IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

How Trump made the GOP indistinguishable from himself

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: ***BESTPIX*** President Trump Delivers Update On Operation Warp Speed At White House
President Donald Trump walks up to speak about Operation Warp Speed in the Rose Garden at the White House on Nov. 13, 2020.Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — It’s one thing to ignore outgoing President Trump’s unfounded allegations of fraud in an election he clearly lost.

It’s another to ignore the same allegations from GOP senators and members of Congress like Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who just won another six-year term in the same exact election season.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, claimed to the Washington Post that Graham asked him if he had the power to toss away legally cast mail-in ballots in counties with higher rates of non-matching signatures.

Graham denied Raffensperger’s claim, but the GOP senator went on to criticize reporters for asking if he considers Joe Biden to be the president-elect.

“All y'all are all over us because you want the guy [Trump] to lose. If the shoe were on the other foot, you'd be asking questions about widespread fraud,” he said, per NBC’s Julie Tsirkin.

Answering another question, Graham added, “It's not my job to tell the president when he needs to stop fighting in courts when he needs to stop asking for recounts. Nobody suggested he was going to destroy the country when Al Gore did it. He has every right.”

Widespread fraud? Comparisons to Al Gore and 2000?

A reminder of the 2020 scoreboard: Biden 306, Trump 232, with Biden’s popular-vote lead now approaching 5.7 million votes.

In an interview promoting his new book, Barack Obama said what’s surprised him the most over the last four years is just how much Donald Trump has changed the Republican Party — not on policy, but on democratic norms and conduct.

“Donald Trump’s character and behavior haven’t surprised me. This was all evident before the 2016 election,” Obama told the Atlantic’s Jeffery Goldberg. “I did not believe how easily the Republican establishment, people who had been in Washington for a long time and had professed a belief in certain institutional values and norms, would just cave.”

Congressional Republicans can still prove Obama wrong.

But they’re running out of time.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

5,642,946: Joe Biden’s lead in the popular vote at the time of publication.

11,279,851: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 171,755 more than yesterday morning.)

248,193: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 823 more than yesterday morning.)

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

73,014: The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus.

More than a million: The number of kids in the U.S. who have had Covid-19.

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

64: The number of days until Inauguration Day.

Biden starts building his White House team

While President-elect Biden hasn’t announced any of his cabinet nominees yet, he’s beginning to fill out his White House staff.

On Monday, NBC News reported that Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, is expected to be named as Biden’s deputy chief of staff. O’Malley Dillon joined the Biden campaign in March 2020, and she’s the first woman to lead a winning Democratic presidential campaign.

NBC News also reported that Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond would be joining the administration in a senior role that one source described as a “Valerie Jarrett-type” position. Jarrett was a senior adviser to President Obama. Richmond served as Biden’s national campaign co-chair and has been in Congress since 2010.

Richmond’s expected to hold a news conference today to address the “future of the 2nd Congressional District” in Louisiana, but his seat is likely to remain a reliably Democratic seat.

Georgia Runoff Watch by Ben Kamisar

With Georgia bracing for two pivotal runoff elections, its Republican secretary of state is fighting a war within his own party — and also making an explosive allegation.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, whom both of the state’s GOP senators have called on to resign despite no evidence of widespread fraud in the state’s election, took to social media to push back on unfounded allegations of voter fraud in the state.

He told NBC News that members of his party are “making bold-faced lies” about the election and agrees that Joe Biden appears to be the president-elect.

And he told the Washington Post that South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham asked him whether he could toss mail-ballots en masse in counties that had higher-than average rates of ballot signatures that didn’t match the voter signature on file.

Graham denied he said that, telling NBC that he asked if the secretary of state had the power to “require bipartisan verification of the signatures.”

It’s the latest toxic episode in a state where (some) Republicans are trying to claim fraud, without widespread evidence, as the party also tries to endear itself to voters in a state the president appears to have lost, all ahead of two pivotal runoffs in January that will decide the control of the Senate.

The Lid: Divided we fall

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we explored how America’s divisions over coronavirus compare to splits in the rest of the world.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Biden is reportedly worried about what investigations of President Trump would do to efforts to unite the country once Trump is out of office.

The transition team is tapping DOJ veterans in the effort to smooth a rocky path.

Republicans are fretting about the two Georgia Senate runoffs behind the scenes.

Trump recently explored options to strike in Iran but was dissuaded by advisors, according to the New York Times.

Trump’s controversial pick for the Fed Board of Governors might be in trouble.

Yes, 2024 is looming in Republicans’ minds.

Michelle Obama is the latest to call for a peaceful transfer of power.

And White House national security advisor Robert O’Brien is the latest Republican to appear to acknowledge Biden’s win.