At end of day, Biden still wins
Wednesday, Jan. 6, will mark two months less a day since Joe Biden became president-elect, with 14 days to go until he is inaugurated the 46th president.
Nothing has worked for President Donald Trump. Not the fraud claims, nor the laughed-out-of-court lawsuits, nor the bullying bombast at election officials and governors, Republicans included — who stood by the legitimacy of the results. It’s a thorough, irreversible failure.
With mounting desperation, Trump declared Monday night at a campaign rally for Georgia's Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler that he would "fight like hell" to hold on to the presidency. Trump will protest bitterly to the end, and likely long after too, but Biden's 306-232 Electoral College majority will stand when Congress meets Wednesday to begin the formal count of electoral votes.
There are well more than enough GOP senators opposed to the challenges planned at Trump's behest — by Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and a group led by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — to doom the objections. Those pledging fidelity to respecting the will of the voters are shaking off fear of Trump's threats to take revenge upon them in future GOP primaries.
One of the latest to join the objection opponents, South Carolina's Sen. Tim Scott said, "There is no constitutionally viable means for the Congress to overturn an election wherein the states have certified and sent their electors." Still, Trump is swinging a wrecking ball at his own party in a futile try to save himself.
Trump declared that Vice President Mike Pence, who will preside over the opening of envelopes with each state's electoral votes, has the power to reject the Biden electors. Pence does not.
Trump tweeted Tuesday: "I hope the Democrats, and even more importantly, the weak and ineffective RINO section of the Republican Party, are looking at the thousands of people pouring into D.C. They won’t stand for a landslide election victory to be stolen." As ugly as the scene could get, the election will stand.
A change-y night in Georgia
After an overnight tracking of results, Democrat Raphael Warnock was projected to be the winner of one of Georgia’s two Senate runoffs Wednesday — on track to become the first Black senator in his state’s history. He declared victory but Loeffler refused to concede, hinting at a challenge process.
Ossoff also claimed victory, but as of 9 a.m. he and Perdue were still locked in a tight race and the Associated Press had not yet called a winner, though some organizations were beginning to do so. Mendacious as ever, Trump tried to muddy the waters with a false tweet about dumping votes that were promptly disputed from the scene.
Pence in a pickle
Give Trump loyalty, and he will keep asking for more until the loyalty test becomes impossible.
That's what former Attorney General William Barr learned after he declined to bring unlawful prosecutions against Trump's foes or back his election-fraud claims, even though he had sanitized Robert Mueller's Russia probe report and helped Trump cronies like Roger Stone escape justice.
Same for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who steered Trump to a Senate acquittal of impeachment but won't overturn an election for him. He's now a "weak and ineffective RINO" to Trump.
Now it's Pence's turn. The loyalest of the loyal comes under public pressure from Trump to trash the Electoral College count. "The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors," Trump tweeted Tuesday. Only legal crackpots who have Trump's ear would agree, such as lawyer John Eastman, who previously argued falsely that California-born Kamala Harris cannot be vice president because her parents were immigrants.
The New York Times reports that two people briefed on the Trump-Pence discussions said the president directly pressed the vice president to find an alternative to certifying Biden’s win. At a Tuesday lunch with Trump, Pence gave his conclusion that he has no such powers, though he would keep studying the issue, according to the Times. Pence's allies said they expect him to carry out his constitutional duties. A close friend of Pence’s, former Rep. David McIntosh, told ABC News that the vice president would likely be guided by his "really deep, residing respect for the separation of powers."
A statement from Trump claimed Tuesday night that Pence agrees that he has "the power to act." The Times stood by its story, which lines up with other reports. That means it will be Pence announcing Biden is the winner, inviting the wrath of not just Trump but the president's die-hard supporters, muddying Pence's future prospects as a Republican presidential hopeful.
Not the genuine Article
Pence's chief of staff Marc Short cast shade on one White House official giving Trump dubious advice. On Fox News over the weekend, Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro incorrectly argued that Pence had the authority to delay the election certification and grant a 10-day audit of the results. That's what Cruz will unsuccessfully ask the Senate and House to do. Navarro also claimed that the inauguration can be postponed past Jan. 20 to accommodate an election fraud investigation — a claim then erroneously amplified by Trump.
"Peter Navarro is many things," Short told The Wall Street Journal. "He is not a constitutional scholar."
Senate Republicans tilting against Trump
As of Tuesday night, almost twice as many Senate Republicans had declared opposition to plans to challenge Biden's win as had joined them, according to a count by Politico. That guarantees the gambits by Hawley, Cruz and 10 other senators — and universally rejected by Democrats — will fail even as most House Republicans seem to be going along with the planned challenges.
More conservative, until-now-reliable Trump supporters say they won't be part of a bid to upend how the nation chooses its presidents.
"To challenge a state’s certification, given how specific the Constitution is, would be a violation of my oath of office — that is not something I am willing to do and is not something Oklahomans would want me to do," said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who announced his decision Tuesday. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) said that the objections "would risk undermining our democracy — which is built upon the rule of law and separation of powers" and that "no victory for one’s cause today can be worth what we would lose tomorrow."
As for Pence, even Hawley isn’t buying into the fantasy that the vice president can rescue Trump, telling Fox News on Tuesday night: "I don't think the vice president actually counts under the law. He's sort of just there. This is really on Congress."
But the challenges to as many as six states' wins for Biden will trigger two hours of debate on each. That will make for a marathon session. Scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Wednesday, it may extend into Thursday, Roll Call reported.
Janison: The next normal
After Trump's circus of denying his loss ends or moves to the next locale, and after a new president and Congress take office, Washington drama most likely will focus on how the people's government works or does not work in a post-Trump landscape, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
The possibilities are limited, regardless of the surprise outcome of Georgia's close Senate runoff races that tentatively point to Democratic control of the upper chamber of Congress.
From Biden's point of view, the Senate could still pose a problem, resulting in the sparsest of new majorities. Any Senate resistance could provide an alibi if Biden fails to enact strong policies that his party's base wants on the environment, COVID-19 relief, tuition relief, medical insurance, wages and taxes.
If the GOP Senate majority had held, McConnell would become the nation's top Republican elected official. He'd no longer have an eager signatory in the White House for legislation desired by his caucus. He can still do his best to block Democratic programs and appointments, as he did under former President Barack Obama.
Proud Boy sent away
A judge has ordered the leader of the far-right, street-brawling Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, to get out of Washington, D.C., and stay out as a condition of his release, after the Miami resident appeared on charges of vandalizing a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic Black church last month and of possessing high-capacity firearm magazines during his arrest on Monday.
Tarrio had planned to direct his group's participation in pro-Trump protests. One Wednesday demonstration has a National Park Service permit for up to 30,000 people. Trump said on Twitter that he will speak at 11 a.m. Wednesday. Clashes erupted Tuesday night between police and Trump supporters. (See a video. Warning: graphic language.)
Early arrivals demonstrated Tuesday, with speakers and participants repeating election conspiracy theories, shunning masks and mocking concerns about the coronavirus, The Washington Post reported. "I’m going to give everyone three action steps … turn to the person next to you and give them a hug," one speaker exhorted the crowd. "Someone you don’t know … it’s a mass-spreader event! It’s a mass-spreader event!"
Police reported several arrests for firearms on Tuesday. In recent weeks, right-wing groups have used the conservative social media site Parler and the encrypted messaging app Telegram to plot how to sneak guns into the District of Columbia.
Trump has expressed no concerns about potential violence by his fans. Instead, he tweeted: "Antifa is a Terrorist Organization, stay out of Washington. Law enforcement is watching you very closely!" He tagged the Defense, the Homeland Security and the Justice Departments, among others.
Politico: Trump knows it's over
Trump has privately acknowledged he lost the presidency, that Biden will replace him and he recognizes that Congress will formally certify the results on Wednesday, Politico reported, citing as sources people who have spoken to him.
Trump still maintains he would have won a fair election, they said, despite no concrete evidence emerging of widespread voter fraud.
Sometimes, Trump relapses into the belief that he can overturn the result, most often when listening to lawyers like Eastman and Rudy Giuliani. But mostly, Trump is continuing his fight to subvert the election to keep the attention on himself and give his supporters what they want, according to the people who have spoken with him.
"The point is to still be relevant and still be talked about in the news," said one of the people. "This is someone who’s been on Page Six of the New York Post for 40 years. He’s beyond embarrassment."
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments by Newsday's reporting staff, written by Bart Jones. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- Trump had no idea that Pence, as vice president, plays a role in the Electoral College count until he saw an ad placed on Fox News by the anti-Trump ex-Republicans of the Lincoln Project, which sought to stir a rift, according to Axios reporter Jonathan Swan. "Trump sees this ad, becomes enraged and begins to take this up with Mike Pence privately," asking him to object, Swan said on MSNBC.
- Former President Jimmy Carter, 96, and former first lady Rosalynn Carter, 93, will not attend Biden’s inauguration but are sending their "best wishes." It marks the first time the couple will have missed the ceremonies since Carter was sworn in as the 39th president in 1977.
- George W. Bush, the only living former Republican president, will attend the Biden inauguration, a spokesman said on Tuesday night. Bush wants to witness "the peaceful transfer of power" that is "a hallmark of our democracy that never gets old," an aide said.
- The office of the U.S. Director of National Intelligence on Tuesday said Russia was "likely" behind a monthslong string of hacks, first identified last month, that breached federal agencies and the intruders’ goal appeared to be collecting intelligence, rather than any destructive acts. Trump has expressed skepticism of Russian involvement.
- Slogging through a backlog of bunkum, Washington Post fact-checkers said Trump made 29,508 false or misleading claims in the 1,386 days from the start of his presidency through Nov. 5. He set a one-day record on Nov. 2, the day before Election Day. CNN reviewed seven big Trump lies from Monday's Georgia rally.
- Republican lawyer Cleta Mitchell, who advised Trump during his threatening phone call in which he tried to browbeat Georgia’s secretary of state into changing the Peach State's election results, resigned on Tuesday as a partner in Foley & Lardner. The top-tier law firm took a dim view of her involvement in the election challenge.