A few cracks, but no big GOP break with Trump on Biden win
Resistance is still impeding effort at smooth transition
WASHINGTON — The most powerful Republicans in Washington stood firmly behind President Donald Trump and his unsupported claims of voter fraud on Thursday, but new cracks emerged among GOP leaders elsewhere who believe it’s time for the administration to treat Democrat Joe Biden like the president-elect.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who endorsed Trump’s re-election, became the latest Republican official to say what Trump and his allies have not publicly accepted. The GOP governor acknowledged that Biden’s lead is getting “bigger and bigger by the day” and
Trump’s legal options are dissipating.
“Joe Biden is the president-elect and I think, like most Americans, we suspect he’ll be taking the oath of office in January,” Sununu told reporters, insisting there was no legal fraud in his state, which Biden easily carried.
That’s a departure from the overwhelming majority of Republican officials who still refuse to publicly accept Biden’s victory. The resistance is complicating Biden’s effort to lead a smooth transition to the January inauguration, keeping him from the funding and agency resources that the law affords an incoming administration.
Worried about the national security implications of those hurdles, some Republicans are beginning to say that Biden should at least have access to intelligence briefings so he has the most complete information about
threats facing the country when he takes office.
“I think, especially on classified briefings, the answer is yes,” said the Senate’s most senior Republican, Chuck Grassley of Iowa. However, Grassley also said he saw no reason for Biden to have fuller transition access, sticking with an approach from the disputed 2000 election that was later blamed as a national security shortcoming in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
The Republicans willing to break publicly with Trump’s unprecedented effort to undermine the election remain an extremely small minority. Just a handful of the Senate’s 53 and five of the 28 Republican governors had publicly recognized Biden as the president-elect as of Thursday afternoon.
Many Trump allies in Washington see no path to a Trump victory but remain wary of crossing the outgoing Republican president, or his supporters, especially with control of the Senate still uncertain.
That’s likely why, even in the face of overwhelming evidence of Biden’s victory, senior Republicans continue to support the president’s claims even as he loses a mounting number of legal challenges.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., suggested Thursday that Biden doesn’t need intelligence briefings because Trump might remain president in the new year.
“He’s not president right now. Don’t know if he will be Jan. 20, but whoever is will get the information,” McCarthy said of Biden at his weekly news conference.
Biden’s victory is not actually an open question. He’s already well exceeded the 270 Electoral College votes to clinch the presidency.
There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. In fact, election officials from both political parties have stated publicly that the election went well and international observers confirmed there were no serious irregularities.
But beyond Washington, several high-profile Republicans warn that a Trump fight to undermine the election results for selfish reasons could do lasting damage to American democracy.
“I am deeply troubled at the general acceptance of unproven allegations that undermine our electoral system,” Utah’s incoming governor, Spencer Cox, wrote on Twitter, citing the significant number of Democrats who doubted the legitimacy of Trump’s 2016 election victory. “It was wrong then, and it’s wrong now.”
The General Services Administration has missed a deadline to say whether the decision to not recognize Biden is at the personal direction of Trump.
Three House Democrats wrote to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy on Monday questioning why the agency has not issued an ascertainment that Biden is in fact the president-elect.
The lawmakers set a deadline Wednesday for a reply and received none, a House Democratic aide confirmed Thursday morning. Separately, CQ Roll Call highlighted those questions for both the GSA and the White House, and received no reply.
“This is a very difficult time, and the importance of this transition time to assure continuity of government and continuity of government services,” former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Tuesday on a call organized by the Coronavirus War Room.
One Republican senator who thinks the transition planning should get under way is Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
The acting chairman of the Intelligence Committee said that he thought the contingencies should be in place for the presidential transition, and he dismissed the idea that taking basic steps to begin the transition would undermine Trump.
“I don’t think allowing GSA to move forward with the transition work in any way prejudices any of the legal claims the president has had to bring,” Rubio told reporters on Capitol Hill.