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Most Republicans avoid challenging Trump on election

Republicans are largely avoiding any challenges of President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' MORE over his refusal to concede the election to Democrat Joe Biden.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRon Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many Klain on Harris breaking tie: 'Every time she votes, we win' How to pass legislation in the Senate without eliminating the filibuster 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 RomneyRon Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many Romney's TRUST Act is a Trojan Horse to cut seniors' benefits Republicans, please save your party 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 CornynOvernight Defense: Capitol Police may ask National Guard to stay | Biden's Pentagon policy nominee faces criticism | Naval Academy midshipmen moved to hotels Senators introduce bill creating technology partnerships to compete with China Republicans blast Pentagon policy nominee over tweets, Iran nuclear deal 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 McCarthyWatch live: McCarthy holds press briefing Biden vows to work with Congress to 'refine' voting rights bill House passes voting rights and elections reform bill 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 BartiromoBBC apologizes for interview with fake Cory Booker Gaetz suggests DeSantis could run for president in 2024 if Trump is out of the picture Bartiromo, Pirro, Dobbs file to dismiss Smartmatic lawsuits MORE on Fox Business over the weekend.  

House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseBiden's COVID, border policies prove he's serious about neither Republican rips GOP lawmakers for voting by proxy from CPAC Merrick Garland is right to prioritize domestic terrorism, but he'll need a bigger boat 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 TrumpTrump says 'no doubt' Tiger Woods will be back after accident Trump sends well wishes to Tiger Woods after crash Scottish lawmakers want to investigate Trump purchase of golf courses 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 GrahamRon Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many Here's who Biden is now considering for budget chief House Democratic leaders back Shalanda Young for OMB after Tanden withdrawal 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 CruzCrenshaw pours cold water on 2024 White House bid: 'Something will emerge' Garland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks The Hill's 12:30 Report: Washington on high alert as QAnon theory marks March 4 MORE (R-Texas) told Bartiromo that “Trump still has a path to victory.”

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Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyCrenshaw pours cold water on 2024 White House bid: 'Something will emerge' Garland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks The Memo: Is Trump mounting a comeback — or finally fading? 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 BidenJoe BidenTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot FireEye finds evidence Chinese hackers exploited Microsoft email app flaw since January Biden officials to travel to border amid influx of young migrants MORE 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 CollinsMurkowski votes with Senate panel to advance Haaland nomination OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior reverses Trump policy that it says restricted science | Collins to back Haaland's Interior nomination | Republicans press Biden environment nominee on Obama-era policy Republicans, please save your party 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 RooneyRepublican rips GOP lawmakers for voting by proxy from CPAC A party of ideas, not a cult of personality Growing number of House Republicans warm to proxy voting MORE (Fla.) and Paul MitchellPaul MitchellUnnamed law enforcement banned under the new NDAA Growing number of House Republicans warm to proxy voting Juan Williams: The GOP's betrayal of America 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 KinzingerRepublicans, please save your party House GOP campaign chief: Not helpful for Trump to meddle in primaries Democrats snipe on policy, GOP brawls over Trump 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.