The Memo: Trump election loss roils right

President TrumpDonald TrumpOmar, Muslim Democrats decry Islamophobia amid death threats On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Trump cheers CNN's Cuomo suspension MORE’s loss in the 2020 election — and his continued attempts to pretend it didn’t happen — are throwing the Republican Party and the broader forces of conservatism into turmoil.

The split is between those who are maintaining loyalty toward Trump as he fights on, and those who are becoming more assertive about saying it’s all over.

On Monday, Trump suffered more setbacks.


Michigan’s Board of State Canvassers voted 3-0, with one Republican abstention, to certify the state’s results. President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenCDC working to tighten testing requirement for international travelers On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Manchin seeks 'adjustments' to spending plan MORE won the Wolverine State by more than 150,000 votes but Trump and his allies had sought to push back against certification.

More GOP senators also broke with Trump on Monday.

Sens. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderMcConnell gets GOP wake-up call The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Authorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate MORE (R-Tenn.), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoRepublicans struggle to save funding for Trump's border wall White House looks to rein in gas prices ahead of busy travel season Bipartisan success in the Senate signals room for more compromise MORE (R-W.Va.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanBipartisan success in the Senate signals room for more compromise Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — US mulls Afghan evacuees' future Hillicon Valley — Presented by Ericsson — DOJ unveils new election hacking charges MORE (R-Ohio) in effect acknowledged Biden as president-elect.

Yet theirs remains a minority position in the GOP Senate conference, at least in public. And that underlines how turbulent the cross-currents are on the right.

On one hand, Trump is falsely claiming to have won an election he lost, and his refusal to comply with the normal transition process is disrupting democratic norms.

The longer his refusal lasts, the more it threatens to cause turbulence in the nation’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, in the financial markets and, potentially, in the realm of national security.


On the other hand, Trump received around 74 million votes. Anyone on the right, whether in politics or among conservative media, knows that breaking from the president is guaranteed to spark the ire of his supporters, whose fervency is undimmed. 

Among Republican voters, Trump is far and away the dominant national figure. Then there is the question of his ongoing influence on conservative politics to consider — an influence that could easily extend to another bid for the presidency in 2024, or a “kingmaker” role in that year’s GOP primary.

Put it all together, and the picture is one in which Trump’s once iron grip on the right has loosened but has not broken.

Susan Del Percio, a Republican strategist and critic of the president, noted that many GOP elected officials were staying on the sidelines even now. 

“But to what end? Do they want to just wait another week or two until it all falls out? Are they ever going to admit [the result]? Of course they are, Trump is going to leave,” Del Percio said. “But a president still has a lot of power in the last months. He could do a lot of favors or — more likely with this president — could do a lot of things against people who he perceives went against him.”

Two of the three senators to break with Trump Monday — Alexander and Capito — issued statements while Portman wrote an op-ed for the Cincinnati Enquirer in which he called for a smooth transition. “The initial determination showing Joe Biden with enough electoral votes to win has not changed,” he noted.

Alexander, Capito and Portman join five other GOP senators who have, in one way or another, acknowledged Biden’s victory: Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsBiden signs four bills aimed at helping veterans The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - The omicron threat and Biden's plan to beat it Senate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiCongress should reject H.R. 1619's dangerous anywhere, any place casino precedent Democratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills Graham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks MORE (Alaska), Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyNo deal in sight as Congress nears debt limit deadline GOP holds on Biden nominees set back gains for women in top positions This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead MORE (Utah), Ben SasseBen SasseThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - House to vote on Biden social spending bill after McCarthy delay CBO releases cost estimate of Biden plan Real conservatives must make a choice MORE (Neb.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyBlack women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (Pa.).

But the bulk of Republican elected officials, who are silent or supportive of Trump’s attempts to overturn the election result, presumably believe the president still wields enough power to make crossing him a bad idea.

There is also the media to consider. 

Even radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh — a staunch Trump supporter and sometime golf partner of the president — on Monday criticized a news conference Trump’s legal team held last week. 

“They promised blockbuster stuff and then nothing happened. And that’s just, it’s not good,” he told his listeners.

When Fox News Channel’s Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonNBA's Enes Kanter: Americans criticizing their country should 'keep their mouth shut' The serious and growing danger of vigilantism Vigilantes are not patriots MORE expressed skepticism about claims made by then-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell last week, however, he drew opprobrium from Trump supporters on social media. 


Fox News itself is increasingly in Trump’s crosshairs for what he deems insufficient loyalty. 

But he is no longer able to keep everyone on board.

“Some of the conservative media, who were true believers, see what they think is the writing on the wall,” said Tobe Berkovitz, a Boston University professor who specializes in political communication, “Trump lost, he has used up most of his challenges, and now do you want to go down with the ship? Or, if you are one of those pundits, do you want to try to be part of the next act for the conservative Republican Party.” 

Trump’s refusal to cede power is also increasingly roiling the business community.

On Monday, a public letter from more than 160 business leaders in Trump’s native New York called for him to move ahead with the transition.

“Every day that an orderly presidential transition process is delayed, our democracy grows weaker in the eyes of our own citizens and the nation’s stature on the global stage is diminished,” the letter stated. 


Wall Street heavyweights such as Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, BlackRock CEO Laurence Fink and Visa CEO Alfred Kelly Jr. were among the signatories.

Meanwhile, Biden and his team are proceeding as if an orderly transition is assured — a stance that is itself making plain the diminution of Trump’s power. 

The Biden transition team announced several key appointments Monday. Antony Blinken will be tapped to serve as secretary of State in the Biden administration, Alejandro Mayorkas as secretary of Homeland Security (the first Latino to hold the post), Linda Thomas-Greenfield as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and former Sen. John KerryJohn KerryTo address China's coal emissions, the US could use a little help from its friends Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Storms a growing danger for East Coast Israel, Jordan, UAE sign pivotal deal to swap solar energy, desalinated water MORE (D-Mass.) as a special envoy on climate change.

Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenOn The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Schumer eyeing Build Back Better vote as soon as week of Dec. 13 Trump: McConnell must use debt limit to crush Biden agenda MORE is widely reported to be Biden’s pick as Treasury secretary, though that has not yet been officially confirmed.

The Republican base may not be willing to give up on Trump just yet. An Economist/YouGov poll last week indicated that a startling 84 percent of GOP voters believed Biden did not legitimately win the election.

Late Monday, news broke that General Services Administration head Emily Murphy had sent a letter to the Biden campaign noting that the administration was ready to begin the formal transition process.


On Twitter, Trump wrote, "Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight and I believe we will prevail!"

But the facts say differently. The GOP, and other conservatives, are grappling with that reality.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.