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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."
Subscribe to Axios AM/PM for a daily rundown of what's new and why it matters, directly from Mike Allen.
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Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
Dec 3, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Why Trump may still fire Barr

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Attorney General Barr may be fired or resign, as President Trump seethes about Barr's statement this week that no widespread voter fraud has been found.

Behind the scenes: A source familiar with the president's thinking tells Axios that Trump remains frustrated with what he sees as the lack of a vigorous investigation into his election conspiracy theories.

23 hours ago - Podcasts

The test of the electoral system

Two weeks ago, the Wayne County Board of Canvassers in Michigan met to certify the presidential election results and both Republican members refused. The two Democratic canvassers voted to approve the results. That meant it was a tie. A few hours later, the Republicans relented — there was another vote, and the certification happened.

It wasn’t just these Republicans in Michigan. A Republican Secretary of State in Georgia, a Republican county supervisor in Arizona and Republican-appointed judges in Pennsylvania were among the state and local officials who ended up validating Joe Biden’s presidential win over Donald Trump in the presidential election.

Did it all come down to these few people?

  • Plus, President Trump wants to auction drilling rights in Alaska’s Arctic Wildlife Refuge.
  • And, a new genealogy database dedicated to enslaved people and their stories.

Kellyanne Conway: It "looks like" Biden, Harris will prevail

Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty

Kellyanne Conway, a former counselor to President Trump, said “it looks like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will prevail” in an interview with The 19th that aired on Friday.

Why it matters: Trump and his inner circle have so far refused to publicly acknowledge President-elect Biden won the election. Instead, they've attempted to paint the election process as fraudulent, despite states' certification of Biden's win and a lack of evidence supporting their claims.

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