List of Republicans breaking with Trump grows longer

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The list of Republicans who are breaking with President Trump over his wild assertions about widespread voter fraud and acknowledging the reality of President-elect Joe Biden’s election win is growing longer.

So is the list of the president’s targets as he refuses to concede and rages against allies who, in his eyes, have shown insufficient loyalty.

The developments have divided Trump and some of his allies in the final weeks of his administration and raised concerns about the negative impact his attacks on the electoral process could have on the Senate runoff elections in Georgia that will decide if Republicans hold the majority.

Republican senators have not been vocal in pushing back on the president’s unsubstantiated or false claims about the election, but a growing number are slowly acknowledging Biden as the apparent winner.

“They have a genuine fear that knowing that Donald Trump was never about the Republican Party and does not care about a future Republican Party except where it involves the word Trump, and as part of a last swift kick in the butt to Republicans, he can take down the two Senate seats if he wants to,” said Doug Heye, former Republican National Committee communications director.

“It’s why we see them moving slowly but methodically toward that place,” Heye added.

The latest major break came Tuesday, when Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department has found no evidence of fraud that would change the result of the presidential election, despite Trump’s repeated claims of coordinated electoral fraud through which the election was “stolen” from him.

The same day, a GOP elections official in Georgia issued a sharp repudiation of Trump for failing to condemn violence against officials and called on him to accept the election results.

Trump has held fire on Barr for now, but his campaign legal team rejected his comments as uninformed. On Wednesday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany indicated Trump would continue to pursue litigation and declined to say whether Trump has confidence in the attorney general.

“The president, if he has any personnel announcements, you will be the first to know it,” McEnany told reporters.

Trump’s allies do not expect him to change his posture or concede the election, and he has shown no sign of backing off his voter fraud claims in the wake of criticism. The president on Wednesday posted a 46-minute speech to Facebook from the White House in which he doubled down on his insistence that fraud was at play in the election. The video appeared to be edited together over multiple takes, and it’s unclear when it was filmed.

Some Republicans in Congress have acknowledged Biden as the winner of the election, and Trump’s decision to approve of the transition moving forward last week followed growing pressure from Republicans for him to do so. But they’ve been largely silent on Trump’s claims of voter fraud.

Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.), who has not explicitly referred to Biden president-elect and said Trump has the right to challenge the results, on Tuesday referred to the “new administration” when discussing stimulus negotiations at a news conference — an acknowledgement of the impending leadership change in the executive branch.

Republican state officials, however, have increasingly begun sounding the alarm about Trump’s attacks on the voting process and accused him of putting those charged with carrying out elections in danger.

Gabriel Sterling, a Republican and Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, called on Trump to condemn threats against election officials in the Peach State and elsewhere that have been made amid the challenges to the election.

“Mr. President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia. We’re investigating, there’s always a possibility, I get it, you have the right to go through the courts,” Sterling said Tuesday. “What you don’t have the ability to do — and you need to step up and say this — is stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence.”

On Wednesday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger also levied criticism at Trump and said he stook by Sterling’s comments.

Christopher Krebs, a top Department of Homeland Security official who was fired by Trump over a statement issued by his agency affirming the security of the election, has also been the recipient of threatening comments by a Trump campaign lawyer, Joe diGenova.  

“This has got to stop, it has to stop,” Krebs said during a Washington Post event Wednesday. “We have to let the professionals do their jobs, and it’s well beyond time for everyone on both sides of the political spectrum to call for an end and to call for our certification process and move on to the next administration.”

Asked whether Trump condemned such threats, McEnany said at Wednesday’s briefing that the White House condemns “threats against anyone.”

As Trump is increasingly out on a limb with his claims, he has lashed out at some of the same officials whom he praised and endorsed throughout his presidency.

Trump backed Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) in the hotly contested Georgia gubernatorial race in 2018. But after Kemp certified the state’s election results, making Biden the winner, Trump said he was “ashamed” he had endorsed the governor. Trump is headed to Georgia on Saturday to campaign for Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, and he appears poised to continue to level claims about a “rigged” election.

The president rallied in Ohio in 2018 for Mike DeWine during his bid for governor. DeWine was among the first Republicans to call Biden “president-elect,” prompting Trump to urge a primary challenge to the governor in 2022.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) appeared alongside Trump at rallies in Arizona in the closing weeks of the 2020 campaign but has found himself in the president’s crosshairs after certifying the election results of his state, which Biden won by roughly 10,000 votes. The president on Monday approvingly shared a tweet that said Ducey had “betrayed the people of Arizona.”

Trump also called into a meeting on alleged voting irregularities headed by his lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis in Arizona the same day and made a point to rebuke Ducey for certifying the state’s election results.  

“He just rushed to sign certificates so that [Democrat Mark] Kelly gets into the Senate as soon as possible. What’s that all about?” Trump said. “Arizona will not forget what Ducey just did.”

In a sign of Trump’s waning influence as he prepares to leave office, those governors have stood by their remarks and actions and defended their states.

“In Arizona, we have some of the strongest election laws in the country, laws that prioritize accountability and clearly lay out procedures for conducting, canvassing, and even contesting the results of an election,” Ducey tweeted as part of a lengthy response to Trump’s criticism.

The president’s claims threaten to divide the GOP and pit Trump loyalists against those who have accepted the election outcome at a time when the party must win at least one of two Senate runoff races in Georgia next month to retain control of the upper chamber.

“The president values loyalty over all else. But as his grip on the presidency slips, his hold over other Republican leaders with their own brands is going to become increasingly tenuous,” said Dan Eberhart, a GOP fundraiser who has urged Trump to move on from the election. “Frankly, it’s harmful for GOP unity, but Trump always sees himself as the center of whatever he’s doing.”

Tags Brian Kemp David Perdue Donald Trump Doug Ducey Joe Biden Kelly Loeffler Mike DeWine Rudy Giuliani William Barr

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