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Capehart and Abernathy on why Trump is still casting doubts on the election

Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, and Gary Abernathy, an Ohio-based writer and contributing columnist to The Washington Post, join Amna Nawaz to discuss this week's politics, including President Trump's undermining of the election process and President-elect Joe Biden's picks for top cabinet posts.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    Let's turn now to the analysis of Capehart and Abernathy.

    That's Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart and Gary Abernathy, an Ohio-based writer and contributing columnist to The Washington Post.

    Both Mark Shields and David Brooks are away this week.

    Jonathan and Gary, it's good to see you. Thanks for being here. I hope you both had a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

    Let's talk about the transition, shall we? It has been weeks since the election. The race has been called. I don't know about where you live, but here in Virginia, most of the yard signs are down. And yet the president is still casting doubts on the election, to the point where, yesterday, when a reporter asked him, felt he had to ask him, would you leave the White House, take a listen to what the president said yesterday.

  • Question:

    If the Electoral College does elect president-elect Joe Biden, are you not going to leave this building?

  • President Donald Trump:

    Just so you — certainly, I will. Certainly, I will. And you know that.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Just this afternoon, then, the president tweeted this: "Biden can only enter the White House as president if he can prove that his ridiculous 80 million votes were not fraudulently or illegally obtained."

    Gary, I'm going to start with you here.

    Why is the president continuing to call the entire election a fraud? Who is he talking to here?

  • Gary Abernathy:

    I suppose, Amna — and thank you for having me tonight.

    And, Jonathan, good to see you.

    I suppose he thinks that this plays to a part of his base that, like him, just won't accept the idea of defeat, no matter what.

    But I'm very disappointed in him doing this.

    Let's make it clear. On January 20, Joe Biden is going to be president. And that happens whether Joe Biden gets to enter the White House or not. I'm sure he will. But being into the White House doesn't make you president. The people of the United States do that. And that's what they did.

    But I hope that, in short order — I was willing to give President Trump a couple of weeks to do his legal challenges, answer any questions that might really be out there about fraud. I think we have done that. I think we have looked into it. I know there is still some stuff going on out there, but nothing that's going to pan out, really.

    And so it's time for President Trump to set an example for America, even for his base and for the rest of the world, and say, you know what? Let's gets on with it.

    And he did that, in part, by agreeing to let the GSA go ahead with the transition and telling his agencies to cooperate. But he needs to take that last step and say, OK, I acknowledge it's done.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Jonathan, what about you? What do you make of the messaging coming from both the president and also from president-elect Biden, who hasn't really engaged on a lot of that fraud conversation?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, what we're seeing between the two of them is a stark contrast.

    On the one hand, you have an incumbent outgoing president who, since the — since Election Day and certainly since the election was officially called for president-elect Biden, has basically given up on doing the actual job of being president, still lashing out on Twitter, lashing out yesterday at the White House.

    No matter what he says, as my friend Gary says, he will no longer be president come noon on January 20. So we just put that off to the side.

    But, by contrast, you have president-elect Biden, who is ignoring the charade coming out of the White House, ignoring the taunts, ignoring the traps that the president thinks he's laying for Joe Biden.

    But president-elect Biden, just through his Thanksgiving Day address to the nation, showed — reminded the country of what it's like to actually have a president of the United States who puts the care and comfort and concerns of the citizens ahead of his own needs, wants, or objectives.

    And by moving forward and naming — starting to name his Cabinet, doing the actual work of showing what a Biden government would look like, I think just the contrast could not be more clear, and also explain why 80 million Americans went with Joe Biden, and not with the sitting incumbent president.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Well, Jonathan, to your point, let's take a look at some of the Cabinet picks and the top administration posts that have already been rolled out by the Biden/Harris team.

    Take a look at some of these folks who have been named so far. And we have heard a few others reported.

    Jonathan, when you look at those roles and some of the other top posts that we have seen names released for, a good number of them are Obama alumni. What do you make of this criticism that some people say this just looks like a third Obama term?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, look, I think those folks who are criticizing president-elect Biden for this are being a little shortsighted.

    The last Democratic president of the United States was President Obama, the people who we just saw there. I mean, let's take, for instance, secretary of state-designate Antony Blinken. He was deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration. And so this is this is a promotion.

    There is so — there's a wealth of expertise and knowledge and stature among the people that you just showed, which is only a small part of the Cabinet that president-elect Biden is going to announce.

    And so I would say to the — I would say to those critics, settle down. Be glad that there are people who are coming into the government, willing to come into the mess that they're about to inherit, to turn those agencies around and also to turn the United States — the United States around.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Gary, when you look at what President Trump has been doing over this last week, he's been doing what a lot of outgoing presidents do, which is exercising his presidential power and considering some pardons.

    There was this pardon for General Mike Flynn, right, who had pled guilty to lying to federal agents about his Russian contacts. What did you make of that decision to pardon General Flynn?

  • Gary Abernathy:

    Well, I mean, I felt like that was the least surprising event of the week.

    I think a lot of people had been anticipating that President Trump was going to make that pardon, issue that pardon. This was — there are strong feelings about this case. I'm on the side where I thought how James Comey, originally, to this day described how he took advantage of the White House kind of being in disarray early on.

    So, he didn't really follow protocols when he decided to send an agent into the White House to see what they could find out. And then they have this conversation with Flynn, who at first denies having any contact with the Russians, which is kind of strange, because, based on what we know, what he said to the Russians, there was nothing wrong with that.

    But, then, for some reason, I guess he panicked. He denied saying it. And there's no doubt about that.

    But when you look at the history of presidential pardons, and presidents going back four or five, six presidents, often pardon or offer clemency — issue clemency to allies and people that were close to them. That's what the president has done.

    And however you're going to feel about it, it was not surprising that he did.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    There is a bigger issue here I'd like to get you both on. If we can be brief, we will be able to get to both of you.

    But the continued undermining by the president of the entire election process, even, as — Gary, as you say, he's just talking to his base, who may never accept it, it does continue. We're moving into a key — two key run-off elections in Georgia. The president said he's going to be campaigning on the ground.

    Jonathan, are you concerned that, the longer the president undermines that process, the harder it will be for Biden then to govern?

  • Jonathan Capehart:


    But there's a time limit on this. We — a little more than 50 days, and then we won't have to worry about President Trump undermining the electoral process.

    But, also, I think it still is incumbent upon Republicans, Republicans of conscience and stature out in the country, but particularly on Capitol Hill, to rise up and speak out against things that are anti-constitutional, anti-small-D democratic, and undermine the rule of law.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Gary, what about you?

  • Gary Abernathy:

    Yes, I really hate to agree with Jonathan very often tonight, Amna, but I have to agree with him on this.

    The president, for the sake of everyone, for the sake of the belief in our process — again, I was not opposed to taking a couple of weeks and saying, let's look at some of these allegations, let's investigate them.

    But I think we have done that. And now, for everyone's sake, for the good of America going forward, for a signal to the world that, you know what, we have honest elections here in this country, we have a peaceful transfer of power in this country, I'd like to see the president do that.

    And I hope he goes so far as to, when January 20 comes around, Amna, I hope that Donald Trump will stand there to the side of Joe Biden as president-elect Biden takes the oath of office.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Dare I ask you in just The few seconds we have left, both of you on this Thanksgiving week, if you would like to share one quick thought on what you are thankful for?

    Gary, you want to start?

  • Gary Abernathy:

    Oh, thank you, Amna.

    Well, naturally, like most people, I'm really grateful for my family, for friends. And I'm still grateful to live in what I think is the greatest country on Earth, with the greatest opportunities on Earth.

    And despite what we're going through right now — some people say, oh, there's a constitutional crisis and so on — really, our system works. It'll continue to work. And this process has shown us that. And, on January 20, we will put a stamp on the results of this election.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Jonathan, what about you?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    To be perfectly blunt, I'm thankful for the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, for what it represents.

    The 80 million people who put them into office opted for a return to normalcy, decency, and putting in a government that respects the American people, the Constitution and the rule of law.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And we are thankful to both of you for joining us this week.

    That's Jonathan Capehart and Gary Abernathy.

    Good to see you both.

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