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This chaotic moment has one root cause: Trump's refusal to accept his loss

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: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks during a rally protesting the count of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.Evan Vucci / AP

WASHINGTON — The president begging Georgia’s secretary of state to overturn the election results … More than 140 House and Senate Republicans objecting to the Electoral College count … Trump addressing supporters in Washington (“You will have an illegitimate president … And we can't let that happen.”) … Many of those supporters later storming the Capitol … Trump saying that he won’t attend the inauguration (and getting banned from Twitter) … The drafting of articles of impeachment … And now authorities warning of more armed protests.

All of these events have taken place in just the last 10 days.

And of all them have a simple root cause — the president of the United States refusing to concede an election he clearly lost. (Yes, he acknowledged there would be a new administration and a transition of power, but that’s as far as he’s gone.)

If Trump conceded an election in which he got 7 million fewer votes than his opponent, you wouldn’t have had a president begging state elections officials to overturn election results … You wouldn’t have seen as many GOP senators and members of Congress objecting to the Electoral College count … You wouldn’t have had a president addressing a “Stop the Steal” rally … You wouldn’t have had rioters storming the Capitol… You wouldn’t have had a second round of impeachment … And you wouldn’t have had the warnings of more armed protests — at least on this scale.

It all goes back to Trump being the first American president to refuse to concede an election he clearly lost.

Aside from the cost to the country in human life and faith in democracy, it’s also come at a considerable self-inflicted cost for the outgoing president.

Lower approval ratings. The permanent Twitter ban. The PGA pulling out of Bedminster. And now Bill Belichick saying he won’t come to the White House to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The lesson from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing

One more note about the insurrection and the violence at the Capitol last Wednesday: The U.S. government and the political world treated the 1993 World Trade Center bombing as a close call.

And then eight years later, there was a more terrible attack on the World Trade Center.

The lesson: Just because an attack wasn’t as bad as it could be doesn’t mean it won’t be tried again.

Clyburn calls for Biden inauguration to be scaled back even further

Despite new warnings from the FBI that large-scale armed protests are being planned in Washington D.C. and at state capitals across the country, President-elect Joe Biden said on Monday that he is not concerned with taking the oath of office outside next Wednesday.

“I'm not afraid of taking the oath outside and we've been getting briefed. But I think it's critically important that there be a real, serious focus on holding those folks who engaged in sedition and threatened peoples' lives, defaced public property, caused great damage, that they be held accountable.”

But NBC’s Mike Memoli reports that Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., believes the inauguration and its accompanying activities need to be scaled down even more.

“We were talking about Covid-19 in the run up to this. I think that Wednesday and what the chatter I hear now, we ought to take seriously,” he told Memoli in a phone interview. “We’ve got to have an inauguration, in my opinion, that would not just be safe as far as health is concerned — but be safe from personal injury. So I think we got to even slim it down even more.”

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

16: The number of groups that have registered to stage protests in DC around the inauguration.

At least 150: The number of suspects in the Capitol riot being pursued by DOJ

More than 70,000: The number of tips the FBI has received in connection with the rioting on Wednesday.

More than a dozen: The number of Capitol Police officers who are under investigation for “suspected involvement with or inappropriate support for the demonstration.”

Up to 15,000: The number of National Guard troops being deployed in the nation’s capital.

More than 70,000: The number of accounts linked to QAnon disinformation that were purged by Twitter in the wake of Wednesday’s violence.

22,700,218: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 204,289 more than yesterday morning.)

377,014: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 2,018 more than yesterday morning.)

129,748: The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus.

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

At least 67: The number of House and Senate members who have tested positive for coronavirus or Covid-19 antibodies, according to an NBC count.

8: The number of days until Inauguration Day.

The Lid: No FOMO here

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked back at the other presidents who skipped their successor’s inauguration.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson has died.

A key question for Democrats: How to hold Trump accountable without hampering Biden’s agenda

Has Trump accepted any responsibility for Wednesday’s violence? Kevin McCarthy says he has.

Acting Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf is stepping down.

Pelosi’s new push for impeachment is personal, Politico writes.

Don’t miss the Washington Post on why it took so long for Trump to respond to the violence on Wednesday.

Biden’s pick of Amb. William Burns to lead the CIA is getting good reviews from insiders.

The executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association is stepping down after revelations that the organization sent out robocalls early last week urging protestors to march on the Capitol.