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AP Photo by Patrick Semansky/President-elect Joe Biden speaks at a drive-in rally for Georgia Democratic U.S. Senate candidates, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, on Tuesday in Atlanta.

It's been a long time coming: President-elect Joe Biden's punch back to Donald Trump's totally false characterization of a stolen election and his "unconscionable" fraudulent attack on voting.

"In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed," Biden said a short speech after America's Electoral College — as expected and with no surprises — on Monday declared Biden the winner of the 2020 election. "We the people voted. Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remains intact. And now it is time to turn the page, as we've done throughout our history. To unite. To heal."

Biden also cut loose on Trump and some Republicans in a presidential way with no screaming, all-caps tweets. And he made it clear he sees himself as a president to all Americans and a point man to move us ahead rather than further engage in petty, partisan politics.

He made his points well. So well that on Tuesday morning, even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally, six weeks after Election Day, acknowledged the obvious.

"The Electoral College has spoken," McConnell said in remarks from the Senate floor of the U.S. Capitol. "So today, I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden. The President-elect is no stranger to the Senate. He has devoted himself to public service for many years. I also congratulate the vice president-elect, our colleague from California, Sen. Harris. Beyond our differences, all Americans can take pride that our nation has a female vice president-elect for the first time."

But it wasn't just the Electoral College that spoke: Biden's speech no doubt made proud the 81.2 million people who voted for him to best the 74.2 million votes cast for Trump, the most divisive president this country has ever seen.

Biden berated Trump's fraudulent claims and efforts to overturn the election, and he upbraided the scores of Republican elected officials who have for weeks and months supported those lies and seditious actions.

"President Trump was denied no course of action he wanted to take," Biden said. "He took his case to Republican governors and Republican secretaries of state to Republican state legislatures, to Republican-appointed judges at every level. Even President Trump's own cybersecurity chief overseeing our elections said it was the most secure election in American history."

Biden said the Trump-backed case the Supreme Court unanimously rejected "tried to wipe out votes of more than 20 million Americans in other states and hand the presidency to a president who lost the Electoral College, lost the popular vote and lost each and every one of the states whose votes they were trying to reverse. Thankfully, a unanimous Supreme Court immediately and completely rejected this effort. The court sent a clear signal to President Trump that they would be no part of an unprecedented assault on our democracy."

Biden heaped praise on judges and election workers, both Democrats and Republicans, who withstood Trump's criticism and defended the integrity of the election.

"They knew this election was overseen, overseen by them — it was honest, it was free, and it was fair," Biden said. "They saw it with their own eyes, and they wouldn't be bullied into saying anything different. It was truly remarkable. It is my sincere hope we never again see anyone subjected to the kind of threats and abuse we saw in this election," he added. "It's simply unconscionable. We owe these public servants a debt of gratitude our democracy survived because of them."

Now, behind the scenes, McConnell has urged Republican senators on a private conference call not to join House members on Jan. 6 to object to state electoral results, a source on the call has told CNN.

Jan. 6 is the date when Congress formally counts the Electoral College votes and members of Congress can object. Other top Republicans — including Senate Majority Whip John Thune and Senate Rules Chairman Roy Blunt — echoed McConnell's sentiment, saying it would be fruitless and force senators to cast politically challenging votes against the president, CNN reported.

All of this played out in a 48-hour period — against the backdrop of three other big headlines: U.S. COVID-19 deaths surpassed 300,000, vaccines rolled into hospitals across the country, and the Russians hacked the Pentagon, U.S. intelligence agencies, nuclear labs, the Department of Homeland Security and Fortune 500 companies.

Those first two news items were completely predictable. But that third one — dwarfing the also predictable seething-Donald-Trump-forces-Attorney-General-Bill-Barr-out headline — should be cause for pause.

"The sweep of stolen data is still being assessed," wrote The New York Times on Tuesday morning.

As Biden told us Monday: "There is urgent work in front of us."

We're deeply thankful for the democracy of the United States, where, as the president-elect noted, "In America, politicians don't take power — people grant power to them.

"The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago," Biden said. "And we now know nothing — not even a pandemic — or an abuse of power — can extinguish that flame."

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