The official position of Donald Trump, his administration, and his reelection campaign is that he won the election that he just lost. But one of the campaign’s top surrogates bluntly says that Joe Biden indeed won, and he’s urging the president and the White House to focus on enshrining as many Trump policies as possible before the Democratic president-elect assumes power and starts undoing them.
“It is what it is,” Stephen Moore, an official Trump 2020 surrogate and an outside adviser to the president on economic and COVID-19 policy, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday evening. “It’s very depressing to me. I would say there’s maybe a 20 percent chance that [Trump’s legal challenges] all will work out. I am convinced the president would have won if the election was a week later than it was… I support using every avenue of legal challenge, but I’m skeptical it’s gonna work.”
Moore, a longtime conservative economist, said that he’s “not a lawyer,” and doesn’t know if Trump’s legal team, headed by Rudy Giuliani, have any “bombshells” coming. But he added that he doubts they’d be able to “prove” anything that would overturn the election results by certification deadlines.
Because of that hurdle, Moore said President Trump should turn his attention to making sure there are “no blue-state bailouts” on his watch at this stage of the coronavirus and economic crisis, and to ensure there is “no increase in unemployment benefits.” Also, Moore encouraged Trump to “get as many executive orders out the door as possible… and use his remaining powers to leave with a bang on regulatory changes, and on [non-political] pardons and clemencies… [and on protecting] the oil and gas industry.”
In encouraging the president to prepare for defeat, Moore becomes the highest-profile Trump surrogate to accept a reality that the White House has forbidden its members to even acknowledge.
The Trump administration is currently obstructing and pretending a presidential transition process doesn’t exist. Trump himself has marshaled significant government, campaign, and legal resources to prop up the alternate universe in which Biden did not beat him. Early Thursday afternoon, Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, a senior legal adviser to the president and his campaign, and MAGA attorney Sidney Powell hosted a news conference in Washington, D.C., to rail against supposed election “fraud” conspiracies and “crooks” in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and to reiterate that Trump isn’t conceding a thing. Giuliani also did a brief impression of a character in the 1992 film My Cousin Vinny, referencing a scene from the movie about that “nice lady” while Powell talked about conspiracy theories involving nefarious, anti-Trump Venezuelans.
Moore did not immediately respond to a phone call or text message about his thoughts on the press conference. Trump campaign spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests about Moore.
While President Trump himself has increasingly shown signs that he senses the end is near, the remnants of his campaign, including the surrogates operation, have continued to convene meetings and charge ahead as if a path to victory still exists. Indeed, Trump has reportedly invited GOP leaders from the key state of Michigan to attend a Friday meeting at the White House as his flailing effort to halt the certification of a Biden win in that state continues. Other top Trump surrogates aren’t throwing in the towel either, even as they sound less than sanguine about the president’s odds.
“I’m going to hold off [on saying Biden won] for now. I’ll admit the path narrows every day,” former Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), another Trump surrogate, said on Wednesday. “We’ve got court cases, we’ve got signed affidavits, and we’re waiting on the Georgia recount. I think this thing still has to play out.”
The former congressman recounted that “about a year ago,” he was “talking to the president who was getting all kinds of incoming criticism as he usually does, and I told him, ‘I’m with you and I’ll stick with you until the curtain comes down.’ And the curtain hasn’t come down yet.”
Kingston added, “I support his policies but I also consider him a friend. We’re gonna let these recounts and the lawsuits work themselves through. When a friend is in need, that’s when it counts. And Washington is a town full of fair-weather friends… [In this case], you’re locked in. If you keep reevaluating your friendship and your loyalty to Donald Trump, you might as well go home.”
Among the Republicans currently tiptoeing away from Trump in his hour of need, or at least publicly questioning his post-election legal crusade, are some GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill such as Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), and the president’s own former White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney. The ex-chief of staff told Fox Business, “I’m still a little concerned about the use of Rudy Giuliani. It strikes me that this is the most important lawsuit in the history of the country, and they’re not using the most well-noted election lawyers.”
On Wednesday night, after being asked about recent comments by Mulvaney, Toomey, and other conservatives, Ellis, who is working closely with Giuliani on the Team Trump legal and public-relations effort, told The Daily Beast, “I don't have time to respond to everyone’s cute little take. I’ll respond to substantive questions on the strong merits of our litigation to protect election integrity. We’re not trying this in the court of public opinion, but in a court of law.”