WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just became the latest high-ranking Republican official to insist, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, that President Trump didn’t actually lose the 2020 election.
“There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” Pompeo said in a briefing on Tuesday.
Pompeo’s wild-eyed departure from reality comes as Trump continues to insist that Biden’s victory depends on widespread fraud, a claim that so far has not been borne out by any legitimate source.
A reporter asked Pompeo whether a reluctance to admit that former Vice President Joe Biden defeated Trump in the election might slow down the transition and potentially even hamper U.S. national security.
Pompeo delivered his retort about a second Trump term with a tired-looking grin. But he continued speaking with no sign that he was actually outright joking.
“We’re ready,” Pompeo said. “The world is watching what’s taking place. We’re going to count all the votes. When the process is complete, there will be electors selected. There’s a process. The Constitution lays it out pretty clearly. The world should have every confidence that the transition necessary to make sure that the State Department is functional today, successful today, and successful with the president who’s in office on January 20th, a minute after noon, will also be successful.”
Pompeo is right that there is a process—but the process doesn’t presently favor Trump.
Trump is behind in multiple states he’d need to secure a second term, including Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada and Georgia. The states haven’t yet certified final results yet, but the notion that Trump still stands a chance of avoiding defeat grows increasingly far-fetched by the hour.
Unhappily for Trump, however, he doesn’t get to stay president if he simply never admits defeat. The Constitutional process Pompeo alluded to will end Trump’s presidency at noon on Jan 20th, whether Trump and Pompeo like it or not, unless some historically unprecedented event occurs that knocks American politics through a wormhole into an unforeseeable alternate reality.
The Trump team has rested their hopes on using the courts to uncover and prove widespread electoral fraud. So far, most of their legal gambits have fizzled on the launchpad.
Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr wrote a Monday memo to Department of Justice prosecutors authorizing them to “pursue substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities.” But for now there’s little reason to think that federal prosecutors will have more luck finding deep irregularities in the vote tally than the Trump campaign could.
But in a disquieting sign, Barr’s memo prompted the resignation of the DOJ’s top elections crime official, Richard Pilger, within hours of its release.
“Having familiarized myself with the new policy and its ramifications, I must regretfully resign from my role as director of the Election Crimes Branch,” Pilger wrote in a note to colleagues, according to the New York Times.
South Carolina’s GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, a top Trump ally in the upper chamber, has alleged without evidence that the election was somehow flawed, and urged Republicans to keep fighting for Trump. It’s not clear what that actually might mean in a context where Trump has received fewer votes than Biden in states needed to win the election.
“We need to fight back,” Graham recently told FOX News host Sean Hannity. “We win because of our ideas, we lose elections because they cheat us.”
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has signalled that he’s fine with letting Trump continue to air unfounded allegations while the legal and political sparring continues, and the Constitutional machinery of Democracy grinds on.
McConnell hasn’t given the fraud claims his endorsement, but he hasn’t congratulated Biden yet either.
“Anyone who’s running for office can exhaust concerns about counting in any court of appropriate jurisdiction,” McConnell said. “It’s not unusual. It should not be alarming. At some point here we’ll find out, finally, who was certified in each of these states, and the electoral college will determine the winner. And that person will be sworn in on January 20th. No reason for alarm.”