WASHINGTON – Former President Barack Obama says Donald Trump’s refusal to concede to Joe Biden is concerning but that he was even more troubled by prominent members of the Republican party echoing Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud, saying they are heading down a “dangerous path.”
“I’m more troubled more by the fact that other Republican officials who clearly know better are going along with this, are humoring him in this fashion,” Obama told CBS’ 60 Minutes in a clip from an interview scheduled to air Sunday. “It is one more step in delegitimizing not just the incoming Biden administration but democracy in general. And that’s a dangerous path.”
In a separate interview with CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King as part of a tour to promote his new book, “A Promised Land”, the former president also took aim at Trump for not accepting the results of the Nov. 3 election and refusing to recognize Joe Biden as the president-elect.
“His margin of victory over Hillary Clinton (in 2016) wasn’t greater than Joe Biden’s margin over him,” he said. “But if you’re listening to some of the talk radio that Trump voters are listening to, if you’re watching FOX News, if you’re getting (Trump’s) tweets, those allegations are presented as facts.”
“So you’ve got millions of people who think there must be cheating because the president says so,” Obama said in the clip of an interview the network shared Friday. The full interviewwill air on Sunday.
Obama’s remarks come as Trump campaign lawyers and their GOP allies are challenging the outcome in several states that helped deliver the win for Biden, including Nevada, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Most of those challenges have been rejected by various courts although a hand recount in Georgia, where Biden beat Trump by 14,072 votes, is underway.
Most Republicans on Capitol Hill are following the president’s lead in claiming the election remains in doubt even as Biden won the national vote by more than 5 million and is leading in states Trump is challenging including Michigan (146,123 votes), Pennsylvania (60,057), and Wisconsin (20,540).
The vast majority of independent analysts don’t see any path to victory for Trump. Biden’s dominance in the Electoral College was further strengthened when his 11,434-vote lead in Arizona became insurmountable after more ballots were counted Thursday.
Obama, who campaigned for his former vice president, called Trump’s refusal to aknowledge the loss “disappointing.” He recalled his own 2:30 a.m. phone call to Trump the morning after the election four years ago congratulating the president-elect.
“There’s damage to this because what happens is that the peaceful transition of power, the notion that any of us who attain an elected office, whether it’s dog catcher or president, are servants of the people,” he told King in his first television interview since the election. “It’s a temporary job. We’re not above the rules. We’re not above the law. That’s the essence of our democracy.”
But GOP is looking to avoid fissures in the party, particularly ahead of a Jan. 5 runoff election for two Senate seats in Georgia that will determine control of the upper chamber.
So far, the Trump administration has blocked the new administration from using federal office space and gaining access to government agencies that they’ll soon take over. Biden also has not received a daily classified briefing on national security threats that are given to incoming presidents.
Key Republicans on Capitol Hill have begun signaling this week that Biden should be treated as the next president even as they continue to support Trump’s refusal to concede as he mounts legal challenges in several states and alleges widespread election fraud without evidence.
GOP lawmakers now say Biden should be at least allowed to participate in different aspects of the transition, including receiving the same daily intelligence briefings provided to the president, while Trump’s challenges play out.
In the interview, Obama recalled how then-Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., conceded in 2008 to the incoming president after their bruising election battle.
“Couldn’t have been more gracious,” Obama said of his political rival.