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When a third of voters say Biden's win isn't legitimate, democracy is at risk

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: President-elect Joe Biden gestures to the crowd after he delivered remarks in Wilmington, Del.
President-elect Joe Biden gestures to the crowd after he delivered remarks in Wilmington, Del., on Nov. 7, 2020.Angela Weiss / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — As the Electoral College today assembles to make the results of the 2020 presidential election official, outgoing Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said President Trump’s election challenges should finally come to an end.

“When it's over, it needs to be over,” he said on “Meet the Press.”

But House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. — one of the 126 House Republicans who signed on to an amicus brief to overturn the election results — argued that Trump’s legal challenges should continue (even though almost every court, including the Supreme Court, has already ruled against the president).

“Let the legal process play out,” Scalise said.

The damage has already been done.

Last week, a Quinnipiac poll found just 60 percent of American voters — and only 23 percent of Republicans — believing Joe Biden’s victory was legitimate.

A Fox News poll finds more than a third of voters — 36 percent — thinking the election was stolen from Trump.

And now Michigan is closing its state legislature — citing “safety and security concerns” — as its presidential electors gather in the state Capitol.

All over a race where Trump lost the popular vote by more than 7 million votes (51.3 percent to 46.8 percent) and the Electoral College by the same margin he won in 2016 (306 to 232).

A democracy can’t work when the losing side refuses to acknowledge the outcome.

Especially when that outcome wasn’t nearly as close as what we saw in 2000.

“While I strongly disagree with the [Supreme Court’s] decision, I accept it,” Al Gore said almost 20 years ago to this day. “I accept the finality of this outcome which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College. And tonight, for the sake of our unity of the people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.”

Gore added, “I also accept my responsibility, which I will discharge unconditionally, to honor the new president-elect and do everything possible to help him bring Americans together.”

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

7,060,412: Joe Biden’s lead in the popular vote as electors vote today to confirm his Electoral College win

2.9 million: The number of vaccine doses planned to be distributed this week in the U.S. to hospitals and nursing homes

16,329,257: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 669,442 more than Friday morning.)

299,597: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 6,695 more than Friday morning.)

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

109,331: The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus

As many as 700: People who were part of or allied with the Proud Boys who gathered in DC this weekend to protest the election results

22: The number of days until the Jan. 5 Senate runoffs.

37: The number of days until Inauguration Day.

Tweet of the day

Georgia Runoff Watch by Ben Kamisar

In today’s Runoff Watch, voters are voting in person in Georgia’s Senate runoffs, with Monday marking the first day when voters can cast their ballots for the pivotal elections in person.

Early, in-person voting made up 54 percent of total votes in the Senate races’ first round, so it’s going to be important for the candidates to bank these votes (you can see more of the breakdown at the Secretary of State’s website, they refer to it as “advanced voting”).

For what it’s worth, GOP Sen. David Perdue won those advanced votes in his race by a margin of about 54 percent to 46 percent. In a massive field (reminder: the special election held a jungle primary), GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler and GOP Rep. Doug Collins, the two top GOP candidates, won a combined 49 percent, per the Secretary of State’s website.

All eyes on Biden’s upcoming AG pick

President-elect Biden’s team has said that the two weeks leading up to Christmas will be busy for Cabinet picks. And so far, that’s the case. But one pick we’re still waiting on could have just become a little more complicated — Biden’s choice for attorney general.

Biden could very well take office on Jan. 20 while his son, Hunter Biden’s, taxes are under investigation by the Department of Justice. NBC News also learned that the younger Biden received an email from an associate that said he did not fully disclose income he made from the Ukrainian gas company, Bursima. Biden and the transition team has often said that his DOJ will act independently from the president. Here’s what longtime Biden ally and Delaware Sen. Chris Coons told one of us on “Meet the Press” yesterday:

“Joe Biden will not run the White House as a family business, as President Trump has. And he will not interfere in decisions made by senior leadership at the Department of Justice. He won't view the attorney general, as his personal attorney, as President Trump clearly has viewed Attorney General Barr. So, I'm confident that whoever is nominated to be the attorney general will restore the rule of law and will follow the appropriate process once they're in place.”

Biden Cabinet/Transition Watch

State: Tony Blinken (announced)

Treasury: Janet Yellen (announced)

Defense: Ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin (announced)

Homeland Security: Alejandro Mayorkas (announced)

HHS: Xavier Becerra (announced)

UN Ambassador: Linda Thomas-Greenfield (announced)

Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines (announced)

Agriculture: Tom Vilsack (announced)

HUD: Marcia Fudge (announced)

Veterans Affairs: Denis McDonough (announced)

OMB Director: Neera Tanden (announced)

US Trade Representative: Katherine Tai (announced)

Attorney General: Doug Jones, Sally Yates, Merrick Garland

Interior: Deb Haaland

Labor: Andy Levin, Bernie Sanders, Marty Walsh

Education: Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Randi Weingarten. Sonja Santelises, Linda Darling Hammond

CIA: Michael Morell

Small Business Administration: Keisha Lance Bottoms

Chief of Staff: Ron Klain (announced)

National Security Adviser: Jake Sullivan (announced)

Climate Envoy: John Kerry (announced)

Domestic Policy Council Director: Susan Rice (announced)

National Economic Council Director: Brian Deese (announced)

Surgeon General: Dr. Vivek Murthy (announced)

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Dr. Rochelle Walensky (announced)

Covid-19 Czar: Jeff Zients (announced)

White House Communications Director: Kate Bedingfield (announced)

White House Press Secretary: Jen Psaki (announced)

VP Communications Director: Ashley Etienne (announced)

VP Chief Spokesperson: Symone Sanders (announced)

The Lid: Team of Managers and Buddies

Don’t miss the pod from Friday, when we broke down Joe Biden’s Cabinet picks.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The Electoral College votes today. Here’s how it works.

Being an elector is usually considered an honor. It’s more complicated now.

The Biden White House is working on new ethics rules that will be stricter than those during the Obama era.

Russian hackers managed to breach multiple U.S. government agencies.

President Trump says he’s pushing back a plan for White House staff to get the vaccine soon.

Aaaaaaaaaand here’s what’s going on with a coronavirus relief bill.

Congress did avert an immediate shutdown and passed a major defense bill despite the president’s veto threat.

Mitch McConnell is still set on a schedule of confirming young conservative judges in the waning days of the Trump administration.

Here’s what you need to know about a harassment allegation against Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

A think tank linked to Jerry Falwell Jr. spent millions promoting pro-Trump causes.