With silence, GOP enables Trump’s risky endgame

WASHINGTON (AP) – Republicans in Congress are engaged in a risky but calculated bet that once United States (US) President Donald Trump has exhausted his legal challenges to the election, he will come to grips with his loss to President-elect Joe Biden.

But the opposite is happening.

As one Trump court case after another falls by the wayside, Trump is doubling down on efforts to disrupt the election outcome. Rather than accept the reality of the vote, the president is using the weight of his office to try to squash it. He summoned Michigan state lawmakers to the White House on Friday after personally reaching out to GOP officials ahead of next week’s deadline to certify election results. Others from Pennsylvania may similarly be invited in.

Republicans are standing by as it all unfolds. What started as a GOP strategy to give the president the time and space he needed to process his defeat is now spiraling into an unprecedented challenge to the election outcome like nothing since the Civil War.

“It’s hit the point where the Republican Party’s letting Trump’s pout go on too long,” said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, a professor at Rice University in Texas.

With their silence, the Republican lawmakers are falling in one step deeper with the president they have spent four years trying to appease. A few have spoken up. But mostly the Republicans are enabling Trump as he wages an unsubstantiated attack on the election that threatens to erode civic trust and impede Biden’s transition to the White House. It could define careers for years to come.

ABOVE & BELOW: A view of the White House; and US President Donald Trump and Ivana walk across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. PHOTOS: AP

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (pic above) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (pic below) speak in Washington

With Inauguration Day two months away, construction crew work on the platforms where the president-elect will take the oath of office, at the Capitol

“It’s making future stars of the Republican Party look tiny and small,” Brinkley said. “All of these senators are going to carry a dark mark on their legacy for coddling Trump after he lost.”

Republicans started with a simple premise: If Trump had concerns about fraudulent voting, as he widely claimed, go to court and make the case.

It was a way to buy time, give Trump a chance to bring evidence, and perhaps convince some of his most ardent supporters of the outcome. Biden now has won 80 million votes to Trump’s 74 million.

But in one state after another, from Arizona to Georgia, the Trump cases are failing. Trump forced recounts on Friday in two counties in Wisconsin. More legal action is expected there and cases are pending elsewhere. Nowhere has evidence been presented of widespread voter fraud on a scale that could alter the outcome.

The Republican lawmakers will soon be forced into a moment of truth with key upcoming deadlines.

States are expected to certify election results by December 8, and Republican lawmakers have been eyeing the December 14 Electoral College deadline as their own offramp from Trump’s presidency.

That’s when GOP lawmakers believe they can start saying publicly what many of them already suggest in private – that Biden, in fact, won the election.

But there’s no guarantee their gamble will work. Rather than glide toward that outcome, Trump is digging in – moving beyond the GOP argument that it’s about counting legal votes and halting illegal ones to more broadly trying to overturn results.

Trump has talked openly about stacking the Electoral College, where electors are typically determined by the outcome in the states, with his backers.

“I won, by the way,” Trump said on Friday at the White House. “We’ll find that out.”

Almost none of the top Republican leaders in the House or Senate responded directly on Friday when asked by The Associated Press if they believe the states have any reason not to certify their election results.

Only Republican Liz Cheney, the No 3 Republican in the House, and the daughter of the former vice president, said if Trump is unsatisfied with the outcome of the legal battles, he can appeal.

“If the president cannot prove these claims or demonstrate that they would change the election result,” Cheney said in a statement to the AP, “he should fulfill his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the US by respecting the sanctity of our electoral process.” Trump rejected Cheney’s view in a tweet on Saturday night that also took aim at her past opposition to withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and Iraq: “Sorry Liz, can’t accept the results of an election with hundreds of thousands of fraudulent votes cast, enough to easily flip the Election. You’re just unhappy that I’m bringing the troops back home where they belong!”

One key lawmaker, Senator Pat Toomey, from battleground Pennsylvania, took Saturday’s ruling throwing out Trump’s lawsuit over the state’s vote as an opportunity to assert that Trump had exhausted “all plausible legal options” to challenge the result in Pennsylvania and to declare that Biden’s election had been confirmed.

“I congratulate President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their victory. They are both dedicated public servants and I will be praying for them and for our country,” Toomey said in a statement. He encouraged Trump to “accept the outcome” and facilitate the transition.

With the Capitol still partly shuttered due to the COVID-19 crisis and emptying out for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, lawmakers are able to deflect many questions about their positions.