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In appeasing Trump, the GOP toys with a constitutional crisis

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks in Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 4. Jon Cherry / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — In 2016, Donald Trump won Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by a combined 77,000 votes; he got 306 electoral votes; and he received a concession speech by Hillary Clinton and a White House meeting with Barack Obama 48 hours after the election.

In 2020, Joe Biden won those same three states by a combined 214,000 votes (and counting); he’s on track for an identical 306 electoral votes; and Trump, his administration and GOP leaders are still refusing to recognize the outcome.

While it’s easy to dismiss this refusal as the last gasp of Trumpism — Republicans trying to appease the president one last time before he exits the White House — it also feels close to a country stumbling into a constitutional crisis.


  • The top Trump appointee at the General Services Administration has yet to recognize the incoming Biden administration, denying it transition funding and personnel access.
  • Attorney General William Barr issued a memo to federal prosecutors to investigate “substantial allegations” of voter fraud before the election results are certified – which led to the Justice Department’s head election-crimes prosecutor to resign in protest.
  • GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler – both likely headed to runoffs in Georgia on Jan. 5 – called for their state’s Republican secretary of state to resign for election “failures” and “mismanagement,” but didn’t cite any specifics.
  • And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recognized the Republican Party’s victories, but not Biden’s.

So far, only four Republican senators — Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Ben Sasse — have congratulated Biden and recognized the election results.

That’s it.

Trump lost, but most Republicans are still acting like they’re afraid of him.

Tweet of the day

The uncalled presidential states as of publication time

  • Arizona: Biden is ahead by 14,746 votes, 49.4 percent to 49.0 percent (98% in).
  • Georgia: Biden is ahead by 12,337 votes, 49.5 percent to 49.3 percent (99% in).
  • North Carolina: Trump is ahead by 74,855 votes, 50.0 percent to 48.7 percent (98% in).
  • Alaska: Trump is ahead by 54,598 votes, 62.2 percent to 33.6 percent (61% in).

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

4,632,113: Joe Biden’s lead in the popular vote at the time of publication

10,196,710: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 141,225 more than yesterday morning.)

240,162: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 713 more than yesterday morning.)

158.16 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

59,275: The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus

70 percent: The share of Republicans who say the election was not free and fair.

56: The number of days until the January 5 Senate runoffs.

71: The number of days until Inauguration Day.

Biden to speak on Obamacare as Supreme Court hears oral arguments

The U.S. Supreme Court today hears arguments in the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

And at 2:00 p.m. ET, President-elect Biden will deliver remarks on the health care law.

Georgia Runoff Watch by Ben Kamisar

Today in Runoff Watch, Georgia Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler want the Georgia Secretary of State to resign, but not for any explicit reason.

The two released a joint statement Monday afternoon arguing that “Georgians are outraged” because the “management of Georgia elections has become an embarrassment for our state.”

But missing in the heated statement was any explicit accusation of any wrongdoing by Sec. Brad Raffensperger, outside of the broad claim he “failed to deliver honest and transparent elections.”

It’s a bold way to kick off the runoff (runoffs?) to come in their Senate elections, as President-elect Joe Biden’s lead in the state continues to grow, and hours after the state’s lieutenant governor told CNN he’s seen “no credible examples” of voter fraud in the state yet.

Raffensperger responded in a letter of his own, in which he said he would not resign and that the “process of reporting results has been orderly and followed the law.”

He added that it’s “unlikely” there was enough illegal voting to change the outcome of the presidential race, and he offered some advice to the senators: “As a Republican, I am concerned about Republicans keeping the U.S. Senate. I recommend that Senators Loeffler and Perdue start focusing on that.”

All options are on the table

Biden transition officials are looking at their legal options when it comes to having the General Services Administration prepare an ascertainment letter to officially begin the Biden presidential transition.

The GSA has withheld the letter that would allow the Biden team to have access to classified information, background investigations, appropriated funds to help with transition and access to federal agencies.

"We believe that it's been very, very clear that we are the winners in this election. They have every right to be afforded access to all government services or anything else that would come traditionally as part of the transition process,” one Biden official told NBC’s Mike Memoli.

Asked what recourse the Biden team has at this point, the official said: "At this point there's a number of levers on the table, and all options are certainly available. It's a changing situation and certainly rather fluid. But we do have a number of options on the table that we can, we can pursue.”

Pressed if that included legal actions, the official said: "Legal action is certainly a possibility. But there are other options as well that we are considering."

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Trump aides are worried behind the scenes that the president is damaging the party and his legacy.

Some lawyers at the firms representing Trump’s campaign are starting to get uncomfortable with his demands.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments today in a case that Republicans brought in the attempt to overturn Obamacare.

Ben Carson has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Trump’s firing of Pentagon chief Mark Esper is raising questions about the country’s national security in Trump’s waning days as president.

Trump is planning a new leadership PAC.

Susan Collins is congratulating Biden. She doesn’t have much company.

HBCUs have groomed some of the country’s rising political stars.