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Woodward / Costa book details GOP internal wrangling over how to handle Trump after election loss

As Trump continued to insist the election was stolen, the authors reveal that behind the scenes many prominent Republicans, including members of his own cabinet, attempted to reason with him so that he concedes. For example, on November 23, then-Attorney General William Barr bluntly told Trump that there had been no widespread fraud. “The problem is, this voting machine stuff is just bullshit,” Barr said, according to the book.

Woodward and Costa also write that Barr called Trump’s legal team a “bunch of clowns.”

Other Republicans have come to terms with Trump’s election fantasies, at least for a while. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, who still wanted Trump’s help in the runoff election for the two US Senate seats in Georgia, told Barr, “I have to be gentle,” according to the book.

“And these are the thanks I received?” Trump asked. “You never really had me. You don’t understand me.”

McConnell ended the call, according to the authors, telling Trump, “You lost the election. The Electoral College has spoken.”

Briefly in the aftermath of the Jan.6 attack on the United States Capitol, some senior Republicans acknowledged Trump’s complicity in the assault. McConnell and GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy have both denounced Trump from the Senate and House floors.

The book details a private call McCarthy had with Trump the day before Biden’s inauguration. According to Woodward and Costa, McCarthy told Trump, “I don’t know what happened to you in the past two months.… You are not the same as you were in the past four years.”

McCarthy then repeatedly pleaded with Trump to call Biden.

“You’ve done good things and you want that to be your legacy. Call Joe Biden,” McCarthy said, according to the authors.

“Do it for me,” continued the GOP leader. “You have to call him. Call Joe Biden.”

Trump refused McCarthy’s request and never called Biden.

Nine days later, McCarthy traveled to Mar-a-Lago in an attempt to get back into Trump’s favor. While Trump publicly posted a smiling side-by-side photo with McCarthy, privately he was attacking McCarthy behind his back, according to Woodward and Costa.

“This guy called me every day, pretended to be my best friend, then he fucked me. He’s not a good guy,” Trump told friends at a dinner party in February, adding that he was still angry with McCarthy. “Kevin has come to fuck my ass and wants my help to take back the house.”

Even after January 6, senior Republicans continued to debate how to capitalize on Trump’s popularity with the Republican base. Woodward and Costa write that McConnell viewed Trump as a dying brand, describing him with a horse racing analogy as a retired “OTTB” or an off-track thoroughbred.

“Sucking Donald Trump is not a strategy that works,” McConnell said, according to “Peril.”

But Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina McConnell called the “Trump Whisperer,” believed the party needed Trump and was fixable, the authors write.

Woodward and Costa write that Graham was “like an addiction counselor struggling to keep his patient from having another drink.”

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“We can’t do this without you, Mr. President,” Graham told Trump after a game of golf in May, according to the authors. “You have to help us. But you are going to have to focus on the future, not the past, to maximize our chances of success.”

Then Graham gave Trump a dose of tough love in a phone call, telling Trump, “You screwed up your presidency,” according to the book. Trump abruptly hung up.

They spoke again the next day, according to the book, and Graham said he didn’t blame Trump for hanging up. Trump lamented that he “would lose my base” if he changed. But Graham urged Trump to focus on 2024, saying it would be the “biggest comeback in American history.”

“I think it’s redeemable,” Graham concluded of Trump, according to the authors. “I think he has magic and I think he has darkness.”

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