Trump invited his teammates into the Oval Office, where he’d been spending afternoons and evenings lately when he wasn’t in the adjacent dining room watching TV, and demanded that he know why he was abandoning a fight he fully intended to fight.
Rather than an actual attempt to get more votes or even to reverse the election results, Trump’s legal efforts appear designed instead to sow conspiracy theories among his conservative supporters, raise extra money, preserve power over the Republican Party, and cast a shadow of illegitimacy on Biden the office. The same shadow Trump had complained of long ago darkened his time in office.
It remains unclear if any of these findings were his explicit goal. Many around him believe that the depressed president is simply making a complex attempt to heal his trauma rather than carry out a master plan. Asked last week how long his efforts might take, Trump suggested “two weeks, three weeks” – although few believe he will ever admit that he lost the election to Biden.
Within the president’s circle, two camps were already springing up prior to Thursday’s meeting in the Oval Office, which featured Vice President Mike Pence.
Senior aides, including at the White House and in his election campaign, allied with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and daughter Ivanka in warning the president that his legal efforts were a long, unlikely opportunity to change the outcome. From the election.
But Trump has also been hearing from his longtime lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump that the fight must continue and that they can still win. They have argued that the president owes it to his supporters – including the thousands who demonstrated in Washington this weekend – to maintain at least the appearance that he is still in battle. And they have put forth more conspiracy theories than ever that could prolong the battle.
The split came to a head during the Oval Office meeting, a session that briefed people about the matter and described it as controversial even by the standards of the Trump administration. At one point, Giuliani – patched by phone – called Trump’s campaign attorneys liars to tell them that the odds of changing the election results were slim.
Justin Clark, the President’s deputy campaign manager, hit back. Clark described the former New York City mayor as “an idiot,” whose participation in Trump’s legal efforts after the election has caused anger and discontent among other advisers.
By the end of the week, Trump had cleared up on his side. Trump announced on Twitter that Giuliani was now leading “legal efforts to defend our right to free and fair elections.” Over the weekend, the president released tweet after tweet using lies to cast doubt on the election results, quickly reversing what appeared to be an unintended hint of Biden winning.
“I don’t admit to anything!” Unleash Sunday.
Real world consequences
Trump’s refusal to compromise has had wide-ranging consequences, from his successor’s inability to access federal funds to the proliferation of new conspiracy theories among his hard-line supporters.
But the extension of his re-election battle also provided new reason for his campaign and for the Republican National Committee to bomb supporters with requests for funds, and demonstrated the strength of Trump’s hold on Republican lawmakers, most of whom continue to refuse to acknowledge his loss. .
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was silent on Monday as he walked on the Senate floor when he was questioned by CNN if he agreed with Trump’s false claim, made earlier on Twitter, that he “won the election”.
As White House employees describe being in a state of purgatory – stuck between a president who refuses to admit defeat and the stark reality that they will be out of work within months – Trump has only seen himself after him – prospects for the presidency are becoming clearer, including the possibility of launching a new media project. Or the immediate announcement of the 2024 bid, which both discussed them in secret over the past week.
Some Republicans see the president’s attempts to contest the election as a way to continue to fuel his supporters and control a mass of loyal and deeply trusted voters, whether or not he decides to run for president again in four years. By preserving the falsehood from which the election was stolen, Trump can continue to wield power over the party that the losing candidate – or at least the one who admitted losing – could not.
Crowds that gathered in Washington and other cities this weekend to protest the election results seemed to be feeding the president’s desire to continue the fight – or at least to maintain an unbeaten image. After passing a crowd in his motorcade on his way to his golf club in Virginia, Trump called his social media advisor Dan Scavino to be astonished at the scene.
Dan Eberhart, an Arizona-based energy executive and Republican donor, said he has been invited to alternative daily calls to the Trump campaign, in which campaign officials seek to explain the recount and legal strategy and “keep hope alive.” But he only listens every two days or so.
Eberhart said Trump’s reluctance to compromise had become burdensome. “I kind of got it over,” he said. “I see Trump’s world as an ice cube melting right now.”
There is no sign of holding back
Early last week, White House officials and his allies in the presidency believed the president was simply showing his fighting spirit because he firmly refused the waiver and ordered legal appeals in several states. Many assumed – perhaps naively – that Trump would eventually allow the transition, once the recount in Georgia ended and the other countries ratified its findings.
Now people close to the president have expressed concern that he accepts Giuliani’s false claims that his legal efforts could alter the election outcome. He showed no signs of holding back, even as those around him continued to signal the approaching end. These allies have expressed concern that a large faction in the country believes the election has been stolen from Trump and that Biden is not receiving a briefing on national security.
Giuliani did not respond to CNN’s multiple attempts to reach him on Monday.
John Bolton, the former president’s national security adviser, said on ABC: “If he has any personality, I would say he’s a complete character. He annoys him when reality doesn’t match his image of him.” “I don’t expect him to go sweet. I expect him to go. But I think soon we’ll get the stab at back theories. We’ll keep going dark conspiracy theories. He will make life very difficult. As far as he can for Biden’s next administration.”
Bolton left the White House on bad terms with Trump. But even his successor on Monday appeared to acknowledge the possibility that Trump will not become president after January 20.
“If there is a new administration, they deserve some time to go in and implement their policies,” National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said in a debate at the Global Security Forum at the Soufan Center on Monday. “If the Biden-Harris card is determined to be the winner – and clearly things look like this now – we’d have a very professional transition from the NSC.”
Trump laid out his strategy around long legal shots in Michigan and Pennsylvania, but his campaign is already starting to throw the final shots in court in those cases, after failing repeatedly and seeing their legal paths shut down. In many places where Trump is competing for the results, there are not enough contested votes to make an impact on the results as states close to certification deadlines.
At least two small provinces in Georgia completed presidential recounts without finding any inconsistencies. The audit is expected to be completed in the coming days, and Georgia’s foreign minister says he plans to certify the official results by Friday, as required by state law.
The state said on Monday that the recount in Wisconsin, which the Trump campaign said it will request, will cost them nearly $ 8 million, as the party requesting the recount must pay for it.
Trump’s campaign continues to escalate, but these appeals are unlikely to succeed, especially as the deadlines set for certifying her election results are approaching in the coming weeks. The Electoral College is due to meet in mid-December to formalize Biden’s victory.
A hearing is scheduled in federal court in Pennsylvania on Tuesday over whether the Trump campaign case should be dismissed there. The case was initially the boldest attempt by Trump to abandon or block the certification of votes in Pennsylvania, but Trump’s campaign attorneys downgraded the case dramatically over the weekend, after the appeals court suspended their ability to try to claim that the election administration was unfair. Under the constitution. The case now focuses on the alleged injustice of how the counties of Pennsylvania dealt with the absentee vote.
That prompted Trump to try to push back an unfounded allegation about a campaign program produced by Dominion, a conspiracy theory that US government officials and Dominians have directly refuted but remains focused on, according to people familiar with the matter.
Several lawsuits from Trump allies over alleged voter fraud have also collapsed, with four voter cases dropped in Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania on Monday. Lawsuits had promised “expert reports” that might reveal fraud related to absentee balloting, but James Pope Jr., a well-known conservative attorney working on lawsuits on behalf of voters, told CNN his team was unable to report because it was not They have access to the secret lists of voters.
Nursing ancient grievances
Legal efforts aside, the president’s refusal to compromise stems in part from his perceived complaint that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama undermined his presidency by saying that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and could have affected the outcome, the people around him say.
Trump still holds a grudge against those who allegedly undermined his election by citing Russian intervention efforts, and suggested that it was fair that Biden should not be recognized as the president-elect, despite Clinton’s abdication on election night in 2016 and Trump’s move. He was able to start right away.
Trump also continues to heal the emotional scars of losing a candidate who has repeatedly said throughout the campaign that he is an opponent who does not deserve his victory being a humiliation.
“The most important thing to keep in mind is that Donald is in a unique position to him,” said Mary Trump, the president’s niece who wrote a novel about his family life. “There has never been a situation in his life that he cannot get out of through the use of someone else’s money, the use of communications, the use of force. And not only is he in a unique position, he is in a loser situation, who was in my family, of course, to my grandfather, The worst thing you could be. “
Frederica Scotton of CNN contributed to this report.