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Most Republicans avoid challenging Trump on election

Republicans are largely avoiding any challenges of President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE over his refusal to concede the election to Democrat Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation US records 2,300 COVID-19 deaths as pandemic rises with holidays MORE.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAs Biden administration ramps up, Trump legal effort drags on Harris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year MORE (R-Ky.) signaled the game plan during a Monday address on the Senate floor while giving his members cover.

McConnell’s remarks were disparaging of Democrats and the media, who have projected Biden as the winner but have no constitutional role in the process, the Kentucky Republican noted. McConnell, who is poised to be his party’s top official in Washington when Biden takes office, also said Trump was well within his rights of challenging the close results and asking for recounts.

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McConnell did not congratulate Biden, but he also didn’t give much air to the cries from Trump and his allies that the election was stolen from the president, simply saying it was Trump’s right to make the case to the courts.

“President Trump is 100 percent within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options,” McConnell said. “We have the tools and institutions we need to address any concerns. The president has every right to look into allegations and request recounts under the law.”

There were other subtle signs that patience is running out on Trump even among some of his allies.

Fox News, which enraged the president by projecting Biden as the winner of the key state of Arizona last week, on Monday cut away from a press conference by White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany when she began to make charges about fraud.

“She is charging that the other side is welcoming fraud and welcoming illegal voting. Unless she has more details to back that up, I can’t in good countenance continuing showing you this,” Fox News host Neil Cavuto, who has previously gone after Trump when he believed the president had spoken in falsehoods, said on air as the network cut away from the press conference in Washington, D.C.

Few Republicans are openly bucking Trump, whom they see as a powerful political force within their party for years to come. 

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“He has the biggest voice, the biggest following. Surely the Republican voters listen to him more than any other Republican right now and so he’ll have influence over what we do next week and next year and in 2024,” Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyBiden teams to meet with Trump administration agencies Paul Ryan calls for Trump to accept results: 'The election is over' Trump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism MORE (Utah), one of the few GOP senators to congratulate Biden, said of Trump. 

Republican senators see the allegiance of Trump’s base voters as crucial to winning two Jan. 5 runoff races in Georgia that will ultimately decide who controls the Senate next year.

At the same time, Republicans aren’t willing to prolong the standoff if the courts rule against Trump.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynCornyn says election outcome 'becoming increasingly clear': report Top GOP senator: Biden should be getting intel briefings GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results MORE (R-Texas), who just won election to a fourth term, said he was not aware of any widespread evidence of fraud. 

“There is a process that is available, and I don’t begrudge the president of availing himself of that process, but in the end they’re going to have to come up with some facts and evidence,” he said. “That’s not my job, that’s his campaign’s job.”

It’s a different story in the House, where top GOP leaders are echoing Trump’s fraud allegations.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTop Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' Sunday shows preview: Biden transition, COVID-19 spike in spotlight MORE (R-Calif.), a close Trump ally, declared on Fox News that “President Trump won this election,” though his office later suggested he was implying Trump had helped Republicans pick up House seats.

In another interview, McCarthy questioned why media outlets called the race for Biden when a number of close House races have yet to be called. In Pennsylvania, however, the Biden lead had grown to more than 45,000 votes in Pennsylvania and more than 10,000 in Georgia.

“What we need in the presidential race is to make sure every legal vote is counted, every recount is complete, and every legal challenge should be heard. Then and only then, will America decide who won the race,” McCarthy told Maria BartiromoMaria Sara BartiromoHouse GOP lawmaker: Biden should be recognized as president-elect Most Republicans avoid challenging Trump on election Senate Republicans sit quietly as Trump challenges vote counts MORE on Fox Business over the weekend.  

House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseTop Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' New RSC chairman sees 'Trumpism' as future MORE (R-La.) offered much the same message.

“The election isn’t over until all legal votes are counted and certified. There are still serious legal challenges that have been made, and until that process is resolved, the election is not final,” Scalise said in a tweet. “The American people deserve a fair and transparent process.”

Trump’s family members have put the pressure on GOP office-holders, reminding them that Trump will be a kingmaker in GOP primaries.

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“The total lack of acting from virtually all of the ‘2024 GOP hopefuls’ is pretty amazing. They have a perfect platform to show that they’re willing & able to fight but they cower to the media mob instead,” Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, tweeted Thursday. 

Trump Jr. told supporters in Georgia that any Republicans who don’t show backbone and fight should be gone.  

The president’s other son, Eric TrumpEric Frederick TrumpLara Trump mulling 2022 Senate run in North Carolina: report Juan Williams: Defeated Trump is in legal peril Trump campaign ends voter fraud hotline after it's filled with prank calls MORE, warned the same day on Twitter: “Our voters will never forget you if your [sic] sheep!”

Some Republican senators have since rushed to Trump’s side. 

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamLet's give thanks to Republican defenders of Democracy Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight MORE (R-S.C.) warned Sunday, “If Republicans don’t challenge and change the U.S. election system, there will never be another Republican president elected again” and urged Trump not to concede.

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol MORE (R-Texas) told Bartiromo that “Trump still has a path to victory.”

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Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyO'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Rush Limbaugh lauds Hawley: 'This guy is the real deal' MORE (R-Mo.) tweeted Saturday: “The media do not get to determine who the president is. The people do.”

"When all lawful votes have been counted, recounts finished, and allegations of fraud addressed, we will know who the winner is," he said. 

Moderate Republicans, including some of the president’s most outspoken critics, publicly recognize Biden as the president-elect, even as they also acknowledge Trump’s legal rights.

“I would offer my congratulations to President-elect Biden on his apparent victory – he loves this country, and I wish him every success. Presidential transitions are important, and the President-elect and the Vice-President-elect should be given every opportunity to ensure that they are ready to govern on January 20th,” Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers Trump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism The Memo: Trump election loss roils right MORE (R-Maine) said in a statement Monday

Republicans who won’t face future primaries were more willing to accept media declarations of Biden as the winner.

A pair of retiring Republicans, Reps. Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyTime to concede: The peaceful transition of power is an American tradition House GOP lawmaker: Biden should be recognized as president-elect Most Republicans avoid challenging Trump on election MORE (Fla.) and Paul MitchellPaul MitchellHere are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year House GOP lawmaker: Biden should be recognized as president-elect Most Republicans avoid challenging Trump on election MORE (Mich.), tweeted congratulations to Biden. But there appeared to be only one returning House GOP lawmaker who was critical of the Trump campaign’s fraud claims. 

Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerFirst release from Fox News Books reaches No. 2 on Amazon top-seller list GOP lawmaker says colleagues 'waiting' for Trump to come to terms with loss GOP lawmaker: Trump implementing a 'loyalty purge' amid firing of top cybersecurity official MORE (R-Ill.), a moderate, expressed skepticism of Trump’s fraud claims. 

“We want every vote counted, yes every legal vote (of course). But, if you have legit concerns about fraud present EVIDENCE and take it to court.  STOP Spreading debunked misinformation... This is getting insane,” he tweeted Thursday night after Trump claimed at the White House the election was rigged and he won more legal votes than Biden.