WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Joe Biden and his top aides have a message for President Donald Trump and his supporters: It's long past time to move on.
With the Electoral College meeting to formally elect Biden as president on Monday, the president-elect's team says it hopes Republicans will consider their own long-term interests (and the country's), accept Trump’s defeat and focus their attention on fighting the coronavirus pandemic and staving off economic tumult.
After garnering a record 82-plus million votes, building out important parts of his new administration and preparing a move to the White House that's now barely a month away, Biden shouldn't be lacking for political strength.
And yet he and his team are seizing the news of the moment — formal Electoral College approval, normally a routine, mundane event — to stay on the offensive. That means declaring the election settled and claiming a mandate to begin governing, beginning with a primetime speech Monday night. That won't stop Trump from disputing the results or most of his party from backing him up.
Indeed, Republicans have mostly stood by Trump as he's made unsubstantiated claims of a rigged election, and, even once Biden takes power, are unlikely to give him any of the traditional honeymoon period. Biden faces a narrowly divided Senate — next month's runoff elections in Georgia will decide which party controls the chamber — and a thinned Democratic majority in the House as the GOP picked up seats even as Trump lost.
But aides are pointing to the president-elect's strong approval numbers and an electorate worn by the pandemic in their attempt to nudge Republicans to cooperate. Mike Donilon, a senior adviser to Biden, said the American electorate is looking for Democrats and Republicans to get in sync.
“The agenda that the president-elect is putting forward is very much at the forefront of what people want in their lives,” Donilon said. “So, I think the case is going to be that it’s going to be in the interest of the country, it’s going to be in their own self-interest to get on board and not to get in the way.”
In making the case for a mandate, Biden’s team points to the president-elect retaking Rust Belt states that helped spring Trump to the White House four years ago as well as wins in Arizona and Georgia — firsts for a Democratic presidential candidate since the 1990s. Biden also won the popular vote by more than 7 million people, powered by strong showings with women, people of color and independents.
Aides to Biden say a turn away from a contentious election and to governing is perhaps easier said than done. The spotlight on the Electoral College vote process is heightened this year because Trump has refused to concede the election and is pushing forward with baseless allegations of fraud.
“We have won so many times, at this point, in so many different ways. We’re just excited to keep on winning,” said Jen O’Malley Dillon, Biden's deputy chief of staff, shrugging off Trump’s challenges. “(Monday) obviously is a big day as it takes on a little bit more import than maybe traditionally it does.”
The president continued to sow doubt about the election results and even went so far as to falsely claim that “Swing States that have found massive VOTER FRAUD, which is all of them, CANNOT LEGALLY CERTIFY these votes as complete & correct without committing a severely punishable crime,” he tweeted Sunday.
On Saturday, thousands of Trump supporters descended on Washington to air grievances about the president's loss. They skirmished with anti-Trump demonstrators, leading to dozens of arrests, several stabbings and injuries to police officers, in disturbances hours after the rallies.
And after losing dozens of legal challenges on the state and federal level, Trump is expected to push forward with new litigation this week. Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said Sunday that he expects five more lawsuits at the state level.
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is set to hold a hearing Wednesday on election “irregularities.” Johnson on Sunday questioned why Congress wasn’t informed that the taxes of Biden’s son Hunter were under federal investigation during Trump’s impeachment trial last year.
The president was acquitted in a Senate trial that centered on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine’s president and on whether he abused his office by seeking an investigation into the Bidens. Hunter Biden served on the board of directors of a Ukrainian energy company.
“I’m sympathetic for keeping investigations confidential unless there’s an indictment,” Johnson said on Fox News Channel's “Sunday Morning Futures.” “But when you’re talking about investigations within the political realm, particularly one that would have affected the impeachment trial of the sitting U.S. president in the U.S. Senate, that should have been relevant information, the fact that they had Hunter Biden’s computer that had all these emails back in December 2019.”
The younger Biden said in a statement last week that he just recently learned that he was under investigation. He also said he committed no wrongdoing.
O’Malley Dillon downplayed the notion that the investigation could hamper Biden’s ability to pursue his agenda.
“The president-elect himself has said this is not about his family or Donald Trump’s family,” she said. “It is about the American people’s families. And I think we’re going to continue to stay focused on the issues that are impacting their daily lives.”
Weissert reported from Washington.