As the lumbering process of American democracy moves forward, any lingering illusions that Donald Trump has a chance of a second term as president are about to evaporate, and many of his own staffers and supporters are beginning to acknowledge it.
Tuesday marks the arrival of “safe harbor” day, the deadline set by federal law for states to resolve challenges to election results, locking in the 538 electors who will meet in their state capitols to vote on Dec. 14. All of the battleground states contested by the Trump campaign — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada and Georgia — have certified results showing Joe Biden as the winner.
The final step before Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20 is for Congress to meet on Jan. 6 to receive the Electoral College votes and declare a winner. Although Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., has said he plans to challenge Biden’s victory, the process is basically a formality.
In a long-shot effort to persuade Republican state lawmakers to ignore the poll results and appoint electors who would support Trump anyway, the president’s campaign mounted a multistate search for evidence that the election results were tainted by fraud and errors. But pretty much all it turned up were conspiracy theories and hearsay accounts by poll workers and voters who seemed not to understand what they claimed to have seen.
While Trump’s legal team presented its accusations of fraud to panels of Republican state lawmakers, it largely steered clear of making such claims in actual courtrooms, where there are consequences for raising false or bad-faith arguments. The cases that have been argued in court haven’t gone well for the president and his allies. On Monday, two more federal judges ruled against Trump loyalist Sidney (“The Kraken”) Powell, who sought to have the certification of votes in Michigan and Georgia tossed out. The legal strategy has proved a redundant and futile bid to convince judges to simply overturn the will of the voters.
Even in the face of more than 40 courtroom defeats, Trump continued on Monday to insist he had actually defeated Biden.
“In politics, I won two, so I’m 2-0,” Trump said at a White House ceremony honoring wrestler Dan Gable. “That’s pretty good, too. We’ll see how that turns out.”
But with Trump’s lead lawyer Rudy Giuliani hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19 and the courtroom losses continuing to pile up, it is clear that “safe harbor” day will provide nothing of the sort for the 45th president.
Between rapidly approaching deadlines, Giuliani being hospitalized and a string of court losses, there is a sense developing internally that the Trump legal team’s efforts are coming to a close, according to multiple people. Fewer calls, meetings happening, etc.
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) December 7, 2020
Absent some as-yet-undiscovered legal lifeline, finalizing the slates of electors pledged to support the winner of their respective states, the writing on the wall for Trump and his supporters is clear.
The tally shows that Biden won states and districts accounting for 306 Electoral College votes to 232 for Trump — coincidentally, the identical margin by which Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016, a result he has described as a “landslide.”
Even some members of the Trump administration have begun to acknowledge the inevitable. On Monday, Larry Kudlow, Trump’s chief economic adviser, praised Biden’s pick of Janet Yellen to lead the Federal Reserve.
“She has very sensible views on the economy,” Kudlow told the Washington Post’s Robert Costa.
Kudlow also sent a post-election note of congratulations to Biden economic adviser Jared Bernstein.
While Kudlow’s is the most explicit acknowledgment to date from a member of the administration that Biden will be the 46th president, there are other signs that the race is finally over.
White House communications director Alyssa Farrah announced last week that she was resigning her position “to pursue new opportunities.”
Though Trump spent his weekend promoting falsehoods about the results in Georgia and other states, giving voters the impression that he still may be heading for reelection, his own press secretary acknowledged that was not the case.
In a Sunday interview with Fox News, Kayleigh McEnany made clear that if Democrats won two runoff elections for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, the GOP would lose control of the chamber.
“Right now, if we lose these two Senate seats, guess who’s casting the deciding vote in this country for our government? It will be [Vice President-elect] Kamala Harris,” she said.
The only way this could be true, of course, is if Biden and Harris were in fact the winners.
While still rarely acknowledged openly by most members of the administration, Trump’s loss will ultimately come as no surprise to most Washington Republicans.
In an interview last week, former White House adviser Kellyanne Conway edged even closer to the truth.
“If you look at the vote totals in the Electoral College tally, it looks like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will prevail,” Conway told the 19th. “I assume the electors will certify that and it will be official. We, as a nation, will move forward, because we always do.”
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