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Fahrenthold: Chance of success for Trump’s election lawsuits fades

In this Nov. 20, 2020, file photo, election workers, right, verify ballots as recount observers, left, watch during a Milwaukee hand recount of presidential votes at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee. President Trump filed a lawsuit Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in Wisconsin seeking to disqualify hundreds of thousands of ballots in an attempt to overturn Biden's win in the battleground state he lost by nearly 20,700 votes. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

Now that two more states — Arizona and Wisconsin — have certified votes, what’s the next move for the president? Pulitzer Prize winning reporter David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post told Seattle’s Morning News more election lawsuits are coming, though are not really expected to be successful.

Ross: Throwing out election results does not protect the right to vote

“Well, you can always file lawsuits. And he is,” Fahrenthold said. “He has filed another lawsuit in Wisconsin, which completed its recount yesterday, and he’s filed, sort of, another filing in Michigan, which certified its results last week.”

“Trump is claiming that there is some grounds to take these things to the Supreme Court, but he’s been losing consistently in every court, at every level since the beginning of November, so I don’t think anybody believes there’s really any chance that those will have any success,” he added.

In Georgia, the runoff election is coming up in just a few weeks, which is a race Fahrenthold referred to as unusual.

“It’s an unusual race in that both Senate seats are up in this runoff. There’s two races going on,” he explained. “It’s going to be in early January. So it’s rare to have both … state Senate seats coming up at the same time, and especially in a state like Georgia, which is changing so rapidly and now has gone for Biden in the 2020 election.”

“So there has been a lot of mud-slinging,” Fahrenthold continued. “I think the thing Republicans are worried about is that Trump’s attacks on the election infrastructure, like the trustworthiness of the election, especially in Georgia, and his attacks on Georgia’s Republican governor not throwing the entire election out, might disillusion Republicans and cause them to lose their faith in democratic process and so not vote. [It’s] kind of an ironic situation where the whole Republican Party, or most of it, is kind of winking, going along silently with Trump as he attacks the election process, while also needing to win a real election in a few weeks.”

Looking forward to a COVID vaccine

Despite mixed messaging, Operation Warp Speed seems to be a success, boasting two potentially viable vaccines. It didn’t happen before the election as President Trump originally promised, but it’s still an achievement.

“There’s two dimensions of this — one is, let’s put aside politics, it really is a remarkable achievement for the U.S.,” Fahrenthold said. “… I read a story in New York Times yesterday that said that we may be the first country to sort of actually pull ourselves out of this using pharmaceuticals, using drugs. So it still will probably take until the spring or summer of next year before enough people have it that our lives can kind of go back to normal. But it’s a great sign that the end is out there. The end is coming.”

In the political sense, Fahrenthold says it’s amazing that Trump didn’t run on the success of the vaccines, but rather chose to lie and promise a vaccine before the election.

“Then he was wrong,” he said. “And it looked like this thing that actually was a success was a failure. That he chose instead to run on basically ignoring the pandemic and treating it like it wasn’t a big deal seems to have had electoral consequences for him. And it’s had huge public health consequences because a lot of people believed him and got exposed to the virus believing it wasn’t such a big threat.”

Moving forward, Fahrenthold says the Trump team doesn’t seem to be planning much in the way of a campaign to show the public that the vaccine is safe and effective.

“I think they’re running out the string of this presidency, and they don’t seem to be doing very much in an ambitious way,” he said. “They had sort of scheduled a big effort to defeat despair on the coronavirus, but it was really an election focus thing. It was meant to make people more optimistic before the election.”

The ball is now in the Biden’s team court.

“So there’s an interesting challenge that they have to both master logistics of this, which are pretty complicated, given, especially that one vaccine needs to be kept super cold, but also convince all these people who believe it’s not a big deal, don’t trust the government to come in and get this vaccine,” Fahrenthold said. “So there’s going to be a part of this that’s battling disinformation and overcoming fear of Democrats, fear of the government that’s not about the virus at all, but is really important to making the virus work.”

Fahrenthold’s three takeaways from Biden’s cabinet choices

To start, the inauguration for Biden will be structured in a manner that does not undermine the president-elect’s COVID-19 strategy.

“It’s literally his first act as president is going to be to try to make an inauguration that shows power has been passed and tells people that this is a new era and they should be hopeful and optimistic to sort of really draw a line between Trump’s presidency and his own,” Fahrenthold said. “But also without the trappings of a usual inauguration, without big crowds, without people lining Pennsylvania Avenue for the parade. So Biden, we’ve been writing about this a little bit, is trying to find a way to make something that looks good on TV and convinces people that something really momentous has happened, but doesn’t undermine his own coronavirus message by packing people all together.”

Pulitzer Prize winning reporter David Fahrenthold joins KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross every Tuesday on Seattle’s Morning News. Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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