sen­ate this week for the first time as vice pres­i­dent-elect, her Repub­li­can col­leagues offered their con­grat­u­la­tions and Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham greet­ed her with a fist bump.

It was a sign that many Repub­li­cans have pri­vate­ly acknowl­edged what they refuse to say open­ly: Demo­c­rat Joe Biden and Har­ris won the elec­tion and will take office in Jan­u­ary.

The GOP’s pub­lic silence on the real­i­ty of Biden’s vic­to­ry amounts to tac­it approval of Trump’s base­less claims of elec­tion fraud. That has sig­nif­i­cant reper­cus­sions, delay­ing the tran­si­tion dur­ing a dead­ly pan­dem­ic, sow­ing pub­lic doubt and endan­ger­ing Biden’s abil­i­ty to lead the por­tion of the coun­try that may ques­tion his legit­i­ma­cy.

“The real-world con­se­quences are per­ilous,” said Eddie Glaude, chair of the Depart­ment of African Amer­i­can stud­ies at Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty. “The long-term impli­ca­tions are cal­ci­fy­ing the doubt about the elec­tion and what that means for the body politic. It could lead to half the coun­try not just being deeply sus­pi­cious of the demo­c­ra­t­ic process but also active­ly hos­tile toward it. It becomes dif­fi­cult to imag­ine how we move for­ward.”

Repub­li­cans are clos­ing the Trump era much the way they start­ed it: by join­ing the pres­i­dent in shat­ter­ing civic norms and sow­ing uncer­tain­ty in insti­tu­tions. But their efforts to main­tain a pub­lic face of sup­port for the pres­i­dent began to dete­ri­o­rate on Wednes­day.

Back­room whis­pers about the futil­i­ty of Trump’s legal fight have become loud­er after Trump lawyer Rudy Giu­liani appeared in a Penn­syl­va­nia court­room mak­ing wide and unsub­stan­ti­at­ed claims of vot­er fraud in seek­ing to undo the elec­tion results. Asked about the case, Sen. Pat Toomey, R‑Pa., said, “Let me just say, I don’t think they have a strong case.”

And when White House chief of staff Mark Mead­ows vis­it­ed with Sen­ate Repub­li­cans, he encour­aged them to “make the most” of their remain­ing time with Trump, accord­ing to two sen­a­tors.

Sen. John Cornyn, R‑Texas, said the mes­sage from Mead­ows was “basi­cal­ly just that we got about 45 days left of the president’s term.” Mead­ows told them the admin­is­tra­tion want­ed to make sure that if the sen­a­tors “had ideas of things that the White House could and should do dur­ing that peri­od of time, that we got them to him.”

But even then, there remained a glim­mer of denial.

“But he did, I have to be hon­est with you, he did say whether it’s 45 days or four years and 45 days,” Cornyn added.

Despite the pri­vate admis­sions, there has been no pub­lic effort to nudge Trump toward the exit.

Trump has declined to con­cede the pres­i­den­tial race and is mount­ing legal fights in sev­er­al states, but there has been no indi­ca­tion or evi­dence of vot­er irreg­u­lar­i­ties or wide­spread fraud in the elec­tion. The Trump-appoint­ed head of the Gen­er­al Ser­vices Admin­is­tra­tion has held off on for­mal­ly begin­ning the Biden tran­si­tion to the White House, slow­ing the incom­ing administration’s abil­i­ty to pre­pare to grap­ple with a wors­en­ing pan­dem­ic that has already killed 250,000 Amer­i­cans.

Trump’s refusal to accept the results means the elec­tion dis­putes could drag on for weeks as states cer­ti­fy their tal­lies or push to mid-Decem­ber, when the Elec­toral Col­lege is set to vote. And base­less claims about elec­tion fraud have filled con­ser­v­a­tive media with­out any rebut­tal from Repub­li­cans, poten­tial­ly under­min­ing the Biden pres­i­den­cy before it even begins.

A Mon­mouth Uni­ver­si­ty poll released Wednes­day showed that while 95% of Democ­rats believe the elec­tion was “fair and square,” only 18% of Repub­li­cans do, while 70% of GOP vot­ers believe some vot­er fraud took place.

A sense of paral­y­sis has set in at the White House.

The West Wing has been hol­lowed out, with staffers quar­an­ti­ning after COVID-19 expo­sures and oth­ers active­ly look­ing for new jobs. The pres­i­dent has remained in the Oval Office well into the night but has stayed out of the pub­lic eye, tweet­ing base­less claims while large­ly giv­ing up on gov­ern­ing and not tak­ing a sin­gle ques­tion from a reporter since Elec­tion Day.

Repub­li­cans have said pri­vate­ly there’s not much they can do except wait, giv­ing the pres­i­dent the time and space he needs to see the results for him­self. Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Mitch McConnell, per­ceived by some Repub­li­cans as the one man who could urge Trump to coop­er­ate with the Biden tran­si­tion, has instead stead­fast­ly backed the pres­i­dent, say­ing he’s “100% with­in his rights” to legal­ly con­test the results.

GOP law­mak­ers have point­ed to the more than 70 mil­lion votes that Trump gar­nered as well as his over­whelm­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty with Repub­li­cans, includ­ing among their respec­tive bases of sup­port back home. The chat­ter that Trump is already eye­ing a 2024 cam­paign has also frozen Repub­li­cans wary of his Twit­ter account, and they have also expressed fear that being per­ceived as forc­ing the pres­i­dent to the exit may trig­ger the tem­pera­men­tal chief exec­u­tive to make fur­ther risky deci­sions, such as troop draw­downs or more dis­missals on the nation­al secu­ri­ty staff.

And, of course, there is Geor­gia.

Repub­li­cans need to win one of the two runoff elec­tions set for Jan­u­ary in the state in order to hang onto their Sen­ate major­i­ty and pre­vent a Demo­c­ra­t­ic sweep of Wash­ing­ton. Although Trump has not yet sig­naled much inter­est in help­ing with the races, Repub­li­cans have made the cal­cu­la­tion that keep­ing his base fired up may be their best chance to secure a vic­to­ry in a state where Biden has a nar­row lead. (The Asso­ci­at­ed Press has not yet called that race.)

“Trump is behav­ing exact­ly as every­one should have expect­ed he would do. Noth­ing he has done in the last two weeks is out of char­ac­ter,” said Alex Conant, a Repub­li­can strate­gist who advised Flori­da Sen. Mar­co Rubio’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial bid. “And Sen­ate Repub­li­cans are respond­ing to him the same way they always do: Ignore him and focus on the Sen­ate cal­en­dar.”

“But there’s no guar­an­tee this works out well for Repub­li­cans.”

eo65LdF4DeA - GOP increasingly accepts Trump’s defeat — just not in public

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