Small but noticeable cracks in President Trump’s typically unbreakable support from Republican lawmakers emerged Thursday amid a barrage of legal challenges to the 2020 presidential election.
Several Senate Republican leaders said that presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden should start receiving intelligence briefings.
Meanwhile, pro-Trump legal and political analysts said the president’s lawsuits likely won’t change the outcomes in states where vote projections put Mr. Biden over the top.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a top Trump ally, said the election is “not over” but that it was time for Mr. Biden to start receiving security briefings.
“I think so, yeah,” the South Carolina Republican said.
Intelligence briefings for Mr. Biden, which are a hallmark of president-elect status, also got the go-ahead from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said Mr. Biden needs to get the information “communicated in some way.”
“I’m on the intelligence committee. We don’t get the [president’s daily brief], but we get products, intelligence products, and I think he should get the information,” he said.
As the Democratic nominee, Mr. Biden received intelligence briefings during the campaign, but they didn’t contain the level of information the president receives on a daily basis.
Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, made that distinction.
“The briefings he’s been getting as a candidate should continue,” he said. “I think he should continue to get what he has been getting and then let’s see where we get to with the resolutions [of] some of these disputes.”
The General Services Administration has not acknowledged Mr. Biden as the “apparent” winner of the election, which would unlock additional resources and access to staff for the transition.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said this week that it has to receive sign-off from the GSA before moving forward with aspects of the presidential transition.
Mr. Biden said this week that the intelligence briefing would be nice to have but it’s not a necessary part of the transition.
“I’m not the sitting president now,” he said.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy agreed with Mr. Biden about his status.
“I’ll trust the intel community. He’s not president right now — don’t know if he’ll be president Jan. 20th,” the California Republican told reporters. “But whoever is will get the information.”
Other Republicans say Mr. Biden will be the next president, which many in the GOP have hesitated to state definitively given the ongoing legal challenges and the fact that many states have not certified their election results.
Multiple media outlets called the race for Mr. Biden on Saturday after projecting that he would win Pennsylvania and its 20 Electoral College votes.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, both Republicans, referred to Mr. Biden as the “president-elect” on Thursday.
Top Republican legal thinkers and strategists, including GOP heavyweight Karl Rove, said they’re skeptical that the Trump campaign’s legal activity will amount to anything.
Hugh Hewitt, a conservative radio host, lawyer and prominent Trump backer, said the prospects for success in the courts are looking dim.
“No lawsuit is active that can change one much less three or four states’ results,” Mr. Hewitt said on Twitter. “Perhaps one is forthcoming but not filed yet.”
Nevada’s largest newspaper, owned by Trump mega-donor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, told the president that he lost the election.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal, which was purchased by Mr. Adelson in 2015, said in an editorial that the president “does a disservice to his more rabid supporters by insisting that he would have won the Nov. 3 election absent voter fraud. That’s simply false.
“Mr. Trump lost this election because he ultimately didn’t attract enough votes and failed to win a handful of swing states that broke his way in 2016,” said the paper, which had endorsed Mr. Trump’s reelection bid.
Peter Feaver, who worked for the National Security Council in both the George W. Bush and Clinton administrations, said Mr. Trump is prolonging the inevitable and that it doesn’t help Americans to lose confidence in the electoral process.
“As of 12 o’clock on Inauguration Day he is no longer president,” said Mr. Feaver, who is now a professor at Duke University. “The portion of people who genuinely believe that this election was quote-unquote stolen — that [number] is not 70 million. It’s something less. It’s still very high, but it’s something less.”
Mr. Biden won more than 77.7 million votes nationally and Mr. Trump won more than 72.4 million votes, according to unofficial tallies.
Mr. Biden is considered the presumptive president-elect based on projections from media organizations, and states still have to certify their election results.
The Democrat holds narrow leads in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona — all states where the Trump campaign has filed lawsuits.
Timelines or deadlines for states to certify their election results are fast approaching:
• Nov. 20 in Georgia;
• Nov. 23 in Michigan and Pennsylvania;
• Nov. 30 in Arizona;
• Dec. 1 in Wisconsin.
Georgia is launching an unprecedented hand recount, though Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has said he expects a recount to largely confirm the existing results. Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump by about 14,000 votes, or about 0.3 percentage points, in the Peach State.
Mr. Biden is projected to win 290 electoral votes to Mr. Trump’s 217, according to the latest tally from the Associated Press. It takes 270 to clinch the presidency.
North Carolina, where Mr. Trump’s narrow lead was expected to hold up, and Georgia are the two remaining states the AP has yet to call.
Mr. Trump’s team says they plan to pursue a recount in Wisconsin, where Mr. Biden also holds a narrow lead, though the state’s 10 electoral votes might end up being immaterial to the broader outcome.
Mr. Feaver said one overarching behavioral pattern of Mr. Trump is that he opts to pursue things when he is told that they can’t be done.
“Many people who work for the president [say] that’s the one way you can get him to act,” Mr. Feaver said. “If you tell him, ‘People say you’re not allowed to do X,’ then he’s going to go out and do X.”
• Dave Boyer and Lauren Toms contributed to this report.