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Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Addressing a huge crowd of loyal supporters south of the White House, President Trump declared that he will never concede to Joe Biden and attacked "weak Republicans" — calling out "the Liz Cheneys of the world" — for failing to support his efforts to overturn the results of the election.

Why it matters: It's a new escalation in Trump's war against the GOP, which has pitted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other mainstream Republicans against the most popular figure in the party. Cheney is a member of House Republican leadership, meaning that Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy will likely be forced to respond.

The big picture: It was in many ways a traditional Trump rally, but unusual in that it came hours before Congress is set to meet in a joint session to certify President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory, officially sealing off any path to a second Trump term.

Zoom in: Trump, as he has done several times over the past few days, sought to exert pressure on Vice President Mike Pence, who will preside over Congress as it counts the electoral votes.

  • "If Mike Pence does the right thing we win the election," Trump falsely claimed. Pence has no constitutional authority to block Congress from certifying the Electoral College.
  • Trump also attacked McConnell and other Republicans who have resisted doomed efforts to block certification of Biden's victory.
  • In a speech before the president arrived, Donald Trump Jr. threatened to campaign against any Republican in Congress who doesn't object to Wednesday's certification.

Between the lines: Trump has never had any affinity for the institutional party. He has always seen it as the Trump Party. And now he plans to use his popularity with the base to inflict as much pain as possible on elected Republicans who don’t perform this final act of subservience.

  • Nobody will be spared — not even Pence, the man who obediently and loyally served as his vice president for four years.
  • Trump knows he is the most popular Republican in the country, and that his base will stand by him no matter what. It’s the reason he was able to wield total control over the party for the last four years, and he doesn’t plan on releasing his grip on them anytime soon.

Go deeper

Conservatives warn culture, political wars will worsen

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The verdict is clear: The vast majority of Republicans will stand firm with former President Trump. The next phase is clear, too: Republicans are rallying around a common grievance that big government, big media and big business are trying to shut them up, shut them out and shut them down. 

Why it matters: The post-Trump GOP, especially its most powerful media platforms, paint the new reality as an existential threat. This means political attacks are seen — or characterized — as assaults on their very being. 

The Mischief Makers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers are emerging as troublemakers within their parties and political thorns for their leadership.

Why it matters: We're calling this group "The Mischief Makers" — members who threaten to upend party unity — the theme eclipsing Washington at the moment — and potentially jeopardize the Democrats' or Republicans' position heading into the 2022 midterms.

Trump can't quit mainstream media

Bob Woodward and Robert Costa are interviewed by Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" in September. Photo: William B. Plowman/NBC via Getty Images

Bob Woodward and Robert Costa issued a rebuttal on Friday to a statement by former President Donald Trump that misrepresented their reporting — and once again showed the 45th president's thin skin about mainstream media.

Driving the news: "Former President Trump said ... our book, 'Peril,' implied that he was planning to go to war with China," the statement begins. "[W]e report that Chairman of Joint Chiefs Mark Milley 'believed that Trump did not want a war' before or after the 2020 election."