Trump won’t move on even as those around him are #Breaking112
“They’re saying 2024. I said I’m not interested right now. Let’s do this one first,” Trump told guests at one of his holiday parties, venting frustration that his associates seem ready to move on while he would very much like to stay put.
Yet he seems to be enjoying less support by the day as the transition to a new administration proceeds apace and even his closest allies, including members of his family, show signs they are preparing for a new life.
And members of Trump’s Cabinet have begun meeting with their incoming counterparts in Biden’s administration as the start of a new era in Washington nears.
Instead of beaming in virtually to Trump’s summit Tuesday on coronavirus vaccines, Dr. Anthony Fauci chose to participate instead in Biden’s simultaneous unveiling of his health team, on which he will serve as a chief medical adviser.
“I look forward to advising you on these most urgent priorities, and to work with this team of world-class experts whom I have known for many years and deeply respect,” Fauci said during the event — a warm description that could hardly mask the fraught ties between the infectious disease expert and the current administration.
The next morning, Trump’s health secretary said he had met with members of Biden’s team as the transition — which was delayed for weeks as Trump refused to concede — charges ahead.
“I want to ensure that any transition is as smooth, as professional as possible, because, you know, we’re about ensuring the health and well-being of the American people, and that’s what matters to me,” Azar said.
No effort to reach out
That all leaves Trump essentially by himself as he continues to stoke distrust in the election results among his supporters. He has made no efforts to reach out to Biden, and does not plan to conduct any of the traditional hand-offs of power like inviting his successor for a meeting, according to people familiar with the plans.
It’s not an altogether pleasant experience for a President accustomed to people agreeing with him, either out of deference or a desire to avoid recrimination.
Last week, Trump was enraged upon learning Barr had acknowledged in an interview that the Justice Department found no widespread evidence of fraud in this year’s election. The two met for a heated exchange in the Oval Office afterward.
Barr, meanwhile, is said to be “fed up” and seriously considering resigning before Inauguration Day, according to a senior administration official, who said Barr has engaged in big “shouting matches” with Trump in recent weeks and is the “only person pushing back” on the President.
Others around Trump have tried dangling the prospect of a 2024 run as a way to move the President off his current claims of a fraudulent election, and Trump has mused about ways he could announce a new presidential run that would detract from Biden’s entry into office. Yet some of Trump’s aides are skeptical about how serious he is about running again, and as he voiced on Tuesday, he seems less enthusiastic about running in four years than he is about challenging this election’s results.
In other instances, Trump has frozen out acquaintances who have attempted to reason with him.
“He may not be speaking to me right now because of my position on the election being over,” said Trump’s friend Geraldo Rivera, the Fox News correspondent, who in the wake of the election said the President should “say goodbye with grace and dignity.”
Officially, much of the Republican Party remains behind Trump. But even many lawmakers and operatives acknowledge that his efforts now seem mainly about fundraising — and are eager to remain in Trump’s good graces, at least as long as he continues to hold sway among the party’s base and as the balance of power in the Senate remains in question ahead of runoff elections in Georgia.
On Capitol Hill, even as most Republicans refuse to acknowledge Biden’s win, there are emerging signs that many in the GOP are moving on. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for the second time in a week, mentioned the “new administration” when discussing ongoing stimulus talks on Tuesday. Asked a moment later whether he was acknowledging Biden’s win, McConnell said only: “I want to concentrate on the next two weeks and the period beyond that will take care of itself.”
In the meantime, other Republican senators have begun weighing Biden’s Cabinet selections. Sen. Chuck Grassley, one of Trump’s allies in the Senate, gushed about Biden’s selection of Tom Vilsack to lead the Department of Agriculture on Wednesday: “I think he did an outstanding job for eight years and I think he’ll do an outstanding job for no more than four years.”
“Trump’s going to do what Trump is going to do,” said Grassley, who has asserted that Biden will be the President-elect once the Electoral College votes. “That’s the only answer I’m going to give you.”
Still, Trump’s influence on Republicans now seems at an ebb. Many Republicans, including those in leadership positions, brushed off Trump’s threats to veto defense policy legislation because it didn’t include a repeal of liability protections for social media companies. The House overwhelmingly passed the measure on Tuesday, with ample Republican support.
Series of setbacks
Trump’s last-man-standing approach to the final days of his presidency has been fueled this week by a series of setbacks to his legal case and the growing sense, even among Republicans and members of his cabinet, that his efforts are over.
“Let’s see if they have the courage to do what everybody in this country knows is right,” he said at the White House vaccine event.
Even before Election Day, Trump predicted the contest would end up before the Supreme Court, which he has reshaped with three conservative justices. Perhaps hoping those appointees would prove sympathetic to his cause, Trump frequently cited his chances there.
Yet the court’s quick rejection of the Pennsylvania case, with no public dissents even from the justices Trump has hoped would prove loyal to him, is a signal the Supreme Court may not want to get involved in the ongoing Trump challenges.
The email said Trump is “anxiously awaiting the final list” to see who signs on.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Kate Bennett, Manu Raju, Jake Tapper, Vivian Salama, Ariane de Vogue and Allie Malloy contributed to this report.