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Power Up: Trump resists concession as his legal team plans to fan out to key states

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 11/9/2020 Jacqueline Alemany

with Brent D. Griffiths

Gooood Monday morning. Joe Biden will become the 46th president and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris will become the highest -ranking woman in our nation's history. Tips, comments, recipes? Reach out and sign up. Thanks for waking up with us. 

At the White House

‘THE 900-POUND GORILLA’ IN THE ROOM: President Trump has not conceded to President-elect Joe Biden. And he appears to be moving to assert, falsely, that the election was somehow stolen from him, with his team begrudgingly deploying recount operations to Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania.

But not everyone in Trumpworld is on board with this post-election effort. Some Republicans are ready to throw in the towel, and others see the legal effort — which so far has yielded nothing — as a way of appeasing a president who does not like to lose.

  • Pro: “If your basis for not conceding is that there was voter fraud, then show us. Show us. Because if you can’t show us, we can’t do this. We can’t back you blindly without evidence, former New Jersey governor and Trump ally Chris Christie (R) said Sunday.
  • Con: “This is a contested election,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday. “President Trump should not concede. ”
a tractor in a field: President Trump waves to media across the Potomac River as he plays a round of golf at his private club in Sterling, Va. The presidenr went to his club both days this weekend. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images) © Samuel Corum/Getty Images President Trump waves to media across the Potomac River as he plays a round of golf at his private club in Sterling, Va. The presidenr went to his club both days this weekend. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
  • “The legal operation is designed for Trump to save face and ultimately give him the ability to say he didn't lose the election fair and square,” a source close to the White House told Power Up over the weekend. “So we're going to roll with it.” 
  • “It’s not meant to massage his ego, the source added. “It’s meant to give him an avenue to leave in the best possible way.” 
  • “Most people know it’s over, but there are some holdouts,” a senior administration official told our colleagues Toluse Olorunnipa, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, adding that some of his colleagues are looking for jobs.
  • “Advisers including Ronna McDaniel, who leads the Republican National Committee, are publicly fighting on behalf of the president but have acknowledged to others privately that the battle cannot go on for too long, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.”
  • The finger pointing has already started, too: “There are just two people to blame here Trump and Jared,” a campaign source told Power Up, adding that if Trump had more message discipline and strictly ran against lockdowns, “he would have won in a landslide.” 

Rally on: A Trump campaign official confirmed the details first reported by Axios that Trump plans on holding a series of rallies in key states focused on the campaign's litigation efforts. The official would not say whether Trump will rally for embattled Georgia GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who are both in Jan. 5 runoffs that will determine which party controls the Senate. 

  • A Trump campaign source told Power Up that some campaign folks have already been approached by outside groups about going down to Georgia in the next few weeks before the Dec. 7 voter registration deadline.

Four states have yet to declare a winner Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona and Alaska but the math is not in Trump's favor. Biden currently stands at 279 electoral votes after winning Pennsylvania and Nevada over the weekend, which means his legal team would need to successfully overturn the results in multiple states to somehow pull off a win. 

So far, Trump's legal team has made little progress and has been dealt some embarrassing losses. There are also signs “the funding and spending for the Trump legal efforts also speaks to the possibility that this isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” our colleague Aaron Blake reports. 

  • For instance, the campaign is soliciting donations for its ‘official election defense fund,’ but the fine print shows half of the donations are to be used for another purpose: to retire the campaign’s debt,” Blake reports.
  • The Trump campaign has also not, for instance, put up the approximately $3 million required for a recount in Wisconsin. Biden’s margin of victory there is about 0.6 percent, and it’s likely to be the third-closest state, meaning its result would likely need to be overturned for Trump to have any shot. Perhaps the Trump legal team believes that money might be better spent in other ways, given recounts usually only shift a few hundred votes, but it doesn’t exactly suggest an all-hands-on-deck effort.” 

What's next? Still, Trump isn't signaling he's ready to deliver a concession speech. And Republicans are still split: Some have refused to acknowledge Biden's victory while others have spoken out.

  • Republican leaders like Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky have refused to publicly acknowledge Mr. Biden’s victory without necessarily embracing Mr. Trump’s wild claims,” the New York Times's Maggie Haberman, Michael Shear, Maggie Astor and Peter Baker report. “Many of them have either remained silent or have straddled the line with statements calling for all legal votes to be counted, suggesting that the president should be permitted to file any lawsuits or call for any recounts allowed under the law.”
  • George W. Bush became the most prominent Republican to defy Trump, releasing this statement after calling Biden:I extended my warm congratulations” to Biden “and thanked him for the patriotic message he delivered last night I also called [Harris] to congratulate her on her historic election to the vice presidency. Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country.”
  • “The American people can have confidence that this election was fundamentally fair,” Bush added. “Its integrity will be upheld, and its outcome is clear.”

The mixed responses and coddling of the president by top Republicans are an indication that Trumpism is alive and well: “The president is still loved by tens of millions of Americans, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. He can literally do whatever he wants, including running again,” Brad Parscale, his former campaign manager, told our colleagues Bob Costa, Philip Rucker, and Josh Dawsey 

  • “He is without question the most powerful voice in our party. He will have an enormous impact on our party going forward,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a Trump critic, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” after he too said it was time to “get behind” Biden. “I believe the great majority of people who voted for Donald Trump want to make sure that his principles and his policies are pursued. So, yes, he’s not disappearing by any means. He’s the 900-pound gorilla when it comes to the Republican Party. ”
President-elect Biden visits the cemetery where his son Beau, his wife Neilia, and daughter Naomi are buried at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church on Sunday in Wilmington, Del. At right is a member of the U.S. Secret Service keeping watch. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) © Carolyn Kaster/AP President-elect Biden visits the cemetery where his son Beau, his wife Neilia, and daughter Naomi are buried at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church on Sunday in Wilmington, Del. At right is a member of the U.S. Secret Service keeping watch. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

In the agencies

Making history for all the wrong reasons: With Trump joining the small group of incumbent presidents who lost their reelection races, he's also upending the long tradition of offering a public concession. 

  • “In the television age, losing candidates have also made a public concession speech, almost all containing the same elements: 1) an acknowledgment of the will of voters, 2) a prayer or message of support for the winner, 3) a call to heal the divisions of the campaign, and 4) when it applies, a promise of a smooth transition of power,” our colleague Gillian Brockell reports. 

The president's bitter refusal to accept defeat isn't technically a problem for Biden. But the Trump administration's refusal to sign paperwork “officially turning over millions of dollars, as well as give access to government officials, office space in agencies and equipment authorized for the taxpayer-funded transition teams of the winner” could disrupt the transfer of power,  our colleagues Lisa Rein, Jonathan O'Connell and Josh Dawsey report.

  • “But by Sunday evening, almost 36 hours after media outlets projected Biden as the winner, General Services Administration Administrator Emily Murphy had written no such letter. And the Trump administration, in keeping with the president’s failure to concede the election, has no immediate plans to sign one. This could lead to the first transition delay in modern history, except in 2000, when the Supreme Court decided a recount dispute between Al Gore and George W. Bush in December.”
  • This could lead to the first transition delay in modern history, except in 2000 amid the Bush v. Gore court battle: “The GSA statement left experts on federal transitions to wonder when the White House expects the handoff from one administration to the next to begin — when the president has exhausted his legal avenues to fight the results, or the formal vote of the electoral college on Dec. 14? There are 74 days, as of Sunday, till the Biden inauguration on Jan. 20,” our colleagues write.
  • A delay has already created issues: “The delay has already gummed up discussions on critical issues, including plans to distribute a possible coronavirus vaccine.”
  • Politico's Alex Thompson reports former Republicans and prominent officials previously involved with presidential transitions have called for the GSA to act:  “While there will be legal disputes requiring adjudication, the outcome is sufficiently clear that the transition process must now begin,” the nonpartisan Center for Presidential Transition wrote in a letter obtained by Thompson. 
  • “The letter is signed by Democratic and Republican experts in transitions, including George W. Bush’s former chief of staff Josh Bolten and the former Republican Governor of Utah Mike Leavitt. The letter was also signed by Bill Clinton’s first chief of staff Thomas (Mack) McLarty and Barack Obama’s Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. The nonpartisan Presidential Transition Center, former [Bolten], and former [Leavitt] released a statement calling on the GSA to ascertain that Biden has won,” Thompson reports.

On the same day that Biden is expected to announce his coronavirus task force, Vice President Pence announced he'll be holding a task force meeting – the first since Oct. 20, per CNN's Betsy Klein. This comes as staffers are batting their second outbreak of the coronavirus in the White House, as “Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and five other Trump aides having received positive test results in the period around Election Day,” per our colleagues Anne Gearan and Josh Dawsey. 

Biden has signaled he'll handle the pandemic “far differently than the Trump administration, which they have criticized for mixing politics with science,” Stat News's Lev Facher reports. Biden will rely on three prominent physicians to lead his task force: 

  • “A top Biden aide on Sunday announced the two co-chairs of the incoming administration’s task force: Vivek H. Murthy, the former U.S. Surgeon General, and David Kessler, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Though the Biden campaign did not formally announce her inclusion on Sunday, Marcella Nunez-Smith, a Yale physician and professor whose research focuses on health disparities, is widely expected to serve as the task force’s third co-chair,” per Facher. 
  • Kate Bedingfield, the Biden deputy campaign manager, announced the selection of Murthy and Kessler Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.’’ Biden, who promised a covid-19 plan ‘built on bedrock science’ during his victory address on Saturday night, is expected to formally announce the task force on Monday.”
  • ICYMI: Biden also announced a slate of executive orders to be signed on Jan. 20 as soon as he takes office, per our colleagues Matt Viser, Seung Min Kim and Annie Linskey. 
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The transition lens

BIDEN'S TREASURY PICK WILL SEND SIGNAL: “A leading candidate for the post is Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard, who served as a senior Treasury Department official in the Obama administration. Brainard has broad policymaking experience, particularly during economic crises, as well as wide respect among international foreign ministries and central banks from her time as the department’s top diplomat,” Rachel Siegel reports this morning.

Lael Brainard wearing a blue shirt: Lael Brainard, governor of the U.S. Federal Reserve, is seen in 2019. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg) © Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg Lael Brainard, governor of the U.S. Federal Reserve, is seen in 2019. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

The president-elect could face pressure to name a more progressive choice, or "someone who could push for aggressive financial overhauls and prove more adversarial to supporters of free trade. Such a nominee, however, could face difficulty winning Senate confirmation if Republicans retain control after two January runoffs in Georgia."

  • If nominated and confirmed, Brainard would be the first female Treasury secretary: “She would also have the distinction of having served in government during multiple tumultuous economic crises,” our colleague writes.

On the Hill

THE LAMEST OF LAME DUCKS?: “Congress faces a government shutdown deadline and crucial economic relief negotiations at a moment of extraordinary national uncertainty, with Trump refusing to concede the presidential election and with coronavirus cases spiking nationwide,” Erica Werner, Paul Kane and Yasmeen Abutaleb report.

  • The federal government runs out of money on Dec. 11: “At the same time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and [McConnell] have both expressed the desire to pass new economic and health-care relief measures to address the surging coronavirus pandemic — something Congress has not been able to do since the spring.”

Biden's transition team will talk to congressional Democrats this week: “Biden allies predicted that Biden and [Harris] will press Congress to produce a compromise coronavirus relief bill that has eluded lawmakers and Trump administration officials for months,” our colleagues write.

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The campaign

GEORGIA ON EVERYONE'S MIND: “Within minutes of Biden becoming president-elect, top Democrats and Republicans raced to the front lines of 2020’s last battlefront: a pair of January Senate runoffs in Georgia where the country’s racial, economic and cultural crosscurrents could help determine whether Democrats complete their takeover of Washington,” Sean Sullivan, Annie Linskey and Chelsea Janes report.

A pair of Jan. 5 runoffs could decide the Senate majority: “After netting one Senate seat last week, Democrats need to flip two more to get to 50, which would give them effective control of the chamber because Harris could cast tie-breaking votes as vice president,” our colleagues write.

  • Biden's room looms large: “Questions remain about how engaged Biden and his campaign operation will be in the races, which will overlap with Biden’s transition to the White House. Diving deep into a polarizing showdown could complicate his bid to bring the country together after a divisive election.”
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WHERE THE COUNT STANDS: “Three states have no declared winner: Georgia, where Biden leads by around 10,000 votes; North Carolina, where Trump leads by around 75,000 and which will announce results later this week; and Alaska, where Trump has a commanding lead but a large percentage of mail-in ballots have yet to be counted,” the Wall Street Journal's Gabriel T. Rubin reports. (Some news organizations have called Arizona in Biden's favor; The Post has not yet).

Trump allies continue making unproven claims about election irregularities: “In the lawsuits themselves, even Trump’s campaign and allies do not allege widespread fraud or an election-changing conspiracy. Instead, GOP groups have largely focused on smaller-bore complaints in an effort to delay the counting of ballots or claims that would affect a small fraction of votes, at best,” David A. Fahrenthold, Elise Viebeck, Emma Brown and Rosalind S. Helderman report.

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The Peach State looks headed for a recount: In the meantime, “election workers plan to finish counting almost all votes in Georgia by the end of the day [today],” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Mark Niesse reports.

  • Trump has tapped Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who lost on Election Day in one of the Senate races, to lead his team in the state, Hannah Knowles reports.

Arizona expects to have another batch of ballots counted today: “The Arizona Republic estimates that there are more than 70,000 ballots left to count statewide, with roughly 38,000 of those in Maricopa County,” the Republic's Caitlin McGlade reports.

  • Biden's lead is narrowing there, it was down to 16,985 as of this morning.

The people

CASES CONTINUE TO HIT RECORDS: “A surge of cases revealed a snowball effect: It took only 10 days for the country to move from 9 million cases to what is expected to be its 10 millionth case Monday. By comparison, it took more than three months for the country to go from no cases to 1 million in late April,” Robert Barnes reports.

  • Good news is hard to find: “More than half of states reported a new high for their seven-day average of cases, including Maryland, for the first time since early May.”
chart, histogram: (Graphic by Washington Post staff) (Graphic by Washington Post staff)

In the media

Tropical Storm Eta nears Florida: “The storm is forecast to linger near or just west of the Florida Peninsula for as many as five days, arriving in the Florida Keys as a Category 1 hurricane today before meandering for days in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. If it does reach hurricane intensity, it would be just the sixth such storm on record in the Gulf of Mexico during the month of November,” Matthew Cappucci and Andrew Freedman report.

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Losing an icon: Never outlandish or garish, the “Jeopardy!” that Alex Trebek hosted for 36 years championed intelligence with a rare and relatively quiet hush, especially if you compare it with the rest of television’s constant blare,” Hank Stuever writes. (The Post's formal obit is here.)

One of the show's greatest stars paid tribute to the host:

Viral

PERHAPS, THE GRASS ISN'T ALWAYS GREENER: Trump's allies had found their turf. They thought they would speak about their unproven voter fraud claims ensconced in luxury similar to Trump Tower, whose golden escalator help commence our current chapter. Instead, they likely met their Waterloo between an adult book store and a crematorium. Sod-denly they saw something was very wrong, Dan Zak and Karen Heller report.

Because while a man can be for all seasons, someone forgot to verify that hotels only have four. As it turns out, Philadelphia has both a branch of the luxury Four Seasons hotel chain and the aptly named Four Seasons Total Landscaping. 

Twitter declared open season:

Some mused that this could be an elaborate ruse:

As another Four Seasons would put it, “Oh,what a night”:

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