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Week In Politics: Biden Works On Transition Of Power, Without Trump's Cooperation

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The election was called for Joe Biden a week ago today. President Trump has yet to concede, much less begin a transition. President has vowed to continue his legal challenge of vote counts in several states despite having no evidence of voting irregularities - all the while, of course, a horrific increase in the spread of coronavirus with 10.7 million confirmed cases in the U.S. We're joined now by NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: Ron, Joe Biden, at least, is putting together his transition team and Cabinet. How do you see the president's refusal to look at the cold, hard vote counts - as just a kind of quirky political episode or something more combustible?

ELVING: It is disquieting, to say the least, although lots of people had predicted Trump would not concede. And we hope it does not become something more combustible. Today in Washington, we expect hundreds, possibly thousands, of Trump supporters to demonstrate. And perhaps there will be counterdemonstrators as well.

One thing is perfectly clear, though, from this election, and that is the division between those in our country who see Trump as a con artist and a curse and those who regard him as an almost biblical savior. Trump has tapped into a sub-stream of our national consciousness, something that will not be gone when he is gone - a conflict between city and farm that's as old as the republic, perhaps between the coastal regions and the interior, and also over the educational divide.

SIMON: What do you make of Republican lawmakers who see the election results in the same way the president does or doesn't?

ELVING: They are in a difficult position, Scott. Their most loyal voters truly believe the president is being removed by a plot between the media, the pollsters and the vote counters. These loyalists are the most important source of primary votes for senators and congressmen and others, especially those who are thinking about 2022. So while Republican officeholders know what their numbers are, they still have to hedge their bets. We have to let this all play out. Let the votes be certified, they say. And they are hoping at some point as the mechanism grinds on that the president will capitulate and let them off the hook. And maybe he will. Here he was in the Rose Garden at the White House last night making some comments on the potential vaccine for COVID-19.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Ideally, we won't go to a lockdown. I will not go. This administration will not be going to a lockdown. Hopefully, the - whatever happens in the future - who knows which administration it will be? I guess time will tell.

ELVING: Time will tell, Scott. But right now, Republican lawmakers know they can't separate themselves from whatever the president says without consequences for themselves.

SIMON: It's not just lawmakers, though. Peter Navarro told Fox Business the White House was proceeding under the assumption of a second term. And the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said that his office would ensure a smooth transition to a second Trump term.

ELVING: You never know what a contrarian like Peter Navarro is really thinking. But Mike Pompeo is one of at least a dozen Republicans positioning themselves for a run in 2024. Now, they would rather imagine Donald Trump finishing a second term at that time. But if it's Biden in there instead, they want it known down the road that they stood by Trump in 2020.

SIMON: All of this happens as the coronavirus continues to burn through virtually every state in the country - 184,000 confirmed cases Friday alone, over 1,400 deaths, still no stimulus or aid bill and not much in the way of national direction from the White House.

ELVING: Sadly true - our government has not done what it needed to, not since the first effort in March and April. It need not have been this way if the White House had taken the virus seriously when first they knew how serious it was. But they made a bet that there were more votes in denial than in tough, unpopular measures such as lockdowns. And so here we are.

SIMON: NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving, thanks so much for being with us.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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