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(NEXSTAR/AP) – As he begins his transition to the presidency, Joe Biden is pivoting from a bitter campaign battle to another, more pressing fight: reining in the pandemic that has hit the world’s most powerful nation harder than any other.
On Monday, Biden announced the members of his coronavirus task force that will develop a blueprint for fighting the pandemic. It includes doctors and scientists who have served in previous administrations, many of them experts in public health, vaccines and infectious diseases.
Notable among the members is Rick Bright, a vaccine expert and former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. He had filed a whistleblower complaint alleging he was reassigned to a lesser job because he resisted political pressure to allow widespread use of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug pushed by President Donald Trump as a COVID-19 treatment.
President Donald Trump faces a stark choice now that Democrat Joe Biden has won the White House: Concede graciously for the sake of the nation or don’t — and get evicted anyway.
Trump was still insisting the race was not over. He threw out baseless allegations that the election wasn’t fair and “illegal” votes were counted, promised a flurry of legal action and fired off all-caps tweets falsely insisting he’d “WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT.”
While some in his circle were nudging Trump to concede graciously, many of his Republican allies, including on Capitol Hill, were egging him on or giving him space to process his loss — at least for the time being.
“Trump has not lost,” declared South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham in an appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures,” rejecting the reality of the situation. “Do not concede, Mr. President. Fight hard,” he urged.
Trump is not expected to formally concede, according to people close to him, but is likely to grudgingly vacate the White House at the end of his term. His ongoing efforts to paint the election as unfair are seen both as an effort to soothe a bruised ego and to show his loyal base of supporters that he is still fighting. That could be key to keeping them energized for what comes next.
“He intends to fight,” Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said as it was becoming clear that the president was headed for defeat.
Would Trump ever concede? “I doubt it,” said Trump’s longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone, whose prison sentence was commuted by Trump in July. Stone asserted that Biden, as a result, will have “a cloud over his presidency with half the people in the country believing that he was illegitimately elected.”
Allies suggested that if Trump wants to launch a media empire in the coming years, he has an incentive to prolong the drama. So, too, if he intends to keep the door open to a possible 2024 comeback — he would be only a year older than Biden is now.
Others in his inner circle egging him on, including his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. The former New York mayor has been promising to provide the president with evidence of voter fraud but has produced little, including during a press conference he held Saturday in the parking lot of a small Philadelphia landscaping company next to an adult bookstore.
Trump’s adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, have also urged their father to keep fighting and challenged Republicans to stand with them, as have congressional allies like Graham.
“What I would tell President Trump is: Don’t give up. My advice is do not concede,” said Republican Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona in a podcast interview. “Let’s fight this thing through. It is too important to give up.”
Some in the president’s orbit have been nervously looking toward Capitol Hill for signs of a Republican defection. But so far, most seemed to be giving him time.
“I look forward to the president dealing with this however he needs to deal with it,” Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” Still, he said it was time for Trump “to turn this discussion over to his lawyers, time for the lawyers to make the case that they have, both in court and to the American people, and then we’re going to have to deal with those facts as they’re presented. That has to happen and then we move forward.”
“At this point, we do not know who has prevailed in the election,” said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, telling Fox News he believes Trump “still has a path to victory.”
Other political allies and White House officials, however, have pressed Trump to change his tone and commit to a smooth transition. They’ve emphasized to him that history will be a harsh judge of any action he takes that is seen as undermining his successor. And they have advised him to deliver a speech in the coming week pledging to support the transition.
Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has told others that he is among those who have urged the president to accept the outcome of the race — even if Trump won’t come to terms with how it was reached.
At Fox News, where prime-time hosts wield enormous influence over Trump, Laura Ingraham gave voice to the president’s belief that the election had been unfair, while also pleading with him to keep his legacy in mind — and preserve his status as a GOP kingmaker — by gracefully leaving office.
“President Trump’s legacy will only become more significant if he focuses on moving the country forward,” she said Thursday.
This story is based on interviews with more than a dozen Trump aides and allies, many of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions.
Associated Press writers Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas, Alexandra Jaffe and Thomas Strong in Washington, Jamey Keaten in Geneva, as well as Jill Colvin, Zeke Miller and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this story.