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Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

GOP leaders and confidants of President Trump tell Axios his legal fight to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory — which they admit is likely doomed — could last a month or more, possibly pushing the 2020 political wars toward Christmastime.

Why it matters: Most top Republicans have followed Trump’s orders not to accept the Biden victory, and to allow all legal options to be exhausted. That could mean weeks of drama — and, more importantly, distractions from the vital work of transitioning government for a change of power.

Axios is told an internal effort is underway to dissuade Trump from pursuing a blitz (with Rudy Giuliani as the tip of the spear) that could mean three to six weeks of legal challenges, discovery and rulings — at the same time that Biden is talking daily about a message of healing.

  • Some top sources tell Axios that Trump has no plan to call for national unity. "No chance," says a person who talks often to the president.
  • A senior Republican who talks often to Trump said the president is "angry ... volatile ... disconsolate."

The backdrop: Alayna Treene scooped in Axios Sneak Peek last evening that most people close to Trump know the race is over, although no one wants to tell him.

  • Trump plans to hold rallies focused on the litigation, and brandish obituaries of people who were recorded as voting but are dead, Trump advisers told her.

The senior Republican said there's a real split in the extended inner circle between people pushing Trump to keep fighting, and those who are "trying to gently nudge the president toward giving in."

  • The second camp, which includes the senior Republican, argues: "You have a real future as a kingmaker. Don't screw it up by going out in a bad way, leaving the brand diminished and radioactive."

The bottom line: Republican operatives told Axios they worry that Trump's scorched-earth fight will divert money from the real remaining prize for the GOP — the twin Georgia runoffs on Jan. 5 that'll determine control of the Senate.

  • A top Republican said of the legal fight: "It is a distraction. And a gigantic waste of time."
  • The person who talks often to the president said: "Republicans ... are very concerned about the Senate. Trump is not."
  • A former top Trump West Wing official said: "Surprise — it's all about him."
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Go deeper

Young people want checks on Big Tech's power

Data: Generation Lab; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The next generation of college-educated Americans thinks social media companies have too much power and influence on politics and need more government regulation, according to a new survey by Generation Lab for Axios.

Why it matters: The findings follow an election dominated by rampant disinformation about voting fraud on social media; companies' fraught efforts to stifle purveyors of disinformation including former President Trump; and a deadly Jan. 6 insurrection over the election organized largely online.

Ronna McDaniel says RNC would stay "neutral" in primaries if Trump ran in 2024

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told the AP on Wednesday that if former President Trump runs again in 2024, the GOP will remain "neutral" during the primary season.

Why it matters: McDaniel has been staunchly supportive of the former president, who endorsed her to keep running the RNC. She now must focus on regaining majorities in Congress, especially as the Republican party reckons with what the GOP looks like after Trump, even as he remains hugely popular with his base.

Most Senate Republicans join Rand Paul effort to dismiss Trump's 2nd impeachment trial

Photo: Joshua Roberts-Pool/Getty Images

Forty-five Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, supported an effort to dismiss former President Trump's second impeachment trial.

Why it matters: The vote serves as a precursor to how senators will approach next month's impeachment trial, making it highly unlikely the Senate will vote to convict. The House impeached Trump for a second time for "incitement of insurrection" following events from Jan 6. when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.

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