WASHINGTON - Just 27 congressional Republicans acknowledge Joe Biden’s win over President Donald Trump a month after the former vice president’s clear victory of more than 7 million votes nationally and a convincing electoral-vote margin that exactly matched Trump’s 2016 tally.
Two Republicans consider Trump the winner despite all evidence showing otherwise. And another 222 GOP members of the House and Senate - about 88% of all Republicans serving in Congress - will simply not say who won the election.
Those are the findings of a Washington Post survey of all 249 Republicans in the House and Senate that began the morning after Trump posted a 46-minute video Wednesday evening in which he wrongly claimed he had defeated Biden and leveled wild and unsubstantiated allegations of “corrupt forces” who stole the outcome from the sitting president.
A team of 25 Post reporters contacted aides for every Republican by email and phone asking three basic questions - who won the presidential contest, do you support or oppose Trump’s continuing efforts to claim victory and if Biden wins a majority in the electoral college, will you accept him as the legitimately elected president - and also researched public statements made by the GOP lawmakers in recent weeks to determine their stance on Biden’s win.
The results demonstrate the fear that most Republicans have of the outgoing president and his grip on the party, despite his new status as just the third incumbent to lose reelection in the last 80 years. More than 70% of Republican lawmakers did not acknowledge The Post’s questions as of Friday evening.
In response to the congressional Republicans who have called Biden president-elect identified in the Post survey, Trump tweeted Saturday: “I am surprised there are so many. We have just begun to fight. Please send me a list of the ... RINOS,” the disparaging acronym for Republican in name only.
The rest of the GOP is largely hiding from answering questions about the election, neither congratulating Biden nor embracing Trump’s most strident positions and false claims. Just eight Republicans, 3% of all GOP lawmakers, voiced support for Trump’s current strategy of claiming victory and asking state legislatures to declare him the victor in states that he lost.
This GOP nonresponse stands in stark contrast to Democrats in 2016. The morning after media outlets called Trump the winner, Hillary Clinton conceded and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N. Y., fielded a call from Trump. Schumer issued a statement shortly thereafter congratulating the president-elect and calling for Americans to “come together.”
Today, most Republicans just want to avoid the Trump question altogether, following the lead of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., whose office pointed to his recent comments about the election and declined to participate in the survey.
On Tuesday, McConnell ducked questions about Trump’s claim of fraud and refused to take any leadership role in acknowledging Biden’s victory.
“The future will take care of itself,” he told reporters.
On Thursday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., would not even consider how he would fight executive orders in Biden’s first days in office, leaving open the idea that someone else could be sworn in on Jan. 20.
“Let’s wait until [we see] who’s sworn in,” McCarthy said, “and we can discuss that.”
Today’s reactions - or, mostly, non-reactions - mirror how many Republicans handled four years of Trump’s intemperance: A few predictable Trump critics would condemn his actions, such as the decision to use tear gas on peaceful protesters to clear Lafayette Square in June so Trump could walk across the park, but most would try to avoid the subject.
Their complicit silence now comes as Trump continues to mount an unfounded campaign against the democratic outcome of an election, leaving them isolated as other federal, state and local Republican officials have rejected Trump’s false assertions.
Even Kellyanne Conway - Trump’s 2016 campaign manager and longtime adviser, who famously coined the phrase “alternative facts” - went further than most Republican members of Congress. She acknowledged Friday that it looked like Biden “will prevail” and called for a “peaceful transfer of democracy.”
On Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr declared that the Justice Department had not found any evidence of voter fraud that would change the outcome of the election, following the top election cybersecurity official’s declaration that the election had been safe from any hacking.
The president summarily fired that official, Christopher Krebs, and is said to be weighing action against Barr.
The Trump campaign has suffered multiple losses in their post-election legal challenges to overturn the results, with stinging defeats Friday in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada and Wisconsin.
In Arizona and Nevada, judges tossed full-scale challenges to the states’ election results filed by the Republican Party and the campaign, respectively.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann dismissed a Trump campaign lawsuit to block the certification of Pennsylvania’s election results, and in a scathing opinion, wrote that the campaign had “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations” in its effort to throw out millions of votes.
“In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state,” Brann wrote.
Two Michigan Republican legislative leaders, after being summoned to the White House, announced they would not intervene to block Biden’s relatively comfortable win there. In Arizona, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed election results Monday certifying Biden’s narrow victory there, saying a bipartisan collection of local officials oversaw a clean election.
In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both Republicans, certified Biden’s slender victory there and have resisted calls from Trump and his supporters to throw out the results.
One of Raffensperger’s deputies implored the state’s U.S. senators, Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, to oppose Trump’s efforts, warning of potential violence to civil servants.
Instead, Perdue’s public and private actions are emblematic of how many Republicans feel.
With him and Loeffler facing Jan. 5 runoff elections that will determine the Senate majority, the two have publicly embraced Trump’s baseless claim that the Dominion Voting Systems machines used in Georgia were rigged as part of a global conspiracy, hoping to retain support among the president’s strongest backers. Both also have called for Raffensperger to resign.
Yet, in a video obtained by The Post, Perdue privately acknowledged the reality that Trump lost and that Republicans needed to focus on those Georgia races to save the Senate majority.
“We can at least be a buffer on some of the things that the Biden camp has been talking about,” he told donors on a video conference.
Other highlights from the survey found that:
- 12 of the 52 Senate Republicans acknowledge Biden’s victory;
- Of the 15 House Republicans who recognize the true winner, six are retiring from politics at the end of this month and two more represent districts that Biden won convincingly.
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., went as far as any Republican in embracing Biden. The two worked together on the “Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot” proposal, named for Biden’s son who died of brain cancer in 2015, turning it into a massive 2016 medical research bill.
Within hours of the Nov. 7 declaration of Biden’s victory, Upton vowed to work with the new administration.
“I am raising my hand and committing to work with President-elect Biden and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle,” he said.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., held out until Nov. 21 when a federal judge, ushered to confirmation by the staunch conservative senator, issued a scathing rebuke of Trump’s legal challenges in Pennsylvania and gave a legal seal of approval to Biden’s win there.
“Joe Biden won the 2020 election and will become the 46th President of the United States. I congratulate President-elect Biden,” Toomey said in a statement.
Judges in other states have repeatedly rebuffed the Trump campaign’s legal challenges, and on Friday the effort suffered losses in Michigan, Arizona and Nevada.
Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Mo Brooks of Alabama are the only Republicans in Congress who have publicly insisted Trump is the winner. Gosar has spent several weeks embracing the disproved conspiracy theory that the Dominion voting machines used in Arizona, Georgia and some other states manipulated the results and stole the election for Biden. Dominion has called the claims unfounded.
He said he will never accept the Democrat as the legitimately elected president. “No, never. Too much evidence of fraud,” he said.
But Brooks and Gosar are extreme outliers on Capitol Hill, with the overwhelming majority of Republicans content to avoid the question. Many have stated that somehow the Dec. 14 meeting of the electoral college, in all 50 states, will provide a clear winner - perhaps naively expecting Trump to concede that point.
Still, as enough states have certified the results to make Biden the winner, Republicans still won’t publicly commit now to considering the Democrat the legitimately elected president when he wins the majority in the electoral college.
No one has a trickier task than Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.,, who is chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, which is in charge of all events on Capitol grounds for the Jan. 20 inauguration.
Committee staff have acknowledged that Biden is the winner and begun working with the president-elect’s team to plan the event, with much of the usual pomp and circumstance getting a new look for social distancing during the pandemic.
“We are working with the Biden administration, likely administration, on both the transition and the inauguration,” Blunt said Sunday on CNN, catching himself after he declared Biden the winner.
He paused and tried to explain how he still is awaiting the electoral college decision in a few days.
Is Joe Biden the president-elect?
“Well, the president-elect will be the president-elect when the electors vote for him. There is no official job president-elect,” he said.
Blunt’s office did not answer The Post’s question on whether he would accept Biden as the legitimately elected president if he wins the majority in the electoral college.
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The Washington Post’s Jenn Abelson, Mariana Alfaro, Greg Barber, Rachael Bade, Shawn Boburg, Michael Brice-Saddler, Amy Brittain, Dalvin Brown, Nicole Dungca, Paul Farhi, Meagan Flynn, Aaron Gregg, Brent Griffiths, Emily Guskin, Derek Hawkins, Elahe Izadi, Rick Maese, Clyde McGrady, Robert O’Harrow, Samantha Pell, Roxanne Roberts, Neena Satija, Hamza Shaban, Roman Stubbs, Pat Sullivan and Julie Zauzmer contributed to this report.