WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump met with top advisers Monday who discussed with him the need to allow the transition for President-elect Joe Biden to proceed amid increasing pressure from fellow Republicans and business leaders.
The advisers argued that the combination of snowballing calls from Republicans in Congress to begin the transition, disastrous public appearances by attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell and mounting legal setbacks were creating a public relations problem — and that Trump needed to shift course to “protect his brand,” as one ally put it.
The General Services Administration made the official designation to begin the transition on Monday, providing Biden's team access to funding and federal agencies.
During the meeting Monday, the president was upset with public statements by Republican allies, including Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, calling for him to recognize a Biden transition, a person familiar with the discussions said.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows made the point to Trump that he should authorize a transition now, before there’s a full flood of Republicans calling on him to do so, in order to maintain the appearance of being a boss who was resistant to pressure, according to the person familiar with the discussions.
And one of Trump’s lawyers, Jay Sekulow, essentially told him he could keep fighting legal battles, even though there’s no chance they will be successful, another ally said.
The advisers who made the case to the president also included senior advisers Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and Hope Hicks, as well as White House counsel Pat Cipollone. Their argument was, according to the Trump ally, “rather than continue to take the massive PR hit from all of this, suck it up, don’t formally concede, but allow the transition to proceed.” The goal is to “quell the protests” within the GOP, the ally said.
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Yet a transition does not mean a concession. Instead Trump will continue his effort to convince his supporters he was robbed of the election and air his grievances. “He tries to message things so he doesn’t feel like as big of a loser,” the second Trump ally said.
The move, Trump’s advisers hope, takes some pressure off of Republicans and the White House. And, according to the first Trump ally, “ensures the Biden team does not have an excuse on Jan. 20 and beyond.”
“They can no longer say it’s all Trump’s fault,” the ally said. “It takes that off the table.”
Now the president, according to this person, can continue to argue the election’s results were rigged or stolen from him “all he wants,” without being blamed for a transition delay.