US presidential transition tension grows on Capitol Hill

U.S. Senate Democrats are growing increasingly frustrated by the decision of top Republicans not to do more to encourage President Donald Trump to concede to Joe Biden and support the traditional transition of power.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday again declined to publicly extend congratulations to Biden, who served in the Senate for decades before becoming vice president under President Barack Obama.

McConnell, speaking to reporters, suggested that Democrats were making too much of an issue of the president’s decision to pursue legal battles, even though state elections officials have not identified any widespread problems.

“What it says about America is that until the Electoral College votes, anyone who’s running for office can exhaust concerns about counting, in any court of appropriate jurisdiction,” McConnell said. “It’s not unusual; it should not be alarming.”

But Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., found it highly unusual. He said he was “deeply disturbed” by Trump’s failure to concede, as well as the decision to pursue legal fights and to fire Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Kaine, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Trump’s decision this week to get rid of Esper has the potential to “open up the door for incredible mischief around the world,” as foreign adversaries see a rocky transition of power in the United States.

“For anyone to claim this is normal behavior has not paid attention to earlier transitions,” Kaine said in response to a question from WTOP during an online briefing with reporters.

Kaine was Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016 and contrasted what’s happening now in D.C. with how she conceded to Trump in a timely manner, even though she won the popular vote.

He read to reporters some of what she said when she spoke after the 2016 election, including the statement: “Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. We don’t respect that, we cherish it.”

Kaine said he was standing next to Clinton when she said those words and saw how difficult that moment was for her.

“She said those words with a deep sincerity,” Kaine said. “And so it grieves me deeply to see President Trump doing everything he can to undermine the legitimacy of this election, to not concede.”

The Trump campaign has filed more than a dozen lawsuits in at least five states, but Republican and Democratic secretaries of state have not found any evidence of widespread voter fraud or irregularities.

One of the states where legal and political struggles are taking place is Georgia.

Two Republican U.S. senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, have called for the GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to step down. The two senators face runoff races on Jan. 5 that could determine whether Republicans hold on to control of the U.S. Senate.

Raffensperger has said he will not resign, and has defended how his office has handled the 2020 election.

In another development, Kaine and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., sent a letter to General Services Administrator Emily Murphy, calling on the GSA to begin the transition process for the incoming Biden administration.

Murphy has declined to sign a letter that allows an incoming administration to begin using office space and federal computer systems as part of the transition.

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