‘Faith in Our Institutions Held’

The Electoral College votes, affirming Biden’s victory. So now it’s official, again. It’s Tuesday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

Where things stand

The Electoral College’s 538 members cast their votes yesterday, affirming Joe Biden as the president-elect of the United States. Conducted separately by delegations in all 50 states, the vote didn’t have to be a big deal. It might have passed by more or less unnoticed, a formality with little pomp or circumstance weeks after the presidential transition had begun.

But it unfolded as yet another unforced humiliation for President Trump in the weeks since Nov. 3. Until the last moments, he and his allies had sought to snatch an Electoral College victory by persuading friendly Republicans in states won by Biden to swap in Trump-friendly electors who would cast “faithless” ballots.

Instead, not a single rogue ballot was cast yesterday. Biden officially crossed the 270-vote threshold in the evening as California cast its 55 electoral votes.

Speaking last night from Wilmington, Del., Biden asked the nation to put the election behind it and move on. “We the people voted,” he said. “Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remains intact. And so, now it is time to turn the page, as we’ve done throughout our history. To unite. To heal.”

The voting went relatively smoothly, calming fears after some states had taken steps to address what officials considered viable threats of violence outside locations where the electors were convening.

In Michigan and Wisconsin, lawmakers closed their statehouses to the public after Trump supporters pledged to protest outside. Wisconsin’s electors were ushered into a side entrance at the State Capitol.

In many contested states, police officers at Electoral College voting places outnumbered protesters, and across the country the process proceeded without interruption.

Trump suffered another defeat yesterday: The Wisconsin Supreme Court, despite its conservative majority, rejected his campaign’s effort to throw out more than 200,000 ballots in the state’s two most heavily Democratic counties.

The campaign had sought to have votes invalidated for a range of reasons, including if the ballots were cast at in-person early voting sites or if the witness for an absentee voter did not provide a complete mailing address. The court ruled that one of the campaign’s requests was “meritless on its face,” and that the others were invalid because the plaintiffs had waited too long to file suit.

For almost two years, William Barr, the attorney general, has been one of the president’s staunchest allies. A veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, Barr was seen as bringing a certain gravitas to the Trump administration when he arrived in February 2019.

As a result, many observers were startled by Barr’s willingness to defend even the president’s most outlandish positions, and by the active role he played in working to suppress findings from the report by Robert Mueller, the special counsel.

But like so many before him who went to the mat on behalf of Trump, Barr now finds himself pushed out anyhow. Trump reportedly turned against Barr in recent weeks, after the attorney general publicly acknowledged that the Justice Department had found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

The president announced yesterday that Barr would leave his job next week, though he posted a message on Twitter that downplayed any conflict. “Our relationship has been a very good one, he has done an outstanding job!” Trump wrote.

Indeed, Barr has shown a marked readiness to bend the Justice Department to suit the president’s political agenda. As a result, one legacy he leaves behind is the erosion of the department’s post-Watergate independence from the White House.

As Katie Benner reports in a recent article, many career Justice Department employees will be looking for Biden’s attorney general — whoever it is — to commit to depoliticizing the department. (This consideration takes on added importance in the wake of revelations that federal prosecutors are investigating Hunter Biden’s tax affairs.)

The bipartisan group of centrist senators working to craft a compromise stimulus bill unveiled a two-pronged proposal yesterday, inviting Republican and Democratic leaders to either set aside their biggest points of disagreement or agree to each accept their poison pills.

One option is a $748 billion piece of legislation that would mostly fund programs that already enjoy broad support. It would reinstate federal unemployment payments and a popular small business loan program, as well as provide funding for vaccine distribution, food aid, schools and other institutions struggling to stay afloat.

A second option includes the two greatest sticking points to a deal: $160 billion to bolster state and local governments, and a temporary coronavirus liability shield for businesses, nonprofit groups, schools and hospitals.

Photo of the day

Stacey Abrams, the presiding officer at Georgia’s Electoral College meeting, spoke to electors at the Georgia State Capitol yesterday.

Republican leaders in Michigan slowly move away from Trump, previewing a challenge for Republicans everywhere.

“I fear we’d lose our country forever.”

Those were the stark and unflinching words of the Republican speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, Lee Chatfield, who issued a statement yesterday just hours before he and Mike Shirkey, the Republican majority leader in the State Senate, affirmed Michigan’s 16 electoral votes for Biden.

“I can’t fathom risking our norms, traditions and institutions to pass a resolution retroactively changing the electors for Trump, simply because some think there may have been enough widespread fraud to give him the win,” Chatfield wrote.

Trump had summoned him and Shirkey to the White House last month and sought to persuade them to replace the state’s electors by holding a vote in the state’s Legislature. As supporters of the president who have their own political ambitions, and who represent a state where Trump remains highly popular among Republicans, Chatfield and Shirkey were willing to meet with him and hear him out.

But they ultimately rejected his plan, and in the process became canaries in the mine for other state- and national-level Republicans across the country, who are now straining to balance their loyalty to the president with an unwillingness to go along with his undemocratic behavior.

That is not an easy task politically: More than two-thirds of Republican voters nationwide think Trump was unfairly robbed of victory in the election, according to a Fox News poll last week. Sixty-six percent of Republicans said the president’s challenges to the election were in fact helping American democracy, and even more — 71 percent — said they wanted him to run again in 2024.

But things are very different among Democrats and independents, who overwhelmingly believe Biden won fair and square.

In Washington, Republican leaders are beginning to let go of their long-unwavering loyalty to Trump, as top senators stepped forward yesterday after the Electoral College’s vote to acknowledge Biden as the president-elect and Kamala Harris as the vice president-elect.

“I understand there are people who feel strongly about the outcome of this election, but in the end, at some point, you have to face the music,” Senator John Thune, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber, said at the Capitol. “And I think once the Electoral College settles the issue today, it’s time for everybody to move on.”

That change in tone didn’t come soon enough for Representative Paul Mitchell, Republican of Michigan, who has been so disgusted by his party’s refusal to confront Trump over his disinformation campaign that he is leaving the G.O.P.

Mitchell, who did not run for re-election this year and was already planning to retire from Congress, announced the news yesterday in a letter to top Republican officials. He warned that they were helping Trump do “long-term harm to our democracy” by giving credence to his baseless claims of election fraud.

Mitchell plans to serve out the rest of his term as an independent.

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