NASHVILLE — Three former top GOP leaders in Tennessee said Thursday it's highly unlikely President Donald Trump can win re-election and his administration should immediately begin providing Democrat Joe Biden and his team transition support and national security briefings.
Former Gov. Bill Haslam, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp of Chattanooga are all members of the bipartisan National Council on Election Integrity, a group of more than 40 former elected officials, Cabinet secretaries, retired military officials and civic leaders.
"While President Trump deserves to make sure that every vote is counted and counted correctly, it is very unlikely that the results will be overturned," Haslam said in a statement. "For the good of the country, the Biden team needs to be given full access to the national security information and transition support of the federal government."
Biden is winning by 77.3 million to 72.2 million in the popular vote, and 290 to 217 in the Electoral College, as counting and certification efforts continue across the nation. Trump is contesting the outcome in the courts with little success, focusing on anecdotes and individual voter irregularities in states including Georgia, where Biden leads by 14,071 votes.
Biden is attempting to move forward with a transition effort, but the administration is not cooperating.
"Congratulations to President-elect Biden," Frist said on Twitter. "As a member of the bipartisan National Council on Election Integrity, we agree it's time to start the processes needed for a smooth and efficient transition."
In an interview, Wamp cited Karl Rove, a pre-eminent Republican strategist who advised former President George W. Bush in his successful campaigns. In a Thursday op/ed published in The Wall Street Journal, Rove wrote that although Trump is within his rights to challenge the results in several states, including Georgia, his efforts "are unlikely to move a single state from Mr. Biden's column, and certainly they're not enough to change the final outcome."
Wamp said the federal General Services Administration, which provides resources to presidents-elect "needs to cooperate like they do in any other cycle, they cooperate with the presumptive [victor] to begin the process of the transition. And if something reverses that legally or in some recount, then they'll change."
He said he doesn't fault Republicans Lee, U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn and U.S. Sen.-elect Bill Hagerty, for standing by the president.
"I don't blame them for holding out hope, and I don't blame them for waiting until all the votes are counted. But it is reality, and it is coming," Wamp said. "I don't think there's any way it can be reversed."
Citing his involvement on the national council, he also said, "I do not believe in any way, shape or form that fraud or corruption or graft influenced the outcome of this election."
Lee told reporters Thursday, "I think it's time to appropriately let the process play out. I've said that from the beginning, we do have a process in this country and we should see it to the end."
Asked at what point it would be appropriate to move on given that Trump's lawsuits so far are not gaining traction anywhere, Lee said, "I have no idea what timeframe that would be. but I think the cases should be heard. I think the president has a right."
Blackburn said in a statement to the Times Free Press that Trump "is fighting to ensure every legal vote cast is counted, and illegal votes are not. He is providing much-needed transparency in our election system. The American people deserve that."
Hagerty said in a statement: "The presidential election is not over. President Donald Trump is well within his rights to look into the irregularities happening across America in this election. I continue to stand with President Trump to ensure the integrity of our election."
A spokesman for outgoing U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, whom Hagerty will replace in January, did not respond to emails Thursday seeking a response to comments made by Haslam, Frist and Wamp.
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.