President Donald Trump offered what is likely to be the closest thing to a concession on Tuesday as more Republicans moved to distance themselves from his rhetoric around “illegal votes”.
The President took to his favourite form of communication, Twitter, to support Emily Murphy, who is head of the General Services Administration, and her decision to begin the formal presidential transition with Joe Biden’s team.
Minutes after he gave the green light to transition out of the White House, Mr Trump promised to “never concede to fake ballots & “Dominion” in a subsequent tweet.
FLASHBACK: In 2018, President Trump attacked Carrots the turkey for refusing to concede he had lost the vote on the White House turkey pardon contest.
"This was a fair election… unfortunately, Carrots refused to concede and demanded a recount."
— andrew kaczynski🤔 (@KFILE) November 23, 2020
But analysts are clear about one thing – the Trump campaign’s attempt to overturn the election is now totally dead in the water – and perhaps in a show they know the writing is on the wall, more Republicans are coming out against him.
Ms Murphy found herself in politically hot water when the election ended, with pressure from the Democrats to begin the transition earlier, and pressure from the White House to not allow it at all.
But her decision to allow Mr Biden’s transition was based on a formality, coming after a Michigan board certified the state’s election results.
US election analyst and Australian National University professor Wesley Widmaier said the decision to allow funding and information to flow to the transition team is a big deal in terms of “making sure the trains run on time”.
“This is what gives Biden access to resources, it helps give his team access to their existing counterparts. So to that extent, it is incredibly important,” he told The New Daily.
But he said Mr Trump’s willingness to let it happen is less about admitting defeat and more about entering a new phase, where he can whip up his base by claiming it was stolen from him, as he’s exiting.
“We’re moving from a highly implausible legal strategy, with an unlikely political end game, to a much more damaging narrative,” Professor Widmaier said.
“It signals the extent to which Trump’s attempt to overturn the election has moved from having any foundation in reality or real consequences to being about laying the foundation of what will be years of him looking back and saying, ‘This was a stolen election’.”
Mr Trump will now likely have a smooth transition out of the White House while continuing to cast doubt on the election result by making baseless claims, he said.
“The hallmarks of the last four years have been reality and rhetoric have always diverged,” Professor Widmaier said.
“Once you have the GSA recommendation, that Biden is President-elect and Trump is directing them to co-operate, that’s hard to reverse.”
Dead in the water
Mr Trump’s legal team, led by lawyer Rudy Giuliani, has suffered a series of big blows in the past week, which have made the campaign to overturn the results all but impossible.
University of Melbourne’s US political analyst George Rennie said Mr Trump’s attempt to overturn the election had run out of steam.
“It’s absolutely at the end of the road,” Professor Rennie said.
“They’ve won two out of 30 legal challenges. In Pennsylvania, where they have the strongest case, it still won’t change the election.”
Most of the legal challenges are “minor things’’ that would have no real-world consequences even if the Trump team did win, he said.
The Republican party is increasingly divided on how to handle Mr Trump’s continued claims, with the party split into two camps.
On one side are what’s called the ‘establishment’ Republicans – those that have nothing to lose politically and are not afraid of the President’s wrath – who are speaking out against his claims.
And others, including the party’s leaders, who are silent on their support either way – though that group is getting much smaller.
On Monday, Mr Trump’s old ally and former Republican governor of New Jersey Chris Christie slammed his legal team as a “national embarrassment”.
“Elections have consequences and we cannot continue to act as if something happened here that didn’t happen,” Mr Christie said.
“The conduct of the President’s legal team has been a national embarrassment,” he said before arguing that if the courts had not found cases in Mr Trump’s favour “It must mean the evidence doesn’t exist’’.