U.S. president-elect Joe Biden is mostly steering clear of the controversy engulfing President Donald Trump’s final days in office, aiming to project the different approach to governing Americans can expect when he moves into the White House on Jan. 20.
Biden and his team have offered a muted response to Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, which reached a new level this past weekend when he pressured Georgia’s Republican secretary of state during a phone call to “find” enough votes to flip the state in his favour.
While some Democrats say Trump’s actions merit new impeachment proceedings, Biden has been more circumspect.
He didn’t address the matter directly during his visit to Georgia on Monday afternoon, when he campaigned for two Democratic Senate candidates, only hinting at Trump’s efforts to reverse the result of the election by joking, “I don’t know why he still wants the job — he doesn’t want to do the work.”
Biden later spoke broadly about Democrats’ “opposition friends” realizing that “power flows from the people.”
He continued, “Politicians cannot assert, take or seize power. Power is granted by the American people alone.”
Georgia official refutes Trump
There was no widespread fraud in the election, which a range of election officials across the country, as well as Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, has confirmed. Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, key battleground states crucial to Biden’s victory, have vouched for the integrity of the elections in their states.
On Monday, a top election official from Georgia offered a point-by-point refutation of many of Trump’s allegations on the Saturday phone call.
Gabriel Sterling, the voting systems administration manager, said the election was not stolen and mass voter fraud did not occur in his state. But he said the best way to counter that would be to vote in Tuesday’s Senate run-off election.
WATCH | A visibly exasperated Sterling on Trump’s allegations about the Georgia election:
“If that’s what you genuinely in your heart of hearts believe, turn out and vote. There are people who fought and died and marched and prayed and voted to get the right to vote. Throwing it away because you have some feeling that it may not matter is self-destructive, ultimately, and a self-fulfilling prophecy in the end.”
Nearly all of the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the U.S. Supreme Court, where three Trump-nominated justices preside.
Biden campaigns with Democratic candidates
The president-elect, campaigning with Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, was one of a number of political leaders who descended on Georgia on Monday for an 11th-hour turnout push. U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence campaigned at a Georgia megachurch earlier in the day, while Trump was due to hold a nighttime rally in north Georgia.
Biden told voters he needs a Senate majority to pass legislation to combat the coronavirus, and he blasted Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler as obstructionist Trump sycophants.
“You have two senators who think they’ve sworn an oath to Donald Trump, not the United States Constitution,” Biden said.
Biden’s low-key approach to Trump is in keeping with his overall strategy to focus on preparing to assume the presidency — even as Trump goes to ever-greater lengths to sow doubt about the Nov. 3 election results.
“The country is ready to move forward, and president-elect Biden is going to remain focused on the work ahead of us in completing a successful transition and putting together an administration that will get this virus under control and build our economy back better,” said Biden adviser Kate Bedingfield.
His aides believe Americans outside Washington, D.C., want to hear more about how the Biden presidency will help them and less about the partisan squabbling that has characterized the past four years of Trump’s presidency.
And while some Democrats on Capitol Hill have raised the prospect of impeachment over Trump’s weekend phone call, the Democratic leadership has emphasized that the party’s focus is on Biden’s agenda rather than on Trump’s malfeasance.
“We’re not looking backward. We’re looking forward to the inauguration of Joe Biden on Jan. 20,” House Democratic Caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries said during a press conference on Monday.
The strategy is informed by the reality that Trump’s complaints have been repeatedly rebuffed by members of his own party and administration and are running out of oxygen as Biden’s inauguration draws near.
WATCH | Trump asks Georgia officials to ‘find’ the votes he needs to win:
Trump’s next big stand comes on Wednesday, when some Republicans in the House of Representatives and Senate plan to protest Biden’s win as Congress formally ratifies his victory, and thousands of Trump supporters will descend on the Capitol for a march.
But that show of protest faces its own challenges as even some of Trump’s staunchest allies on Capitol Hill have dismissed the move. Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a longtime Trump supporter who may seek the White House in 2024, said in a statement that he would reject the gambit because it would “establish unwise precedents.”
“Congress would take away the power to choose the president from the people, which would essentially end presidential elections and place that power in the hands of whichever party controls Congress,” Cotton said.