Everyone is wrong. Donald Trump actually won the election, in a landslide. He says that. He may believe that. Or he knows better and wants people to believe that anyway. Or perhaps he wants that to be true, because that ought to be true, because he’s a winner, not a total loser. The universe may not work that way, but it should work that way, damn it! Things have always worked out fine for him before, so why not now?
Who knows? But the numbers are what they are. He lost, and now Republicans can only humor him. That’s what Ashley Parker and her Washington Post team report here:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans on Monday backed President Trump’s efforts to contest his loss to President-elect Joe Biden, despite the lack of evidence of significant fraud and sharp rebukes from election officials who defended the integrity of the vote.
McConnell (R-Ky.) said from the floor of the Senate that the president is “100 percent within his right” to pursue recounts and litigation. McConnell did not repeat Trump’s baseless assertions that fraud had cost him the election, but he said he had met with Attorney General William P. Barr earlier in the day and supports the president’s right to investigate all claims of wrongdoing.
“We have the tools and institutions we need to address any concerns,” McConnell said. “The president has every right to look into allegations and request recounts under the law.”
McConnell was careful. He didn’t say the election was totally bogus or that it was awesomely righteous, to use the Gidget surfer terms. He said Trump could take whatever legal action he wanted. It’s a free country, and McConnell was willing to wait until Trump found something, anything, to work with, or until he at least calmed down a bit. But anyone could see that Trump wasn’t calming down:
Separately, Barr on Monday gave federal prosecutors a green light to pursue allegations of voting irregularities in certain cases before results are certified. The memo appeared to reverse previous Justice Department guidance that prosecutors generally should not take overt steps in cases involving alleged voter fraud until results are in and official.
That might amount to nothing much, but it might help Trump calm down when he must, unless the point is to reinforce his anger:
Other GOP officials rushed to bolster Trump’s case, including the two U.S. senators from Georgia, who demanded the resignation of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, after his office said there was no evidence of widespread fraud in the state.
And the Republican attorneys general of about a dozen states threw their support behind a legal effort pending before the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out mail ballots in Pennsylvania that were received after Election Day – a small number of votes that state officials said would not be enough to change the outcome.
Everyone knows that, not that it matters at the moment:
Behind the scenes, Trump advisers and allies are increasingly resigned to a Biden victory, according to people familiar with internal discussions, who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to share private conversations.
But few so far are actively discouraging the president or his campaign from pursuing all legal paths to contest the results. Only a smattering of Republican senators has acknowledged Biden’s victory, and there has been little coaxing on the part of senior GOP lawmakers to help Trump come to terms with his loss.
Some said there is value in ensuring the integrity of this year’s results, while others described a chaotic and scattershot operation that they hoped would eventually push Trump to cooperate in a peaceful transfer of power.
Once again, wait:
“What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time? No one seriously thinks the results will change,” said one senior Republican official. “He went golfing this weekend. It’s not like he’s plotting how to prevent Joe Biden from taking power on Jan. 20. He’s tweeting about filing some lawsuits, those lawsuits will fail, then he’ll tweet some more about how the election was stolen, and then he’ll leave.”
But that doesn’t account for the faithful:
Trump’s rhetoric has inflamed some of his supporters around the country, who have gathered in small “Stop the Steal” protests and declared that they do not have faith in the results.
As a result, two starkly different tones prevailed throughout the day. Inside the White House, aides described a deflated president aware of the difficulty of reversing the outcome and even declaring plans to run again in 2024. But publicly, Trump fired off tweet after combative tweet asserting without evidence that results in Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Nevada had been illegally rigged against him. And his campaign announced at least one new federal lawsuit, in Pennsylvania, seeking to block state officials from certifying the results.
“Pennsylvania prevented us from watching much of the Ballot count,” Trump tweeted despite extensive reporting, and some live feeds, showing poll watchers had access. “Unthinkable and illegal in this country.”
He knows better:
Since Election Day, the Trump campaign and GOP allies have made claims of election irregularities in six states where Biden holds the lead in the vote count. But they have yet to prove any widespread fraud and have largely suffered defeat in courts. Much of the legal activity Monday recycled previously dismissed allegations. The new Pennsylvania suit filed by the Trump campaign alleged – again – that some counties had improperly allowed voters to fix problems on mail ballots, a claim that was thrown out last week. It also falsely claimed that observers were not allowed to watch the processing and counting of ballots.
Trump aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly, said there was little expectation inside the campaign that litigation would overturn Biden’s win – and said advisers have told Trump this directly.
But perhaps that wasn’t the point now:
The campaign’s top two officials, Bill Stepien and Justin Clark, met with the staff at their Arlington headquarters Monday and urged them to keep fighting, officials said, adding that campaign leaders were closely watching who was still showing up.
But further complicating their effort: David Bossie, tapped to lead the campaign’s legal effort, tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a person familiar with the situation.
This is a loyalty test for the base. David Bossie is loyal. He was willing to contract coronavirus for the boss, but much of this was nonsense:
In Michigan, where Republicans have so far lost their legal challenges, a conservative nonprofit law firm filed a new suit asserting that ballots in Wayne County, home of Detroit, had been counted from voters not on the rolls and without verification of voter signatures, citing six signed affidavits. The suit also alleged that Republican poll watchers were not allowed to witness the counting, even though more than 200 GOP challengers were inside the counting room at the TCF Center in Detroit, where votes were counted last week.
“The allegations in this suit appear to be an exaggeration of routine situations that arise every election,” said Christopher Trebilcock, a longtime Democratic election lawyer in Michigan. “They either don’t understand the process or don’t care what the law actually provides.”
In Nevada, the Trump campaign and Republicans have already lost two attempts to get courts to order changes to ballot counting in Clark County, the state’s largest Democratic stronghold. State and federal judges rejected their demands for emergency intervention, citing a lack of evidence of any widespread voter fraud.
There’s just nothing there:
In Georgia, a new level of intraparty hostility burst into view between Republicans who have questioned the election’s integrity and those who have publicly defended it.
Trump allies seized on the news that a small number of ballots had not been scanned over the weekend in Fulton County, home of Atlanta. The news prompted a story from the conservative website Breitbart News – and a tweet from the president – suggesting that the additional ballots might alter the outcome. Critics also falsely accused Fulton County election officials of not allowing Republicans to watch the process.
In fact, only 342 ballots were affected, and the county invited members of both political parties and a monitor from the Georgia secretary of state’s office to Atlanta’s State Farm Arena, the elections headquarters, to observe.
It was getting harder and harder to humor Trump, and he’s an angry man. He lost the election. Someone will pay. And that seems to have led to what David Ignatius reports here:
For a Pentagon that thrives on orderly transition, President Trump’s sudden firing of Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper was a slap in the face. It stunned the military leadership at a time when they were craving stability.
Trump’s “termination” of Esper by tweet just after noon on Monday blindsided the secretary, who according to close associates thought that he had “turned a corner” with Trump and would remain in his job until the inauguration. It also surprised Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was lunching with senior Pentagon officials when the news broke, according to a senior military official.
Pentagon officials were similarly stunned by Trump’s choice of Christopher C. Miller, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, as acting defense secretary. Miller is an unknown to many senior officials, who were waiting Monday to meet with him and get some inkling of the guidance that he has received from the White House. But, as of early Monday night, none had been given, a senior military official said.
It seems that Trump simply lashed out:
The mystery is whether the Esper firing is simply an act of pique and petulance by a president who is fuming about having lost his reelection bid, or whether this 11th-hour reshuffle has a deeper and potentially more dangerous purpose. Either way, a half-dozen Pentagon veterans described it as a sign of Trump’s disrespect for the military as his power ebbs.
Robert Gates, who served as secretary of defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, argued that it was “pretty reckless” for Trump to dump his Pentagon leadership during a post-election transition of power – a time when adversaries can take advantage of any American weakness or disorientation. Gates said he was concerned about “not having an experienced and steady hand that the military knows.”
Another top former Pentagon official, a Republican, contended that Trump’s move was “just spite,” and that it would have no effect on operations. “We shouldn’t worry about it,” he said.
Sure, but there were the other possibilities:
In the sudden confusion of Monday’s announcement, some Pentagon officials worried that Trump might have a broader aim. Several speculated that the president might want to accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Iraq to buff his legacy – even though that move would be against strong military advice for a careful withdrawal that reduces U.S. forces from the current 4,500 in Afghanistan and about 3,000 in Iraq only if conditions and U.S. security interests warrant such a move…
A darker possibility is that Trump wants a Pentagon chief who can order the military to take steps that might help keep him in power because of an election result that he claims is fraudulent. Any such attempt would be strongly resisted by Milley and his senior commanders, as well as the civilian service chiefs. But the fact remains that until his term expires on Jan. 20, Trump remains the commander in chief, whose orders must be obeyed if they’re lawful.
Those were the worries, but Trump was angry:
Esper is an unlikely victim of Trump’s wrath. His loyalty to Trump was so strong that it initially worried some military leaders, who feared that their boss wouldn’t stand up to the White House. Esper’s choke point came in June, when he opposed Trump’s effort to use the Insurrection Act to deploy active-duty U.S. troops to quell the racial justice protests spreading across America.
Esper accompanied Trump on his now-notorious walk across Lafayette Square, Bible in hand, after protesters had been tear-gassed. But Esper regretted it and said publicly and privately that his loyalty was to the Constitution, not the president.
That, for Trump, was unforgivable. “Esper has known since June that he hung by a thread,” said Gates, who has remained in contact with him.
And now he’s gone, but not forgotten:
What troubles military commanders is a fear that Trump, not for the first time, is putting his personal interests ahead of those of the nation. Speaking of Miller and the team he will assemble for these final days, said one senior military officer asked: “Will they be willing to disregard facts, to do whatever the president thinks?”
Mitch McConnell and just about every Republican is willing to disregard almost anything, for now. But others have qualms that grew into balls:
The head of the branch of the Justice Department that prosecutes election crimes resigned Monday hours after Attorney General William Barr issued a memo to federal prosecutors to investigate “specific allegations” of voter fraud before the results of the presidential race are certified.
Richard Pilger, who was director of the Election Crimes Branch of the DOJ, sent a memo to colleagues that suggested his resignation was linked to Barr’s memo, which was issued as the president’s legal team mount baseless legal challenges to the election results, alleging widespread voter fraud cost him the race.
“Having familiarized myself with the new policy and its ramifications, and in accord with the best tradition of the John C. Keeney Award for Exceptional Integrity and Professionalism (my most cherished Departmental recognition), I must regretfully resign from my role as Director of the Election Crimes Branch,” Pilger’s letter said, according to a copy obtained by NBC News.
He wasn’t going to play along with this:
Barr on Monday issued a memo authorizing prosecutors “to pursue substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities prior to the certification of elections.”
That’s a change of Justice Department policy, which had previously advised prosecutors that “overt investigative steps ordinarily should not be taken until the election in question has been concluded, its results certified, and all recounts and election contests concluded.”
Barr, who’s come under fire by right-wing media for not bolstering the president’s evidence-free claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, declared that guidance outdated.
Barr caved, but others did not:
Like many big law firms, Jones Day, whose roots go back to Cleveland in the late 1800s, has prided itself on representing controversial clients.
There was Big Tobacco. There was the Bin Laden family. There was even the hated owner of the Cleveland Browns football team as he moved the franchise to Baltimore.
Now Jones Day is the most prominent firm representing President Trump and the Republican Party as they prepare to wage a legal war challenging the results of the election. The work is intensifying concerns inside the firm about the propriety and wisdom of working for Mr. Trump, according to lawyers at the firm.
What’s this? They’d rather not destroy democracy:
Some senior lawyers at Jones Day, one of the country’s largest law firms, are worried that it is advancing arguments that lack evidence and may be helping Mr. Trump and his allies undermine the integrity of American elections, according to interviews with nine partners and associates, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their jobs.
At another large firm, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, based in Columbus, Ohio, lawyers have held internal meetings to voice similar concerns about their firm’s election-related work for Mr. Trump and the Republican Party, according to people at the firm. At least one lawyer quit in protest.
That might be necessary:
“Many of the GOP’s litigation concerns are meritorious in principle. But the president’s inflammatory language undercuts the claim that Republicans seek merely to uphold statutory safeguards needed to validate the results’ credibility,” Benjamin L. Ginsberg, a longtime Republican elections lawyer who left Jones Day in August, wrote in The Washington Post the following month…
In recent days, two Jones Day lawyers said they had faced heckling from friends and others on social media about working at a firm that is supporting Mr. Trump’s efforts.
A lawyer in Jones Day’s Washington office felt that the firm risked hurting itself by taking on work that undermined the rule of law.
But the money is good:
This year, Jones Day has received more than $4 million in fees from Mr. Trump, political groups supporting him and the Republican National Committee, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission records.
And now it’s time to think about that, but at least they’re not politicians. Kevin Drum explains their lack of scruples:
You might be wondering why Republicans are almost all backing Donald Trump’s ridiculous claim that he won the election, and it is only massive voter fraud that makes it look like he lost. What’s the point? They all know that Trump will lose his court challenges, and in the meantime, they look like idiots.
The answer is pretty simple: they want to enter the Biden presidency with their base riled up about a stolen election. Maybe Lindsey Graham will start up an endless Senate investigation to keep it fresh in everyone’s mind. This provides Republicans with a great excuse to obstruct everything Biden tries to do, and two years from now it gives them a great foundation to turn out their base and win back the House.
Is this disgusting and obscene? Of course, it is. But what else would you expect from the party of Benghazi and Hillary’s emails and Hunter’s laptop and Fox News? A party that knows only how to attack and nothing else?
Still, having said that, about half the country feels just fine supporting a party that acts this way. The rest of us better figure out what to do about that.
But what would that be? Maybe it’s time to wait. This is just spite. Trump will, sooner or later, figure out that he’s lost, won’t he? Won’t he? Won’t he?