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Analysis: GOP flirts with breaking free of Trump’s grip
As he has waged an increasingly desperate campaign to overturn the results of last month’s election, President Donald Trump has mostly been a man alone.
To be sure, most Republican officials have not opposed his push. But they have mostly not supported it either. A Washington Post survey last week found that only 26 congressional Republicans would admit that President-elect Joe Biden had won the election, but even fewer — just two congressmen — agreed with Trump’s false claim that he had been the victor. (The vast majority of GOP lawmakers did not respond to the survey.)
As time runs out for the election outcome to be reversed, Trump is now pursuing a number of different legal paths — none of them likely to succeed — and hoping to jam Republicans into rallying behind him one last time.
At the highest levels of Republican politics, his efforts are being met with mixed success. According to CNN, “a growing number of Senate Republicans are ready to publicly acknowledge” that Biden won the election, growing tired of Trump’s push. Many of the senators have pointed to Monday, when the Electoral College will make Biden’s win official, as the “defining moment” when Trump’s efforts will become obviously futile. Some have indicated they will accept Biden’s victory after that date.
But in the lower rungs of the GOP apparatus, Trump’s efforts are beginning to gain steam just as they are running out of time. After the Supreme Court declined to hear a case overturning the results in Pennsylvania, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit on Tuesday asking the justices to block Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin from voting in the Electoral College.
The case is viewed as the longest of long shots, but by Wednesday, 17 Republican state attorneys general had submitted a brief backing Paxton’s suit.
At the same time, according to the New York Times, many state legislative leaders are expressing support for Trump’s last-ditch efforts, perhaps identifying a vacuum of ardent GOP support and racing to be noticed filling it.
Now, the Washington Post reports, the president has turned his focus to GOP lawmakers in Washington, lobbying them to wage a challenge at the January 6 joint session when Congress is set to certify Biden’s Electoral College win. The session can be delayed if one member of the House and one member of the Senate challenge a state’s results.
Trump has yet to find one senator who is willing to make such an objection, although he is reportedly in hot pursuit. That lobbying is just one of the battles he is currently waging with the congressional GOP: they are also wrestling with whether to support his threat to veto the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual must-pass bill that has received bipartisan support in Congress for the past 59 years.
“Republicans plot their first and last Trump rebellion,” Politico declared in a headline this week, referring to the GOP’s plans to buck Trump and support a 60th NDAA. But even that is no longer certain: on the House side, Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy indicated on Wednesday that he would not vote to override Trump’s threatened veto of the legislation. (McCarthy joined a bipartisan majority in supporting the bill when it came to an initial House vote this week.)
Even on a policy they almost uniformly support — much less on an unprecedented attempt to overturn the results of an election — Republicans are not vocally opposing Trump, but they just can’t seem to make a clean break with him either.
The coming weeks will be instructive for seeing how strong Trump’s hold on the party will be going forward, as he considers a 2024 comeback bid.
Across the country, regardless of party, most of the officials charged with overseeing the election in battleground states have fulfilled their duties in spite of Trump’s protests. That includes Republican election officials, Republican-appointed judges, and Republican governors such as Mike DeWine of Ohio and Brian Kemp of Georgia.
But even as Trump’s efforts have not impacted the election itself, they have been successful in persuading a majority of the Republican base to doubt the integrity of the election: just 24% of GOP respondents said they accept the results in a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.
And they are likely to have aftereffects within the party for months and years to come: Trump has already threatened DeWine and Kemp with primary challenges, a sign of his plans to make post-election support for him a litmus test within the party in down-ballot races after his presidency.
The ultimate test, of course, will be in four years, when the GOP will either turn a new page or once again elevate Trump as their standard-bearer. Either way, he will certainly make his opinions on the primary known, standing ready to remind Republican voters — whether via tweets or cable news appearances — who was loyal to him during this transition, and who stayed conspicuously silent.
President-elect Joe Biden’s son Hunter is under federal investigation, he confirmed on Wednesday. “I learned yesterday for the first time that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware advised my legal counsel, also yesterday, that they are investigating my tax affairs,” the younger Biden said in a statement released by his father’s transition team.
“I take this matter very seriously,” he continued, “but I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisors.”
According to Fox News, the probe began as early as 2018, sparked by Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) regarding Biden’s business dealings in China. Per CNN, the investigators — who include federal prosecutors in Delaware, the IRS criminal investigation agency, and the FBI — paused the probe during the 2020 election, but have begun issuing subpoenas and seeking interviews now that it is over.
The federal investigation is also more extensive than Hunter Biden indicated in his statement, Politico reported. According to the outlet, investigators in the Southern District of New York have also scrutinized the soon-to-be First Son’s finances, while investigators in Delaware and Washington have looked at potential money laundering.
According to Politico’s report, federal authorities in the Western District of Pennsylvania are also conducting a criminal investigation into a hospital business in which James Biden, the president-elect’s brother was involved.
There is no indication in any of these matters that President-elect Biden himself is under investigation or suspected to have committed any wrongdoing.
An important story: “Biden faces a changed world and no end of foreign policy challenges from China to Iran” (Washington Post)
A story worth chewing over: “Dianne Feinstein’s Missteps Raise a Painful Age Question Among Senate Democrats” (The New Yorker)
Passage of the day: “Because the coronavirus can linger on surfaces for multiple days, a team deployed by the General Services Administration will go over every part of the White House’s East and West Wings touched by human hands in the hours after Trump departs and Biden moves in... That includes plans to ‘thoroughly clean and disinfect’ all furniture, doorknobs, handrails and light switches, before Biden and his team move in. Additionally, a private contractor will provide ‘disinfectant misting services’ to clear the air of lingering droplets.” (Politico)
An interesting graphic: The size of the majorities in both chambers of Congress have generally shrunk smaller in recent decades, Pew Research Center finds. The Democratic majority in the House will be razor-thin next year; the Senate margin will be so close that it remains unclear who will be in control of the chamber.
All times Eastern.
President Donald Trump will have lunch with state attorneys general at 12:45 p.m. and deliver remarks at the Congressional Ball at 8:15 p.m.
- The lunch is expected to include several state AGs who are supporting the post-election lawsuit before the Supreme Court.
Vice President Mike Pence will lead a roundtable discussion on the COVID-19 vaccine in Greenville, South Carolina, at 11:35 a.m. He will deliver remarks at a “Defend the Majority” rally in Augusta, Georgia, at 2:25 p.m.
The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will meet at 9 a.m. to discuss its recommendation for emergency use authorization of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.
- The meeting is a critical first step before the FDA can greenlight the Pfizer vaccine for distribution. Final approval could come later this week, as daily coronavirus deaths in the United States soared above 3,000 for the first time on Wednesday.
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief and meet with transition advisers.
- The Biden transition team will hold their first meeting with leaders of the Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” coronavirus vaccine program.
The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. and begin consideration of H.R. 6395, the National Defense Authorization Act.
- The $740 billion defense bill was passed by the House on Tuesday in a 335-78 vote; President Trump has threatened to veto the legislation.
The House will convene at 9 a.m. and vote on eight pieces of legislation. Most of the bills are focused on national parks and natural resources, including one to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee at Antietam National Battlefield:
- S. 906, the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act
- H.R. 970, the Robert E. Lee Statue Removal Act
- H.R. 1240, the Young Fishermen’s Development Act
- H.R. 5040, the AIR Safety Act
- H.R. 5458, the Rocky Mountain National Park Boundary Modification Act
- H.R. 5459, the Rocky Mountain National Park Ownership Correction Act
- H.R. 7098, the Saguaro National Park Boundary Expansion and Study Act
- H.R. 7489, the Long Bridge Act
The Supreme Court may release its first opinions of the term at 10 a.m.
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