Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has warned fellow GOP senators not to join President Donald Trump's extended assault on the Electoral College results, fearing an irreconcilable split in the Republican Party.
In public remarks and private warnings on Tuesday (US time), McConnell worked to push ahead to the Biden era and unite a fractured party ahead of the runoff elections that will determine Senate control.
Despite praising Trump's "endless" accomplishments, McConnell angered Trump loyalists by finally recognising Joe Biden as the incoming president.
"Many of us had hoped the presidential election would yield a different result," McConnell said yesterday. "But our system of government has the processes to determine who will be sworn in on January 20. The Electoral College has spoken."
• Donald Trump's last-ditch play as electoral college vote seals election defeat
• Trump attacks former allies, Republicans in his final weeks as President
• US election: Watergate journalist exposes 21 Republicans who shared 'disdain' of Donald Trump
• Analysis: The election is over; Trump's attacks will linger
Trump responded quickly, saying on social media that it was still "too soon" to give up.
The President said the Republican Party "must finally learn to fight", indicating he has no intention of conceding defeat any time soon.
McConnell's recognition of the President-elect, after weeks of silence, followed other leading Republicans who spoke up after the Electoral College voted on Monday. They finally said aloud what many Republicans had been signalling privately — that Biden won the election, and they are essentially abandoning Trump's election attacks.
From there, the floodgates opened. Several GOP senators confirmed they had spoken with Biden, including Trump ally Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Mitt Romney of Utah, the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said now that McConnell has spoken, "enough is enough" and Trump should "end his term with a modicum of grace and dignity".
Other GOP lawmakers have vowed to carry the fight to January 6, when the US Congress votes to accept or reject the Electoral College results. Some might stage an inevitably futile protest in the House or Senate. Others have said Trump's legal battles should continue toward resolution by Inauguration Day, January 20.
A prolonged fight within the Republican Party could aggravate divisions and hurt turnout in the January 5 runoff election in Georgia, where two incumbent Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, face Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in two races that will decide which party controls the Senate (Democrats would need to win both races).
Trump himself has warned of this, asking Republicans to unite behind him. On social media, Trump demanded the governor of Georgia conduct yet another audit of the vote count, threatening, "otherwise, could be a bad day for two GREAT Senators on January 5th".
The President also shared a post saying Republican leaders in Georgia who resisted his efforts to overturn the election result "will soon be going to jail".
Historians and election officials have warned that Trump's unfounded claims of voter fraud threaten to erode Americans' faith in the election system.
The President's legal team is claiming voting irregularities, even though Attorney General William Barr, who abruptly resigned Monday, has said there is no evidence of widespread fraud that would alter the election results. State election officials, including Republicans, have said the election was fair and valid.
In a decisive blow to Trump's legal efforts, the Supreme Court last week declined to take up two of his cases challenging the election process in key states. Some 120 House Republicans signed on to that failed effort.