Nothing in Donald Trump’s presidency became him like the leaving it. All the character flaws that marked his presidency and caused his defeat — the dishonesty, the petulance, the self-obsession — are on display as he vainly clings to office.
He lost the election that he says he won, “by a lot.” There is no credible case that fraud is responsible for this outcome. A lot of the Republicans know it even as they refuse to admit that Joe Biden won. Yes, Attorney General William Barr released a memo titled “POST-VOTING ELECTION IRREGULARITY INQUIRIES.” At the end of the memo, though, Barr says this: “Nothing here should be taken as any indication that the Department has concluded that voting irregularities have impacted the outcome of any election.” Nowhere in the memo does Barr even say that there are credible claims of irregularities that put any outcome in doubt.
The Republican senators from Georgia know it too, even though they called on the state’s top election official, a fellow Republican, to “step down immediately.” That’s why the letter making their case is relentlessly vague. They don’t point to a single specific allegation of fraud or an instance of the official’s supposed failure.
It wasn’t suspiciously large leads or high turnout in Democrat-run cities that put Biden in the lead in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Turnout was high nearly everywhere, and it was the suburbs where Trump suffered losses compared to four years ago.
It is at this point that even some critics of the president note that of course he is entitled to make his case in court and that there is nothing wrong with letting the process play out. But filing dubious, long-shot legal claims and hoping a few of them stick is an abuse of the courts even when it is allowed. The Trump campaign is following that tactic, which has already led a Michigan judge to dismiss a legal motion based on “hearsay within hearsay.”
Other legal challenges from Republicans have more merit. They argue that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in extending the deadline for the receipt of mail-in ballots, overstepped its role. The U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures the power to regulate the appointment of electors. But even if the Supreme Court were to agree, it wouldn’t give Trump Pennsylvania’s electoral votes. Only 10,000 votes arrived late, and Biden is leading in the state by roughly 50,000 votes. Biden is also leading in enough other states to win the presidency without Pennsylvania.
Pursuing every avenue your lawyers can imagine is one thing if you’re a casino owner trying to stave off bankruptcy. It’s another when you’re the U.S. president making baseless claims of a stolen election. In 2016 and afterward, a lot of Democrats indulged in overheated rhetoric about Trump’s “illegitimate” victory — rhetoric that convinced most Democratic voters that Russia had altered vote tallies in his favor, which isn’t true. But at least Democratic officials didn’t use that claim to delay the transition to Trump’s taking office. (Nor was it the legal basis for any investigation of the Trump campaign or administration.)
After losing the race for governor of Georgia in 2018, Democrat Stacey Abrams maintained that she was the rightful winner. This was merely ludicrous: It didn’t keep the actual governor-elect from getting briefings on matters of importance to the security of the state. What Trump is doing is genuinely worse.
Which is not to say that it is at all surprising. Trump is encouraging Republican voters to see him as the victim of a stolen election either because his ego cannot take the acknowledgment of defeat or because he thinks that perception will aid him in future business or political initiatives. Such conduct is entirely in keeping with the character he has displayed for decades.
Why are Republicans who know better playing along? In the case of the senators from Georgia, it’s because they have special elections in January. They would be in a better position to win if everyone, including Trump, conceded that Biden will be president. Then they could present themselves as crucial to maintaining a check on the Democrats.
But Trump has led some Republican voters to believe he won re-election, and the senators don’t want to anger those voters — or have Trump tweeting about how the senators don’t deserve their support. Nobody doubts that Trump would sacrifice two Republican Senate seats with the same perfect indifference he shows toward the truth. And so the Republican senators decided that their best bet was to obscure the truth and sacrifice Georgia’s secretary of state.
One thing you have to hand the president: He certainly keeps exposing corruption.