“I will not — this administration will not be doing a lockdown,” Trump said, speaking for the first time in a week as coronavirus cases in the US shatter records and hospitalizations are surging. “Hopefully whatever happens in the future — who knows which administration it will be — I guess time will tell, but I can tell you this administration will not go to a lockdown.”
It was a fleeting shift in tone suggesting that the reality of President-elect Joe Biden’s substantial win is seeping into Trump’s psyche even as he and his advisers publicly deny it.
Friday’s speech in the Rose Garden was a portrait of a President clinging to power as his legal challenges to the election results crumble around him, mindful that he ought to show Americans what he’s been doing with the power of government as he spends his days tweeting conspiracy theories about lost or deleted votes in the midst of a pandemic that is coursing through the United States.
“The delay in transitioning is an increasing national security and health crisis,” Kelly said in a statement. “It costs the current administration nothing to start to brief Mr. Biden, (Vice President-elect Kamala) Harris, the new chief-of-staff, and ALL identified cabinet members and senior staff as they are identified over the days and weeks ahead. That said, the downside to not doing so could be catastrophic to our people regardless of who they voted for.”
The bipartisan 9/11 Commission also cited the abbreviated presidential transition after the contested election in 2000 as a reason why the nation was not prepared for the terrorist attacks, but national security arguments have not seemed to concern Trump.
Trafficking in falsehoods
Before and after the Rose Garden event, Trump seemed most engaged in trafficking false theories about how voting software glitches could have changed votes in his fact-free zone of Twitter, even as top election officials in his own administration shot those theories down.
One of Trump’s chief targets was Dominion Voting Systems, an election software company, that he claimed somehow altered the results in Arizona. “No wonder the result was a very close loss,” he tweeted.
Dominion Voting Systems also released a lengthy memo Friday underscoring that the company is non-partisan, that there were no software glitches — and that “ballots were accurately tabulated and results are 100% auditable.” The company stated that “vote deletion/switching assertions are completely false.”
“The President has had the opportunity — his lawyers have the opportunity — to present this type of evidence, these allegations, in a court of law, and we have not seen that,” Hovland said Friday night on “Erin Burnett OutFront.”
“What you’ve seen in the courts all around the country amount to nothing. … There’s nothing that we’ve seen that would cause any real doubt in the integrity of the election,” he said.
Given that Biden now has 306 electoral votes, Hovland also said it was difficult to imagine how a victory of that magnitude would be overturned.
“The professionals that run our elections have work to do and they continue to work through that process,” Hovland said. “But at this point it’s pretty evident where things are — the margins are substantial enough that is well beyond anything that you ever see in a traditional recount or anything of that nature.”
But on Friday morning, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro falsely stated on Fox Business that Trump “won the election.” “We are moving forward here at the White House under the assumption that there will be a second Trump term.”
And when White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was pressed on Fox Business about whether Trump would attend the inauguration in January, she cavalierly replied: “I think the President will attend his own inauguration. He would have to be there, in fact.”
Richard Pilger, who directed the elections crimes branch in the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department, resigned after Barr’s directive, telling colleagues in an email that it abrogated “the forty-year-old Non-Interference Policy for ballot fraud investigations in the period prior to elections becoming certified and uncontested.”
Results and failed lawsuits point to inevitably
In the midst of that cognitive dissonance in the White House, some of the sharpest rebukes of the Trump administration’s baseless accusations of voter fraud are coming from the courts.
One of the judges, Richard Haaz of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, noted that state law did not require voters to fill out the address section: “Voters should not be disenfranchised by reasonably relying upon voting instructions provided by election officials,” Haaz wrote.
Chief Judge Timothy Kenny said the plaintiffs’ did not have a full understanding of the ballot tabulation process, and while they ascribed “sinister, fraudulent motives” to the process and the city of Detroit, their interpretation of events “is incorrect and not credible.”
Kenny called attention, for example, to the claims of Republican challenger Andrew Sitto in an affidavit alleging fraud: “Mr. Sitto’s affidavit, while stating a few general facts, is rife with speculation and guess-work about sinister motives,” the Michigan state judge wrote.
This story has been updated with additional reporting Saturday.
Sara Sidner, Julia Jones and Mallory Simon contributed to this report.