A Transition Without a Concession

Biden is moving ahead with his transition plans, but Trump still refuses to concede. Republicans aren’t sure how to handle it. It’s Monday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

Where things stand

Celebrations broke out in cities and towns across the country on Saturday after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the presidential race.

It was a remarkable — and improbable — scene, as our reporters Matt Flegenheimer and Katie Glueck write in a news analysis. Matt and Katie remind us that Biden is the same “institutionalist 70-something, incorrigible square, inexhaustible reciter of Irish poetry” he’s always been. “But then, it seems that defeating President Trump can do strange things for a man’s reputation.”

Biden and Kamala Harris, the vice president-elect, projected an executive air on Saturday night as they strode onstage to address the country in Wilmington, Del., hours after the race had been called.

Harris began with a speech that invited women, particularly women of color, to bask in the milestone of her election as the first female vice president. She invoked her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who arrived in the United States as an Indian immigrant at 19.

“I am thinking about her and about the generations of women, Black women, Asian, white, Latina, Native American women, who throughout our nation’s history have paved the way for this moment tonight,” Harris said. “Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all, including the Black women who are too often overlooked, but so often prove they are the backbone of our democracy.”

In his own remarks, Biden declared it “the honor of my lifetime” that the country had sided with his message of unity and head-on confrontation of the coronavirus. Early on Monday, he unveiled a transition team of scientists and experts to prepare his virus response. “That plan will be built on bedrock science,” he said in his speech Saturday.

Veterans of both Republican and Democratic administrations are now calling on Trump to accept his election loss and begin the transition process. But he has shown no willingness to do so — and in fact, he’s been eerily silent other than a cascade of tweets, many of which Twitter has labeled misleading.

The nonpartisan Center for Presidential Transition released a letter on Sunday urging him to move ahead with the transition.

“While there will be legal disputes requiring adjudication, the outcome is sufficiently clear that the transition process must now begin,” wrote the four members of its advisory board, which includes veterans of the Clinton, Obama and George W. Bush administrations. The center has participated in presidential transition activities for four election cycles.

The pressure is now on the General Services Administration, which is responsible for declaring a winning candidate and facilitating the transition process. Its Trump-appointed administrator, Emily Murphy, has not yet affirmed Biden’s victory.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” James Clyburn, the Democratic whip in the House and a Biden adviser, pressed Republicans to break with the president. “What matters to me is whether or not the Republican Party will step up and help us preserve the integrity of this democracy,” he said.

Enough votes have been counted in Pennsylvania, Nevada and other close states that it’s clear Trump has lost the election. In Pennsylvania, for instance, ballots received after Election Day have been sorted and counted separately from those received through Nov. 3.

This would become relevant if Republicans succeeded in overturning a state court decision to allow ballots to be accepted up to three days after Election Day. The good news for Biden is that it does not appear losing those ballots alone would be enough to erase his lead in the state.

In Arizona, more votes came in on Sunday, breaking narrowly for Trump. He does not appear to be on pace to overtake Biden in the state, which remains undecided and would only add to Biden’s margin of victory in the Electoral College if he held on to win.

The news in House races across the country has generally been better for Republicans than for Democrats. An exception came in northeastern suburbs outside Atlanta, where Carolyn Bourdeaux was declared the winner on Friday in a House district that had been vacated by the five-term Republican congressman Rob Woodall.

But over all, Democrats have lost a net of five seats in the chamber this cycle, with a number of races across the country still uncalled.

Here’s another thing Republicans have to celebrate: As of last night, Democrats had not flipped a single statehouse chamber in an election year that will determine who controls the decennial process of redistricting.

Democrats are looking at being shut out completely from the district-drawing process — which will use data drawn from the 2020 census — in key states including Florida, Texas and North Carolina. Together, those states will account for more than 80 congressional seats starting in 2022.

Photo of the day

Joe Biden was shown speaking on Saturday night in Times Square.

As Trump refuses to concede, Republicans debate whether to break with him.

Despite his loss, Trump appears likely to remain a powerful figure in the Republican Party going forward. And many top Republican officials are having a hard time deciding how to handle his refusal to concede.

As ever, the president still has the support of some of the party’s highest-ranking officials. On Sunday, Kristi Noem, the governor of South Dakota, backed up Trump’s unfounded claims that the election had been tainted by irregularities. She cited “computer glitches” and reports of “dead people voting in Pennsylvania” as examples of widespread fraud.

“When you break the process on which we elect our leaders, you will break America forever,” Noem said on ABC’s “This Week,” without any evidence to support her claims.

Melania Trump added her voice to the chorus on Sunday. “The American people deserve fair elections,” she tweeted. “Every legal – not illegal – vote should be counted. We must protect our democracy with complete transparency.”

It appears likely that a sizable chunk of the Republican Party may continue to embrace myths about the fundamental illegitimacy of Biden’s presidency well into the future. Since the race was called on Saturday, the president himself has been posting defiant messages on Twitter.

Presidential Transition: Latest Updates

“Since when does the Lamestream Media call who our next president will be?” he wrote yesterday, despite the fact that it is a long-held tradition for news organizations such as The Associated Press to publicly declare the winner in a presidential race.

George W. Bush, whose own White House claimed the ability to “create our own reality,” was not willing to play along with Trump’s narrative. On Sunday he said that he had called Biden to congratulate him on the victory, becoming the most prominent Republican to effectively rebuke Trump’s effort to deny the results.

“I extended my warm congratulations and thanked him for the patriotic message he delivered last night,” Bush said in a statement, referring to Biden’s speech in Wilmington. He added a note of congratulations to Trump, whose more than 70 million votes he called “an extraordinary political achievement.”

In between those denying the results and those calling on Trump to concede are a number of sitting Republican lawmakers, including Senators Ted Cruz and Roy Blunt, who are now doing an awkward balancing act.

Cruz, who has his own complicated history with Trump, argued without evidence on Sunday that the president still had a legitimate “path to victory” through the Electoral College. In an interview with Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business, Cruz, who represents Texas in the Senate, drew upon his experience as a lawyer on Bush’s team in 2000, when the Supreme Court halted the counting of ballots in Florida and handed the race to the Republican ticket.

“It went twice to the Florida Supreme Court. It went twice to the U.S. Supreme Court. It took 36 days to resolve, and we got an answer,” Cruz said. “I would expect a similar process to play out here, despite the media trying to tell everyone, ‘Give up, go home, we know who we want to win.’”

Blunt, a Missouri senator and member of the Republican leadership, also said on Sunday that he thought it was too early to declare Biden the president-elect. But speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” he allowed that it “seems unlikely” that the election’s outcome would change as more votes were counted.

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