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How Republicans are responding to Trump’s continued election defiance

President Trump and some of his allies refuse to acknowledge President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory and continue to criticize the vote-counting process in key states. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is now facing criticism for contacting state officials -- and reportedly pressuring them, although Graham denies that. Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor join Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now let's turn to our Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor.

    Hello to both of you.

    And, Lisa, I'm going to start with you with this, Lindsey Graham, senator from South Carolina, admitting that he did reach out to officials in states where the Trump campaign is challenging the result. This is highly unusual, as we know.

    What can you tell us about it?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It's also significant, because he is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which oversees law enforcement, not elections, but law enforcement in this country.

    Chairman Graham has spent the last day explaining to reporters what he believes he said.

    And here's a quote, how he explains this. Let's look at that. He said: "I wanted to find out how you verify mail-in ballots signatures. And that was the extent of the conversation" with the secretary of state of Georgia.

    Senator Graham is saying, essentially, he is not sure that the technology in Georgia was up to snuff for figuring out those ballots and that — and whether the signatures were actually accurate for mail-in votes.

    But the secretary of state said that, as part of that conversation, Senator Graham implied that large numbers of ballots should be thrown out in counties that the technology did not meet whatever Senator Graham's standard was. So, there are some questions about what he said in general.

    And in I think that, when we talk about senators and how they look at this, a lot of senators have been state officials. One of them, Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, put it this way over this whole thing.

    He said: "If he was trying to get information, then that's fine. But if he was trying to influence ballot-counting, that's problematic."

    And it's hard to tell, honestly — this is a he said/he said — exactly what Senator Graham was trying to do.

    One other note, Judy, this idea of whether Republican senators are accepting the election results, they seem to be tiptoeing toward acceptance. Senator Marco Rubio today said the preliminary results seem to indicate a Biden win. Senator John Cornyn of Texas has talked about the president-elect and said he doesn't think anything can change that outcome.

    And, notably, you mentioned that Senator Harris, vice president-elect Harris, was on the Senate floor today. She received congratulations, I have confirmed, from Republican Senators Lankford, Rounds, and Tim Scott.

    And Senator Lindsey Graham gave her a fist-bump. He apparently told reporters that he said, "If it works out, congratulations."

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Really interesting, since these are senators who, by and large, are saying they support the president's challenges.

    But, Yamiche, that brings me to you. What is the latest on the president and his allies continuing to challenge the election results?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, despite a string of failed legal challenges, the president is continuing to fight on, continuing to not acknowledge that he is the projected loser in this election.

    Now, the president is doing a number of things, including leaning in on allies, on senators and elected officials, and having his allies, it seems as though, implying that they should be reaching out to state officials to try to see whether or not there can be things being done to sway those states in the president's direction.

    The president's also keeping up his rhetoric. He's talking about the fact that the election was stolen from him. And he's doing that in fund-raising e-mails, through text messages. Critics say that that is going through a lot of money that's going to end up in a slush fund that's going to at times really help him lead an expensive lifestyle.

    The president, of course, is saying that that's part of his legal defense fund. Then, on the legal front, the president is continuing to have lawsuit after lawsuit. Today, they filed a new one in Nevada. We also saw the president go to court in Pennsylvania, Rudy Giuliani, his personal attorney, expanding his role there, while lawyers are starting to quit, saying that they cannot defend the president's legal challenges.

    Today, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against the Trump campaign, saying that their legal challenge against Republican observers, saying that they didn't have the proper access, that that was not founded.

    And then, when you look at the other strategy here, there's a shifting rhetoric happening. Before, people close to the president were saying, if we can get recounts, if we can get it together, we can rustle back some of these states.

    Now people that are close to the president, they tell me, well, maybe what we're doing is just auditing the system, seeing what could have gone wrong, what the flaws were, because the president might be losing.

    And one other thing, they were saying over and over again, allies to the president, they wanted recounts in each and every state. We're now being told at the "NewsHour" that the president is not going to be demanding a recount in Wisconsin. That would have cost $8 million.

    So what you see there is the Trump campaign continuing to say, we can win this, we can have these legal challenges, but when it comes to actually putting money toward that, putting money toward their defense and the recount, they're not doing that. So, we should always be watching that space and, of course, the space with these local officials feeling pressured.

    We have been making some calls on that. Hopefully, we can get some more reporting on what's going on there.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And the president continuing to say the election is being stolen in most of his statements.

    Yamiche Alcindor, Lisa Desjardins, thank you both.

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