Both in public and in private, the Biden campaign is confident that when the dust finally settles in the aftermath of the still-contested presidential election, former Vice President Joe Biden will be named the nation’s next president.
But in conversations with top fundraisers, senior campaign leaders are girding themselves for months of nuisance lawsuits—and even efforts to interfere in the selection of members of the Electoral College—from President Donald Trump as he seeks to thwart Biden’s election.
“In the upcoming hours and days, I’m sure we will hear more of allegations of fraud, we’ll hear more about the possibility of Republicans appointing electors independent of the popular election,” Dana Remus, the campaign’s general counsel and showrunner of Biden’s election protection program, told donors on a finance call on Wednesday evening. “These are not things to be scared of or worried about. This is what we prepared for.”
On the call, a recording of which was shared with The Daily Beast by an attendee, campaign officials invited Biden’s deepest-pocketed supporters to back the “Biden Fight Fund” to fund “election protection efforts” for both Biden and down-ballot Democrats across the country, with a maximum donation $144,800.
“We just want to make sure that our legal teams are ready and well funded, so that we can rebuff all of this over the next days and months,” Katie Petrelius, the campaign’s national finance director, said on the call.
On the call, which included Remus and Petrelius as well as deputy communications director Kate Berner and former Biden campaign manager-turned-senior adviser Greg Schultz, the Biden team shared the same high level of confidence that campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon has shared in public briefings since Tuesday night. The current landscape of as-yet-uncounted ballots in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia, and Arizona, they told donors, are favorable to the former vice president, and the president’s pathway to re-election has narrowed to a tiptoe.
“No one is on our side is prematurely declaring victory,” said Remus. “But we are feeling very good and confident that when the process is done, the vice president will be the next president of this country.”
But while Trump’s “unsurprising” nuisance suits alleging that the vote counts in numerous states are illegitimate, said Schultz, as well as strategically and legally inconsistent, they are the last card he has left to play. This means, he said, the president’s campaign may get increasingly desperate as Trump’s dreams of a second term become increasingly remote.
“Trump never had the ability to add votes together and so had to work on subtracting them after a nearly 600-day campaign,” Schultz said. “This is in some ways one of the most predictable elections—albeit stressful—but the path that we laid out is the path that’s being executed.”
As Biden’s outlook grows increasingly sunny in the must-win state of Pennsylvania, and as courts continue to spurn Trump’s legal challenges, the president’s campaign is starting to validate those fears. On Thursday, Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, retweeted a call to Republican state legislatures to name electors—the officials tasked with actually voting for president in the Electoral College—independent of the results in their state or of court orders. The constitutionality of that maneuver is, like much of the Trump campaign’s current legal strategy, specious, but with Ric Grenell and Rudy Giuliani as the public faces of the legal team, that by no means keeps them from trying.
The Biden campaign prepared ahead of the election for the possibility of prolonged legal battles in any number of states, hitting up donors to fund potential legal battles in multiple states following the election. After all, Trump had promised not to accept the results of the election if he lost—a promise on which he has since made good—and the legal team has spent weeks fighting for expanded access to the ballot. But given Trump’s all-caps outrage over continuing—or concluded—counts in battleground states, the Biden team foresees even bigger legal headaches down the road.
“Trump is desperate. He’s on the ropes,” Berner said on the call. “He’s throwing everything at the wall.”
Campaign officials seemed resigned to the fact that Trump will try to make a legal mess on his way out of office, but were far from worried that the president’s actions might actually prevent a peaceful transfer of power.
“I mean, I’d like to declare myself married to George Clooney,” Berner said in response to a donor’s question about Trump’s allies in conservative media declaring him the victor, “but here we are.”
But despite this—and despite making yet another big ask of donors who have already made Biden’s the richest presidential campaign in history—the campaign doesn’t yet have a public plan for what to do if Trump refuses to concede. Asked by a donor what the Biden campaign would do in such an event, Berner hedged.
“We feel very confident that we are going to win these cases and we feel very confident that Joe Biden will be inaugurated the next president of the United States,” Berner said.
Biden, at least, has floated an option if that happens: the National Guard.
“I promise,” Biden told Trevor Noah in July, apparently jokingly, “I am absolutely convinced they will escort him from the White House with great dispatch.”