GOP leaders are nervously watching President Trump’s erratic handling of an election that's slipping away from him, delicately urging him and his team to clearly make a specific case about voting impropriety or accept the will of the American public.
As they watch Trump make one unfounded claim after another, Republicans are worried about the lasting ramifications from the President’s meritless barrage of attacks against a cornerstone of US democracy — especially as they gear up for two months of intense battling over two hugely consequential races in Georgia that will determine the next Senate majority.
But top Republicans are also treading cautiously around a mercurial president who holds enormous sway with their party's base, with many unwilling to directly challenge his dubious claims and instead are urging him to make his case in greater detail.
GOP sources said Friday that the idea is to give Trump and his team a chance to make their case and allow the disputes to work themselves out in the courts, arguing that if the lawsuits fall flat, then Trump will have little choice but to concede the election without their having to confront him.
“It is incumbent upon the Trump administration to make specific cases of voter irregularity,” said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Senate Judiciary chairman who also defended Trump’s meritless claims of potential fraud. “They're looking through the voter files now," predicting more details in the next 48 hours.
Republican leaders are approaching him gingerly. Some, like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, are publicly defending his claims, while others, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are trying to toe a middle ground.
McConnell, a cautious but deliberate leader, carefully crafted a public message about Trump’s allegations that respects the concerns of the President and his ardent supporters but doesn’t back their nebulous charges of election fraud. On Friday, McConnell refused to say anything else besides his delicately worded statement.
Republicans argue that it’s now up to the President to provide the public with details about claims of widespread voting fraud in several crucial states that have put former Vice President Joe Biden on the cusp of the presidency.
“I think the President should turn this discussion over to his lawyers,” said Senate Rules Chairman Roy Blunt, whose committee oversees elections. “And if they have a case to make, there's a process where they make that and that processes is timely.”
Read CNN's fact check of Trump's remarks and election claims here.