Crying fraud, Trump blocks a Biden transition
President Trump continued to insist this week that he’d been cheated of victory in the presidential election, even as his campaign’s lawsuits alleging voting improprieties were repeatedly dropped or rejected. His aides acknowledged privately that he had no chance of prevailing. “He knows it’s over,” said one. After North Carolina and Georgia were called, Joe Biden emerged with a decisive Electoral College win, with 306 votes to Trump’s 232, and a popular vote lead of more than 5.5 million. But Trump’s administration continued to freeze out Biden’s transition team, and most Republican lawmakers joined Trump in refusing to acknowledge Biden’s win. Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, told The Washington Post that Sen. Lindsey Graham had suggested he throw out all mail ballots in counties with high rates of mismatched signatures. On Tuesday, Trump fired the director of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity arm, Chris Krebs, who’d issued a statement calling the election “the most secure in American history.” Trump momentarily seemed to acknowledge his loss Sunday, tweeting that Biden “won because the Election was Rigged.” But he quickly reversed himself, tweeting, “I concede NOTHING! We have a long way to go.”
More than 15 lawsuits alleging voter fraud and other wrongdoing were dropped or dismissed by judges; election-law experts described them as insubstantial, laced with hearsay and such complaints as that Republican poll watchers felt uncomfortable. “This is just purely outlandish stuff,” said attorney Barry Richard, who worked on George W. Bush’s 2000 recount case. As court defeats mounted, Trump and his allies were pressuring Republican officials in close-fought states to ignore election results and appoint Trump electors—a radical step officials in several states said was off the table.
Biden named several key staff members, appointing Beltway veteran Ron Klain as his chief of staff and his campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, as deputy chief. He stepped up his criticism of Trump’s intransigence, calling it “embarrassing for the country” and saying the administration risked American lives by refusing to work with his team to plan coronavirus vaccine distribution. “More people will die if we don’t coordinate,” he said.
What the editorials said
“The results are clear,” said The New York Times, so Republicans must stop “indulging Trump’s tantrum.” A presidential transition “is a monumental undertaking,” and executing it successfully is vital to national security. By blocking the incoming team’s access to classified information and agency officials, Trump is “creating a worrisome opportunity for America’s foreign adversaries to exploit.” “Where’s the evidence” of election chicanery? asked The Wall Street Journal. Trump’s “latest argument is that voting machines must have been rigged,” and he and his allies are claiming the machines supplied by the company Dominion somehow “deleted” millions of his votes. Their conspiracy theory is that Dominion is connected to the Clintons, or Nancy Pelosi, or Venezuela, or China, but the evidence shows there are no such ties. For the good of the country, these unfounded rumors “should be put to rest.”
What the columnists said
Republicans are following Trump down a destructive path, said Dan Hannan in WashingtonExaminer.com. They “have every reason to be satisfied” with their gains on Nov. 3, having picked up House seats and defended vulnerable senators. But they are risking their advantage in the Georgia Senate runoffs with “petty and graceless” obstructionism. If Republicans make those elections a referendum on the Democrats’ far-left extremism, the GOP will win. If it’s “all about Trump,” they may lose one or both seats.
Trump’s would-be coup is “pathetic,” said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com, but it is an attempted coup nonetheless—“a banana-republic maneuver” to invalidate a free and fair election. Whether you’ll back an insurrection “is the easiest possible test” of your commitment to democracy. From Sen. Graham to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, many “prominent Republicans are failing it.” Privately, they justify it as playacting to appease an overgrown toddler who can’t accept losing, said Alex Pareene in NewRepublic.com. But millions of outraged Trump supporters think this cheesy show is real, and will always believe the election was stolen.
It’s even more dangerous that some Trump allies are talking about the “thermonuclear” option, said Rich Lowry in Politico.com: “Republican state legislatures taking matters into their own hands.” Pressuring state lawmakers to override the voters’ will by appointing Trump electors stands out “as radical and destructive even in a year when we’ve been debating court packing and defunding the police.”
American democracy seems to have prevailed—“for now,” said Perry Bacon Jr. in FiveThirtyEight.com. But even if Trump exits the White House on Jan. 20, we’re witnessing “party-wide normalization of refusal to concede loss and transfer power.” A very important line has been crossed. If just one or two states were in play, would the GOP fully back Trump’s efforts to throw out votes and declare victory? “Next time a Trump-like figure emerges” we may find out—and the signs are deeply troubling.
Trump can’t stretch this out forever, said Andrew Prokop in Vox.com. “Actual deadlines are fast approaching” that promise to end his bid to overturn the election results. The states all have looming deadlines for certifying results over the next week, and the Electoral College casts its votes Dec. 14, at which point Biden’s win becomes official. That will be an obvious cue for Trump’s Republican allies “to make it clear that enough is enough.” Trump will probably then bow to reality and give up the ghost, though “we won’t know for sure until he actually does it.” Inauguration Day promises one of the “iciest transitions of power in U.S. history,” said Scott Martelle in the Los Angeles Times. It’s hard to picture Trump “sitting quietly among the dignitaries as Biden places his hand on the Bible.” More likely he’ll follow Andrew Johnson’s lead and skip it, retreating to Mar-a-Lago to “lob tweets from afar as the nation moves forward, finally, without him.”
Cover illustration by Fred Harper.
Cover photos from Reuters, Getty, AP ■