The U.S. election is over. Democrat Joe Biden is president-elect, and incumbent Donald Trump has not acknowledged that. And there’s a lot still going on — in the courts, in the recount arena, and in the limbo of transition from one American chief executive to another.
Julie Pace, Washington bureau chief for The Associated Press, oversaw AP’s election coverage. Here, she breaks down some of what’s still percolating in the aftermath of the presidential election and what it might mean.
IT’S MORE THAN 10 DAYS AFTER ELECTION DAY, AND LOTS IS STILL GOING ON. WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE BE WATCHING TODAY?
There are a few things. One, we are watching the response of the Republican party right now. We have seen some signs that Republicans are moving toward accepting the results and accepting that Joe Biden will be the president. It’s not the majority of Republicans, and it’s more those in the states than those in Washington, but you do get the sense that the Republicans get that this is an untenable long-term position for them — that they are going to have to accept reality so that Americans can accept reality. They’re encouraging patience, but we’re seeing signs that the patience they have for Donald Trump is waning.
We’re also watching world reaction. This is the week that world leaders are really moving on, and that they’re looking forward to working with Joe Biden. There’s one notable exception — Vladimir Putin. But we’ve seen China come out and accept results. We’ve seen the pope call Biden. A lot of that has happened now.
The other things you want to watch for are some of the things that are happening in the states. Georgia is having a hand audit, not because anything has gone wrong or that there’s any question — it’s just a new state law. But that process will play out in the next couple days. And then there are these things that Trump’s lawyers are doing. Keep an eye on those.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNPOSTS OVER THE NEXT FEW WEEKS THAT MATTER THE MOST ON THE PATH TO INAUGURATION DAY?
There are a few key things procedurally. The states have to start certifying their results — that the process is over, that this is in fact the will of the voters. They’ll do that between now and early December, and this leads to the formal vote of the Electoral College on Dec. 14, and they confirm the will of the voters. At this point it’s all moving forward smoothly. And then it will be official. Whether Donald Trump chooses to verbally concede or not is a question, but he will have no formal mechanism once the vote is certified. And then we start looking behind the scenes and the process of the transition — does that force some of that to move forward?
The question of will Trump concede — he doesn’t actually have to concede. Some of that is tradition, some of that is because it’s good for democracy for the loser to acknowledge the reality of the election. But legally, those words don’t carry any weight. A lot of things will happen without Trump formally conceding. We are waiting to see if Trump will do that part, but it doesn’t mean that him not doing it will stop these other processes from taking place.
WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU SINCE ELECTION DAY?
We were pretty prepared for a scenario in which Trump lost and did not accept the results. We were prepared for a situation in which misinfo would fly. Not surprising but perhaps notable is the degree to which Republicans have stood with Trump during this period.
There was this question through his presidency of what would it take for Republicans to walk away from him. Coming out of the election, the answer is nothing, really. Donald Trump’s influence on the Republican party is going to be long-lasting. And Republicans know they’re going to have to contend with him as a force and with his supporters as a force. So it wasn’t surprising, necessarily, but it was clarifying for me.
SOME PARTS OF THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION HAVE NOT ENGAGED WITH BIDEN’S TRANSITION TEAM. WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF THAT?
There are some things that Biden does not have access to yet that a president-elect would expect to at this point. He doesn’t have access to the intelligence briefing, for example. There are Republicans, interestingly, who say that should be happening, and that there’s a risk in him not knowing this — in that he, as he’s talking to world leaders reaching out to him, he’s flying a little blind. He doesn’t necessarily know if there’s an issue in that country that he needs to know about.
I think it’s a little different with Biden because he was vice president for eight years and led the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He’s as close to president as someone can possibly be. But there’s a downside to not having some of this information. He is not fully read in on what the military is planning in terms of eventual distribution of a vaccine for coronavirus. He’s not read in on the latest thinking at the FDA in terms of how they view some of these vaccines. You’ve got other people who are briefing him on the outside, but there’s a level of info that he’s not getting right now.