Republican operatives and aides throughout Washington, D.C., are ready for the 2020 election to be over. After two weeks of President Donald Trump refusing to concede on the basis of false claims about voter fraud, Republicans are ready for it to end. While some on the left saw Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results as a potential coup, for a half dozen Republican operatives and aides, it felt more like letting a toddler, overdue for naptime, tire himself before attempting to put him to bed.
On Thursday, the Trump campaign held a press conference inside the headquarters of the Republican National Committee with Rudy Giuliani, who took over the legal campaign’s efforts, sweating hair dye down his face. One of Trump’s other lawyers, Sidney Powell, alleged there was a plot to fix the election masterminded by the deceased Venzuelan dictator Hugo Chávez with participation from George Soros and antifa.
“Any time Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and Jenna Ellis are leading your legal battle, you are not in a good place,” one Republican operative said, adding: “I wouldn’t let those lawyers represent me for a parking ticket.”
There was additional frustration that the Trump campaign’s legal efforts had become a wasted opportunity under Giuliani’s leadership. “We have a TV personality essentially in charge of it now and any utility that the party would get from this long term has just gone out of the window,” said a Capitol Hill Republican. “Whatever they are doing in Pennsylvania isn’t helpful. Nobody in charge and no strategy and just throwing things against the wall as a comms play and think it’s a massive wasted opportunity to root out some of the shady stuff.”
The Republican operative said that GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill have accepted that “Trump has lost, they just don’t see upside for coming out against it.” Instead, they are trying to “walk a fine line” of not embracing the wild claims without being in Trump’s crosshairs either. Indeed, Trump reportedly pressured both Republican senators in Georgia who are facing a runoff election in January, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, to join his efforts to challenge the results of the presidential race in the Peach State. Perdue and Loeffler subsequently echoed Trump’s calls for Georgia’s Republican secretary of state to resign, citing “failures” but not embracing Trump’s wilder claims of fraud.
This is not to say that Republicans were inherently opposed to the campaign’s spate of legal actions. “I’m actually fine with the suits,” said one Capitol Hill Republican. “I think there were irregularities,” but just not irregularities sufficient to swing any of the contested states. Recounts and audits can swing statewide elections decided by a few hundred votes but even Trump’s smallest deficit in a single state is over 10,000 votes. “That’s not how this works,” added the Republican.
Republican operatives thought that playing the process out further was harmful. “We’re starting to get to the point of no return here and not a good look where we’re not allowing [the] transition process to start,” said one Republican. So far, the top official at the General Services Administration, a Trump appointee, has declined to “ascertain” that Biden is the president-elect, blocking the start of a formal transition process more than two weeks after the election.
Another Republican worried that the refusal by Trump to acknowledge defeat “is reinforcing the view among many who hold the president on a pedestal that the election has been stolen.” The operative thought Trump should invite Biden to the White House and “begin the process of transition with the understanding that if anything out of the ordinary happened, obviously they’ll have to suspend [the process]. What harm could it cause?”
Hanging over all of this are the dual runoffs in Georgia on January 5 which will determine control of the Senate. If both Democratic candidates win, then the Senate will be tied 50-50 with Vice-President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. Republicans expressed frustration that the ongoing attempts to litigate an election Republicans have already lost could detract from an election that they have to win. “I think it would help to have this all resolved by the time of the Georgia special,” said an operative. Some worried that Trump’s attacks on the integrity of the election process would discourage Republican voters from participating. Others thought that the Republican base would be able to move past the wild allegations of the past few weeks and turn out in the Senate contests, provided there was a relatively timely concession. As one operative pointed out, Trump cast doubt on the 2020 election for months and there was still record turnout among Republicans.
Intelligencer did talk to one true believer in Trump’s cause. One administration official said that there was “widespread voter fraud being ignored and a lot of it is going to be uncovered in recounts and ballots declared invalid.” The official thought it “was over 50 percent likely” that Trump would eventually prevail because of how “impeachable” the electoral process was in 2020. Looking at the president’s legal team, the official thought “Sidney Powell is the legal mind that will carry us forward” and that the recount effort “will make the process better for future elections … as it uncovers the voter that did take place and the flaws in the process that do exist.” However, the official said that “if we were to lose after recounts and audits that the president would concede.”