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The Political World Starts To Move On From Trump

President Trump leaves after speaking in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on Thanksgiving.
Getty Images
President Trump leaves after speaking in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on Thanksgiving.

While President Trump continues to baselessly allege widespread election fraud, the political world is starting to move on from his presidency.

Key states have certified their election results.

Republican election officials have pushed back against the president's rhetoric, which they say led to threats against election workers.

"Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language," Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager in the Georgia secretary of state's office, said Tuesday. "Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions. This has to stop. We need you to step up. And if you take a position of leadership, show some."

A growing number of Republican senators are acknowledging Democrat Joe Biden will be president. Sen. David Perdue of Georgia noted a "change of command at the top" during a video conference call with the Republican Jewish Coalition this week.

"We have the potential if we have a majority in the Senate on the Republican side," Perdue said, "that Mitch McConnell could indeed negotiate with Biden in a way that we haven't seen in two or three administrations."

Trump's own attorney general, William Barr, said there is no evidence of a level of fraud that would overturn the election results.

"To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election," Barr told The Associated Press.

Those comments were met with swift rebukes from conservative media, resulted in a "contentious" meeting for Barr at the White House with President Trump, who later would not say whether he still had confidence in the man who had been seen as a principal ally.

Legislatively, Trump is also being nudged aside. He has threatened to veto the National Defense Authorization Act because he wants some protections for social media companies stripped.

But Democrats announced Friday that there would be a vote Tuesday on it and that there are enough votes to override the president's veto if it came to that.

"I am very pleased that we have a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on NDAA and look forward to overwhelmingly passing both chambers next week and, if necessary, overriding a threatened veto by President Trump," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said on the House floor.

And the Republican senator negotiating the defense bill, Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, told Trump in no uncertain termsthat he's not getting what he wants in this one — despite being called out by Trump on Twitter.

One person who has entered as a player in congressional negotiations, however, is Biden. He is calling for "compromise" on a coronavirus aid package that could be passed before he officially becomes president. And he twice declined on Friday to say whether he had spoken to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on the subject.

Democrats want a bigger deal, but Biden is hoping to keep his party at bay by promising to push for more when he's officially president.

For his part, and for all the bluster, Trump appears to be moving on, too — of course without acknowledging defeat. History doesn't look kindly on one-term American presidents, and that has to eat at Trump.

Multiple sources tell NPRthat Trump is seriously considering a 2024 presidential bid. He could even announce it officially in the week or days before Biden is inaugurated in an effort to overshadow the incoming president.

Trump will try to convince his loyal base that he might make a comeback. He'll attempt to keep them fired up while freezing out other Republicans for 2024. But will Republicans continue to stay on bended knee to Trumpism or will they try to reclaim their party?

While Trump would be a formidable candidate if he ran again, he would be 78 years old in 2024, and there are lots of hungry — and younger — upstarts in the party waiting in the wings who've mostly held their tongues over these past four years.

The biggest question is whether Trump would really want to risk losing — again. Or would he rather hit a drive off into the sunset of one of his golf courses while holding up a flag of fraud to save face to millions of his fans?

This is all new terrain for someone like Trump. He has never had to face as public a defeat as this one in a way that he couldn't spin his way out of. His divorces were messy, but he used them for tabloid attention. His bankruptcies and business losses, we now know, were written off to the tune of nearly $1 billion.

Maybe he'll start a TV outlet to rival Fox. Maybe he won't. Trump will always angle for attention and dangle tantalizing possibilities for himself — even if never follows through.

But reality is starting to set in, if not for Trump, then for the rest of Washington and beyond.

States are set to finalize their electors Tuesday.

Electors will then officially cast votes Dec. 14.

And what then, as it starts dawning on Trump in his final weeks that he's really going to have to exit the White House grounds?

What gets done through executive order or via agency regulations? Which allies will he pardon — preemptively or otherwise? Will it include his family? Himself?

There aren't many more ticks left on the clock of the Trump presidency. America will be trying to figure out for some time what just happened and where to go from here.

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Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.