WASHINGTON – With President-elect Joe Biden’s transition officially underway on Tuesday, Republican lawmakers from Washington and Idaho mostly kept quiet or reiterated their support for President Trump’s effort to overturn the election results while a growing number of their GOP colleagues walked away from the Trump campaign’s faltering legal challenges.
Under growing pressure from Republicans to give the Biden team access to the office space and classified briefings it needs for a smooth transfer of presidential power and responsibilities, the head of the General Services Administration on Monday began the transition process in a letter to Biden. The move, which traditionally comes soon after the race is called, was delayed by more than two weeks and prompted concerns the incoming administration would be hamstrung when Biden takes office Jan. 20.
After Administrator Emily Murphy said in the letter the White House had not influenced her decision, Trump tweeted that he was “recommending” she move forward, but later repeated his unproven claims of fraud and pledged to “never concede.”
Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said in a statement he backed Murphy’s move to begin the transition but would continue to support Trump’s legal challenges.
“The peaceful transition of power is an important component of our election proceedings,” Crapo said, “and I support the General Service Administration’s steps to begin the process of making presidential transition resources available so there are no gaps in sharing information critical to our national security.”
“The start of the GSA process, however, does not eliminate President Trump’s legal rights to present additional evidence challenging the submission of any illegal ballots or ballot counting operations involved in the election,” Crapo’s statement continues. “The integrity of our election process is imperative and the courts should continue to adjudicate any illegal voting practices presented by President Trump’s legal team until all states are certified.”
Lisa Marshall Manheim, an expert on election law and presidential power at the University of Washington School of Law, said ongoing legal challenges don’t mean the outcome of the race is still up in the air. The Trump campaign could keep filing lawsuits even after Biden’s inauguration, and has so far failed to prove its claims of corruption in court.
“Nothing stops the Trump campaign from continuing to file lawsuits,” Manheim said, “but, particularly as each state certifies its results, it’s becoming even clearer that these lawsuits have no possibility of changing the result of the election.”
Most of the lawsuits the Trump campaign and its allies have filed since Election Day have been dismissed by judges for lack of evidence or dropped by the plaintiffs. The campaign on Sunday cut ties with Sidney Powell, an attorney who failed to provide evidence for her claims, including an elaborate conspiracy theory that the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013, had helped rig the election.
“Quite frankly, the conduct of the president’s legal team has been a national embarrassment,” former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Sunday on ABC News.
Despite Trump’s loss, other GOP candidates across the country outperformed expectations, defending key Senate seats and gaining ground in the Democratic-majority House of Representatives. Still, congressional Republicans have been wary of crossing Trump, who holds considerable sway over their voter base and has threatened to help unseat lawmakers he sees as disloyal.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, has continued to support the president’s lawsuits.
“Cathy believes that every legal vote should be counted and that President Trump has every right to seek legal recourse in response to allegations of voter fraud and impropriety,” spokesman Jared Powell said in a statement. “She believes integrity and transparency in the election process is foundational to American democracy.”
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a southwest Washington Republican, has maintained the president has a right to file lawsuits, but on Tuesday her spokesman suggested her patience with Trump’s legal gambits was running out.
“Even if you believe the outcome of the election is in doubt, the responsibilities of the job are too great to wait until the last minute to give an incoming team the tools it needs to hit the ground running,” spokesman Craig Wheeler said in a statement. “Jaime has always defended the president’s team’s ability to exercise its legal rights, and the responsibility is on that team to present evidence in a court of law that would overturn the results of the election.”
“To date, they have not done so and the clock has nearly struck midnight,” Wheeler’s statement continued. “The statutory deadline to challenge and overturn an election certification in the states is December 8th, and it’s almost impossible to see a scenario that would change the outcome after that date.”
Other Northwest Republicans, like most of their caucus in Congress, remained silent on Tuesday as Trump continued tweeting claims of fraud throughout the day. Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho and North Idaho Rep. Russ Fulcher declined to comment on the election results. Central Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse and Rep. Mike Simpson, whose district includes the eastern half of Idaho, did not respond to questions.
Manheim said even if the Trump campaign continues its legal challenges, the outcome of the election will be even clearer once a decisive number of states certify their election results. As of Tuesday, 106 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win had been certified for Biden, with a total of 306 expected before Dec. 8.
“At this point, the law is clear that Joe Biden will become president on Jan. 20,” Manheim said. “If anybody is still waiting for states to officially certify the results, we will soon have 270 electors pledged to Biden who have officially been certified.”
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