President Trump’s GOP wall of support is cracking

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As President Donald Trump’s lawyers cling to their far-fetched schemes to overturn the presidential election, it was increasingly clear Thursday that cracks are forming in Trump’s Republican wall of support, as more GOP members stepped forward to say that President-elect Joe Biden should receive national intelligence briefings and others began to acknowledge the long-shot nature of the President’s quest.

There is still no sign that Trump and leading Republicans plan to actively congratulate Biden. Trump is still tweeting conspiracy theories about the election to stoke outrage within his politically activated base, and GOP members are looking to him for help in winning two likely runoff elections in Georgia that will decide who controls the Senate.

But after Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford told a local radio station Wednesday that the President-elect should begin receiving presidential intelligence briefings by the end of the week, a number of senior GOP senators spoke up Thursday to say they shared that thinking, including Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chamber’s most senior Republican, Senate Majority Whip John Thune and even South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump loyalist who has encouraged the President not to concede.

In making his argument, Lankford noted that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the bipartisan committee that investigated them found that the compressed time frame for the transition after the contested 2000 election may have contributed to the lack of preparedness for the attack.

In their report after the attacks, the commission said that the dispute over the election and the “36-day legal fight” following “cut in half the normal transition period.” The loss of time, the commission said, “hampered the new administration in identifying, recruiting, clearing, and obtaining Senate confirmation of key appointees,” diminishing US preparedness before the terrorist attacks.

The intermediary step by Republicans in the President’s orbit illuminated the widening divide between the practical reality that Biden must be equipped with key national security knowledge to begin running the country in January and the political fiction being perpetrated by the President and his supporters.

Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, who heads a state the President won last week, said on CNN’s “New Day” that “we need to consider the former vice president as the President-elect.” While he said the President has the right to pursue legal options, the Ohio governor said there were more pressing issues facing the country.

“I’m worried about this virus, I’m not looking at what the merits of the case are. It would appear that Joe Biden is going to be the next president of the United States,” DeWine said, adding that America needs to “come together as a country.”

The illusory quality of Trump’s election fraud claims was once again underscored by a set of election integrity checks that are being conducted in Arizona, which CNN called for Biden late Thursday night. Trump had tweeted Thursday that an audit of Arizona votes would mean “that we will easily win” that state. But post-election audits filed with the Arizona Secretary of State’s office from more than half of Arizona’s counties showed that there is no evidence of systematic voter fraud or major discrepancies that would affect the outcome of the race. Several GOP-leaning counties chose not to conduct the audits; reports from other remaining counties have not yet been submitted.

A group of national, state and private election officials said in a joint statement Thursday that there is no evidence that “any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

“The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. Right now, across the country, election officials are reviewing and double checking the entire election process prior to finalizing the result,” the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council and the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Executive Committees said. The group includes federal employees who are working in the Trump administration.

The most surreal feature of the suspended reality at the White House is still the behavior of the President himself. A leader who jealously dominated television coverage on the campaign trail and in office has not made public remarks for an entire week — even as his fate dominates Washington.

During that time, Trump has showed little interest in addressing the most important issue facing the country: the record-breaking climb in US coronavirus cases. On Thursday, the influential model from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicted that US deaths are likely to reach 438,941 by March 1. (The model found that the toll could be even higher — 587,000 deaths by March 1 — if states were to relax their restrictions and mask mandates).

But the President’s Twitter feed Thursday indicated that he was much more fixated on what he views as his mistreatment by Fox News, his once favored network, which he believes should be defending him more vociferously in the midst of the twilight zone that he has created by refusing to acknowledge Biden’s victory.

Trump sent or retweeted more than a dozen tweets critical of the network throughout the day Thursday, claiming the networks’ ratings “have completely collapsed” because “they forgot what made them successful, what got them there.”

“They forgot the Golden Goose,” Trump tweeted. “The biggest difference between the 2016 Election, and 2020, was @FoxNews!”

The President, whom CNN quoted sources as describing as increasingly “dejected” on Thursday, continues to tweet falsehoods about election fraud. But a week-and-a half after Election Day there are few signs that his campaign has convinced any court to take his complaints seriously. In this odd limbo between defiance and admitting defeat, the President is wavering between fighting on and a recognition that his hold on power is coming to an end, the sources told CNN.

Even the Trump children disagree on the path forward. While his adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, have urged their father to continue challenging the election results, his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner have taken a more measured approach, CNN reported Thursday, encouraging the President to think about potential damage to his legacy as they weigh their own post-White House ambitions.
It remains quite possible that Trump will leave office having never acknowledged that he was beaten in the election.

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