Political News

McConnell plays long game on recognizing winner, looking to keep Senate in GOP control

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uschools/iStockBy ALLISON PECORIN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — Despite little or no evidence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans continue to back President Donald Trump’s legal challenges to the 2020 election results, refusing to acknowledge Joe Biden as the president-elect.

On Tuesday, McConnell suggested they were playing the long game — and might not acknowledge the election results until the Electoral College votes on Dec. 14 — more than a month away.

This comes as control of the Senate hangs in the balance with two runoff races in Georgia in January. The rhetoric is a way for some Republicans to signal to Trump supporters in the state they’re not giving up the fight.

To make that clear, several Republicans campaigned in Georgia Wednesday.

McConnell and other GOP leaders continue to maintain that Trump is “100 percent within his rights” as he pursues legal action, though when pressed, none has been able to identify a specific example of large-scale voting fraud that would make a difference in the final outcome.

“Until the Electoral College votes anyone who’s running for office can exhaust concerns about counting in any court of appropriate jurisdiction. It is not unusual it should not be alarming,” McConnell said. “At some point here, we will find out finally who is certified in each of these states and the electoral college will determine the winner and that person will be sworn in on January 20.”

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin was more blunt. Asked by reporters Tuesday if he had congratulated Biden he responded, “No,” and when asked why not, said there was “nothing to congratulate him about yet.”

Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, who said he has also not congratulated Biden, told reporters that “we are still awaiting, and still expect, that President Trump will continue as long as he believes there’s a problem with the election,” something he has “every right to do.”

And Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., joined Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in calling on Trump to “fight” for the office.

He should “exhaust all options that are available to him he is doing this to make certain that the votes that are legal are counted and illegal votes are cast out,” Blackburn said on Fox News Tuesday.

Republicans are worried because if Democrats manage to unseat both of Georgia’s GOP senators — Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue — the Senate will be evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris available to cast tie-breaking votes.

“We’ve got to go win in Georgia, and we’re going to win in Georgia,” said Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who campaigned in the state Wednesday. “We all heard what the Democrats are going to do, Chuck Schumer said if he can take Georgia he can change America, and we all know what the Democratic changes are.”

The Trump campaign has filed a number of lawsuits in key states, but nearly all, including in Georgia, have been thrown out. ABC News has reported that internally some of the president’s top advisers have cast doubt on the effectiveness of the legal strategy and the potential to impact the results of the election in any meaningful way.

Georgia announced Wednesday it will hold a recount of its presidential election results in December. Republicans are expected to flood the state in the meantime.

Vice President Pence told a Senate GOP luncheon Tuesday he would campaign there.

Sens. Scott and Marco Rubio of Florida were both in the state Wednesday to rally support for Loeffler and Perdue. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., whose race was just called in his favor Tuesday, said, “I expect a lot of us are going to be going to Georgia next week.”

But while Republicans have argued there is no harm in allowing the legal process to be worked through, Democrats have pointed to the negative impact they say Trump’s refusal to concede the election is having on the Biden transition efforts.

The General Services Administration has not yet “ascertained” — or recognized — Biden as the president-elect, which has left his team unable to access to federal resources for his transition.

Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginian wrote to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy arguing that an “orderly and peaceful transition process is critical” to helping the Biden administration implement its COVID-19 strategy.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, in a floor speech Monday, called Trump’s refusal to concede “poisonous” to American democracy.

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