Biden plays hardball as he seeks a mandate: The Note

Final defeat of Trump won’t bring the kind of victory Biden really wants.

December 15, 2020, 6:01 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

It’s over, and a growing number of Republicans not just know it but are willing to say it.

Yet even the final, final defeat of President Donald Trump won’t bring the kind of victory President-elect Joe Biden really wants.

PHOTO: President-elect Joe Biden delivers a televised address to the nation, after the Electoral College formally confirmed his victory over President Donald Trump  in Wilmington, Del., Dec. 14, 2020.
President-elect Joe Biden delivers a televised address to the nation, after the Electoral College formally confirmed his victory over President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, from Biden's transition headquarters in Wilmington, Del., Dec. 14, 2020.
Mike Segar/Reuters

Biden built a campaign’s promise around reaching out. But there are limits – and he is now making as clear as he has since winning the election that he won’t look past all aspects of what Trump has said and done.

“This election now ranks as the clearest demonstration of the true will of the American people,” Biden said in seeking to claim a mandate Monday night, after the final Electoral College votes were tallied and his win was made as formal as the Constitution will make it. “It should be celebrated -- not attacked.”

Biden praised the GOP office-holders who withstood attacks from Trump to vouch for the integrity of the election’s results. But he also called out the far greater number of elected Republicans who stood with Trump even through his longshot bid to ask the Supreme Court to overturn the results – “a position so extreme we’ve never seen it before,” Biden said.

As Biden returns to the campaign trail Tuesday to fight for the Senate in Georgia, and as he plans the start of his presidency with more urgency, Biden is sending signals about how he plans to govern.

The same day that saw the first Americans receive the COVID-19 vaccine also saw the Electoral College affirm Biden’s victory.

That’s a coincidence that presents itself as a challenge to Biden – who needs to bring unity out of divisions, but inherits a landscape that can’t be wiped clean.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

There have been recounts and audits already, but Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Monday there would now also be a specific signature audit of the absentee ballot envelopes in one key county, Cobb County, too.

State officials said there was a "specific allegation" that set the stage for this move. The news follows weeks of public pressure from the president to do just this.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a press conference Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in Atlanta.
John Bazemore/AP

While the audit won’t change the count — those signatures cannot be matched to actual votes — it can reinforce (or not) confidence in the system. The audit will match signatures to actual voters.

Monday was also coincidentally the first day of the three-week advance voting period in Georgia for the statewide runoff Senate elections.

The audit announcement Monday was news that felt incongruous with the other headlines of the day. Between vaccines and the final Electoral College vote, the country seemed like it was formally turning a page Monday. But an audit in Georgia has the potential, in theory, to help skeptical Americans feel more confident in the next chapter.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Monday's Electoral College meetings further solidified Biden and Kamala Harris' Nov. 3 win, but the traditional pomp and circumstance seen in state houses across the country did little to persuade Trump's staunchest supporters to accept the official outcome of the election.

Republicans in key battleground states -- including Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia -- continued to express baseless political rhetoric as they attempted to put forth alternate slates of electors, all while their states certified official results in favor of Biden. In some states, the moves were presented alongside alleged pending court cases, even as the typically conservative-leaning Wisconsin Supreme Court issued the latest rejection of Trump's legal challenges of the 2020 election.

Members of California's Electoral College cast their votes at the state Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, Dec. 14, 2020.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Their actions echoed a message floated by Stephen Miller, a senior Trump adviser, who also falsely suggested there are still opportunities to continue the fight for the White House ahead of the handover of power between administrations on Jan. 20. Although both chambers of Congress will meet to count the electoral votes on Jan. 6, legal experts say there is no scenario in which Trump could retain the presidency.

"There's no remaining challenges that could make a difference, they've exhausted every realistic --and a large number of unrealistic -- avenues for relief, so, legally, this is of no significance whatsoever," said Norm Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and outside counsel to the Voters Protection Program, said of the moves by Republicans.


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Tuesday morning’s episode features University of Louisville Health doctor Valerie Briones-Pryor, who tells us her experience receiving one of America’s first COVID-19 vaccine doses. ABC News’ Anne Flaherty lays out what major questions remain about distribution and uptake. And ABC News Chief Justice correspondent Pierre Thomas tells us what we need to know about an alleged Russian hacking operation on the federal government.

FiveThirtyEight's Politics Podcast. The two biggest stories of 2020 in the U.S. — the pandemic and the election — are finding some closure today, though each is really just entering its next phase. The conflicts and challenges presented by both the pandemic and President Trump’s attempts to overturn the election results are not over. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast, the crew discusses how we got to this moment and what comes next.


  • President-elect Joe Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief. Afterward, he will travel to Atlanta to campaign on behalf of Senate candidates Jon Ossoff, Rev. Raphael Warnock, and the Democratic ticket in the Jan. 5 runoffs.
  • Vice President Mike Pence travels to Bloomington, Indiana, to tour a vaccine production facility and hold a roundtable discussion.
  • Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will sit down with Robin Roberts for an interview for Good Morning America, set to air Wednesday. She also will receive the President’s Daily Brief. Later, Harris will host a virtual meeting with Democratic Attorneys General.
  • First lady Melania Trump will visit the Children’s National Hospital in Washington. 
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