President-elect Joseph R Biden Jr prepared on Sunday to start building his administration, even as Republican leaders and scores of party lawmakers refrained from acknowledging his victory out of apparent deference to President Trump, who continued to refuse to concede.
With Biden out of the public eye as he received congratulations from leaders around the world, his team turned its attention to a transition that will swing into action on Monday, with the launch of a coronavirus task force and swift moves to begin assembling his team. But more than 24 hours after his election had been declared, the vast majority of Republicans declined to offer the customary statements of good will for the victor that have been standard after American presidential contests, as Trump defied the results and vowed to forge ahead with long-shot lawsuits to try to overturn them.
While some prominent Republican figures, including the party’s only living former president, George W Bush, called Biden to wish him well, most elected officials stayed silent in the face of Trump’s baseless claims that the election was stolen from him.
Biden did not respond to Trump’s attacks on the result, but he also was not waiting for a concession. On Sunday, he unveiled his official transition website as he prepared a series of executive actions for his first day in the Oval Office — including rejoining the Paris climate accord, moving aggressively to confront the coronavirus pandemic and restoring labour organising rights for government workers — aimed at unwinding Trump’s domestic agenda and repairing the United States’ image in the world.
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But Republicans’ silence suggested that even in defeat, Trump maintained a powerful grip on his party and its elected leaders, who have spent four years tightly embracing him or quietly working to avoid offending him or his loyal base. For many prominent Republicans, the president’s reluctance to accept the election results created a dilemma, making even the most cursory expression of support for Biden seem like a conspicuous break with Trump.
Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri was the most senior Republican to suggest that Trump had most likely lost and cast doubt on his allegations of a stolen election, but he stopped short of referring to Biden as the president-elect in an exceedingly careful television interview.
“It’s time for the president’s lawyers to present the facts, and it’s time for those facts to speak for themselves,” Blunt, the chairman of the Rules Committee, said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It seems unlikely that any changes could be big enough to make a difference, but this is a close election, and we need to acknowledge that.” “I look forward,” Blunt added, “to the president dealing with this however he needs to deal with it.”
At the White House, there was little indication that Trump was dealing with it at all. As he played a second consecutive day of golf at his private club outside Washington, the president recirculated a groundless claim by Newt Gingrich, the former Republican speaker of the House, who told Fox News, “I think that it is a corrupt, stolen election.” Privately, the president’s advisers, several of whom have quietly been candid with Trump that the chances of success in any challenge to the election outcome were not high, had concluded they had little option other than to allow the president to keep fighting until he was ready to bow to the reality of his loss.
On Friday, a large group of them met with the president in the Oval Office to discuss the way forward, giving him a brutally honest assessment of his likelihood of prevailing. After another meeting at Trump’s campaign headquarters on Saturday, where political aides again laid out the small chances of changing the outcome of the race, Jared Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, asked the group to go to the White House to outline it for Trump, according to people briefed on the meeting.
On his first full day as president-elect, Biden kept a low profile, emerging publicly only to attend Mass, as he does most Sundays. Afterward, he visited the cemetery where his son Beau; his first wife, Neilia; and their daughter, Naomi, are buried. In a sign of one specific stylistic change coming to the White House, he also stayed quiet in another way: Aside from circulating a video posted by his presidential transition, he had not sent a single tweet by Sunday evening.
There were signs that Trump would come under increasing pressure to accept the election results. The nonpartisan Center for Presidential Transition, a nonprofit that assists in transfers of power between administrations, called on his team to “immediately begin the postelection transition process.”
The New York Times