Trump still in denial about defeat as legal team mounts last-ditch challenges

JORDYN PHELPS and BEN GITTLESON
·5 min read

While President Donald Trump has begun to openly acknowledge the reality that his days in the White House are drawing to an end, he appears nowhere closer to acknowledging the legitimacy of his defeat.

Days after saying for the first time he would be moving out of the White House in January, the president made clear in his first television interview Sunday that he remained dug in, promoting an unfounded conspiracy theory that the election was stolen from him and that he intended to dedicate "125%" of his energy to proving it in the weeks to come.

“In other words, my mind will not change in six months," Trump said Sunday in an interview with Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo. "There was tremendous cheating here. Boxes were brought in. The mail-in vote is a disaster."

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the White House, Nov. 26, 2020. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the White House, Nov. 26, 2020. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

The president’s singular focus on his own political misfortunes threatened to jeopardize Republican control of the Senate, even as he acknowledged that his current path was a long shot. His attention on his own election has taken his focus off a pair of key U.S. Senate runoff races on Jan. 5 in Georgia, where Democrat wins would flip control of the body.

“You need a judge that's willing to hear a case," Trump said. "You need a Supreme Court that's willing to make a real big decision."

But in case after case, the president’s legal team has failed to advance his case of fraud over a basic failure to present evidence to support their claims.

MORE: Election 2020: A look at Trump campaign election lawsuits and where they stand

After spending $3 million on a partial recount in Wisconsin that netted Biden 87 more votes, Trump and his allies are this week continuing to press a series of legal maneuvers that would not actually overturn the election results. Wisconsin's results were scheduled to be finalized Monday.

On Saturday, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court tossed out a challenge focused on mail-in ballots, brought by a congressional supporter of the president's, the latest adverse ruling for Trump and his allies as they have continued to try to challenge Biden's win in the key state. Biden received over 80,000 more votes than Trump did in Pennsylvania, which certified its results last week.

Trump's allies could appeal Saturday's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, but even if they did, the Supreme Court would not be obligated to take it up.

States face a Dec. 8 deadline to finalize their results, before the Electoral College votes for president on Dec. 14.

On Monday, another swing state that Biden won, Arizona, certified its results. In the morning, Trump's legal team held an event with state lawmakers discussing the election results -- an attempt to undermine the vote that is not expected to have any real impact, since Arizona's legislature has no power over which electors the state would send to the Electoral College.

The president's look back at his own election appears to be pulling his attention away from Georgia runoffs, where Republicans are fighting to maintain control of the U.S. Senate.

PHOTO: Recount observers watch ballots during a Milwaukee hand recount of Presidential votes at the Wisconsin Center, Nov. 20, 2020, in Milwaukee, Wis. (Nam Y. Huh/AP, FILE)
PHOTO: Recount observers watch ballots during a Milwaukee hand recount of Presidential votes at the Wisconsin Center, Nov. 20, 2020, in Milwaukee, Wis. (Nam Y. Huh/AP, FILE)

Trump told reporters on Thanksgiving Day that he would "probably" travel to Georgia on Saturday to campaign for the Republican candidates, Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. Otherwise, he has devoted few of his plentiful tweets to their elections.

Vice President Mike Pence visited Georgia a week and a half ago to campaign for them.

MORE: Pennsylvania Supreme Court denies another bid by Trump allies to halt election certification

Instead, Trump has used his bully pulpit to slam Georgia's Republican governor, Brian Kemp, a longtime Trump supporter, as he has refused to echo the president’s baseless allegations of fraud in Georgia.

The president tweeted Monday that Kemp was "hapless" and should "overrule his obstinate secretary of state," Brad Raffensperger -- also a Republican backer of Trump -- after the latter has refused to intervene to help Trump.

"The governor's done nothing," Trump said in the Sunday Fox News interview. "He's done absolutely nothing. I'm ashamed that I endorsed him."

A spokesperson for Kemp said "Georgia law prohibits the Governor from interfering in elections."

"The Secretary of State, who is an elected constitutional officer, has oversight over elections that cannot be overridden by executive order," the spokesperson, Cody Hall, said in a statement.

Raffensperger said Monday that a machine recount in Georgia was on schedule to be finished by a deadline of midnight on Wednesday.

"There are those who are exploiting the emotions of many Trump supporters with fantastic claims, half-truths, misinformation," Raffensperger told reporters Monday, "and frankly, they're misleading the president, as well, apparently."

PHOTO: Brian Kemp holds a news conference on the current state of COVID-19, Nov. 24, 2020, at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta. (Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
PHOTO: Brian Kemp holds a news conference on the current state of COVID-19, Nov. 24, 2020, at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta. (Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Trump narrowly lost Georgia by 12,670 votes, making him the first Republican to lose the state in a presidential contest in nearly 30 years.

The Trump campaign has persisted in trying to sow doubt about the legitimacy of Biden’s victory in the state, even after a hand recount reaffirmed Biden’s win there.

In undermining the November election, the Republican Party is now facing an uphill battle in motivating voters to turn out for the two critical Senate runoffs that will determine control of the Senate.

“How’re we going to give money and work when it’s already decided?” one voter yelled out to Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel at a meet-and-greet in Marietta, Georgia over the weekend, according to the Independent, as she sought to persuade voters to show up to the polls.

ABC News' Matthew Mosk, Alex Hosenball, Quinn Scanlan and Meg Cunningham contributed to this report.

Trump still in denial about defeat as legal team mounts last-ditch challenges originally appeared on abcnews.go.com