Joe Biden has been busy since his election victory earlier this month: He’s been putting together his White House team, meeting with national security officials, business and labor leaders, and unveiling plans to address the various crises he’ll inherit in two months, including the rapidly escalating coronavirus outbreak. He’s been doing the work a president-elect normally does during the transition process, even though this interregnum has been anything but normal.
Still yet to concede to Biden, Donald Trump and his allies are continuing to hold up his successor’s transition team, putting America’s national security at risk and threatening to complicate the rollout of the forthcoming COVID vaccine while his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, fights his hopeless legal battle against the election results. (It isn’t going great.) Giuliani, working his first federal case in nearly two decades, wasn’t much sharper in court than he was in the Four Seasons Total Landscaping parking lot the day the race was called for Biden. His arguments—a tangle of easily disproved lies and already-debunked conspiracy theories—seem exceedingly unlikely to succeed, something he may be aware of himself. According to the Washington Post’s Robert Costa, Giuliani has privately suggested his real strategy isn’t so much to land a long-shot victory in court, but to push the fight to Capitol Hill by getting officials in key states to refuse to certify the results. GOP members of the board of canvassers in Wayne County, Michigan, tried to do just that Tuesday, voting against certifying the election results there, with one official saying she’d sign off on other jurisdictions but not Detroit, a majority Black, Democratic-voting city. But after public outrage, the board reversed course and unanimously certified the results later that night.
With Giuliani losing his games of 3-D and regular chess, Trump’s campaign and legal teams have reportedly been thrown into disarray, with backstabbing and chaos and power struggles. Trump himself, meanwhile, has been pretty much AWOL since he lost the election. He’s only made one public appearance—showing up late to Arlington National Cemetery on November 11 to spend 10 minutes at a Veterans Day ceremony—since his despotic rant in the briefing room of the White House on November 5, when he baselessly alleged a massive voter fraud conspiracy was being perpetrated against him.
“It feels like bunker mentality,” an administration official told CNN on Tuesday. Indeed, the Trump White House these days has been more like Grey Gardens, with the reclusive president emerging only to play golf at his nearby Virginia club. Appearing to have largely abandoned his presidential duties, to the extent he ever sought to fulfill them, Trump’s only activities of late have been settling scores with insufficiently loyal officials—Chris Krebs, the top cybersecurity official in the Department of Homeland Security, became the latest purge victim after defending the integrity of the election—and wailing on and on about voter fraud on Twitter, which has slapped a warning label on a majority of his posts in recent days.
While his disinformation campaign may be paying off (half of Republicans in a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Wednesday believe Trump won the election but that it was “rigged” against him), even some of his allies seem to be getting tired of the act and appear ready to give up the ghost. The Wall Street Journal editorial board on Tuesday demanded he either produce evidence to back up his claims of improprieties with voting machines or shut up. Republicans not named Lindsey Graham gradually seem to be acknowledging Biden as the president-elect, and Politico reported Wednesday that several GOP senators were spotted fist-bumping Kamala Harris in apparent recognition of her imminent ascension to the vice presidency. And even Fox & Friends appears ready to move on, with Brian Kilmeade urging Trump—a loyal viewer of the program—to let the Biden transition move forward. “It’s in the country’s best interest if he starts coordinating on the virus and starts coordinating on security with the Biden team,” Kilmeade said.
Trump, though, has given no indication that he plans to do so anytime soon, much to the frustration of Biden officials, who are eager to do the work Trump is allowing to pile up as he licks his wounds. “If we have to wait until January 20 to start that planning, it puts us behind,” the president-elect said this week of his forthcoming administration’s COVID response. “More people may die if we don’t coordinate.”
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