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Politics

Duty or Party? For Republicans, a Choice on Whether to Enable Trump

For the next three weeks, the integrity of American democracy is in the hands of people like Norman D. Shinkle, a proud Michigander who has, until recently, served in relative obscurity on the state board that certifies vote results.

But now Mr. Shinkle faces a choice born from the national election turmoil created by President Trump, his preferred candidate, for whom he sang the national anthem at a campaign rally in Lansing last month.

Mr. Shinkle’s duty, as one of two Republicans on the four-member board, is to validate the will of Michigan voters and certify President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory ahead of the Electoral College vote on Dec. 14. Yet Mr. Shinkle is weighing whether to block certification at a board meeting scheduled for Monday, because of minor glitches that Mr. Trump and his allies have baselessly cast as evidence of widespread, election-invalidating fraud.

He said he had received hundreds of phone calls, emails and text messages from people for or against certifying. “You can’t make up your mind before you get all the facts,” he said.

That Mr. Shinkle is equivocating over a once-routine step in the process — despite all 83 state counties submitting certified results and Mr. Biden leading by 154,000 votes — shows the damage inflicted by Mr. Trump on the American voting process and the faith that people in both parties have historically shared in the outcome of elections.

But this is also a moment of truth for the Republican Party: The country is on a knife’s edge, with G.O.P. officials from state capitols to Congress choosing between the will of voters and the will of one man. In pushing his false claims to the limits, cowing Republicans into acquiescence or silence, and driving officials like Mr. Shinkle to nervous indecision, Mr. Trump has revealed the fragility of the electoral system — and shaken it.

At this point, the president’s impact is not so much about overturning the election — both parties agree he has no real chance of doing that — but infusing the democratic process with so much mistrust and confusion that it ceases to function as it should.

Under an unending barrage of fraud charges, voters might begin to question the legitimacy of elected officials from the rival party as a matter of course. And the G.O.P. risks being seen as standing for disenfranchisement and the undemocratic position that a high level of voting is somehow detrimental.

“What Trump is doing is creating a road map to destabilization and chaos in future years,” said Trevor Potter, a Republican who served as chairman of the Federal Election Commission in the 1990s. “What he’s saying, explicitly, is if a party doesn’t like the election result they have the right to change it by gaming the system.”

Mr. Trump’s gambit, never realistic to begin with, appears to be growing more futile by the day: Georgia became the first contested state on Friday to certify its vote for Mr. Biden, and the president continues to draw losing rulings from judges who bluntly note his failure to present any evidence of significant fraud or irregularities. Some fellow Republicans have started breaking with him, including Senator Mitt Romney, a Trump critic, who said the president was seeking to “subvert the will of the people,” and Senator Marco Rubio, who has acknowledged Mr. Biden is the president-elect.

On Friday, Republican lawmakers in Michigan also made clear, after meeting with Mr. Trump at the White House, that they would allow the normal certification process to play out without interfering, a potentially important signal ahead of the certification decision by the state elections board on Monday.

But on Saturday, the national and Michigan state party chairs issued a statement calling on the canvassing board to delay certification beyond its Monday deadline, to conduct an audit.

If Mr. Shinkle and his fellow Republican on the state board, Aaron Van Langevelde, were to oppose certifying the results, the board would deadlock.

Democrats and election lawyers say the courts would almost certainly force the board to complete the certification process, well in time for the Electoral College deadline next month. And Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could replace the board members if they defy a court order. But they also agree a deadlocked vote would give Mr. Trump a new opportunity to cast doubt upon the legitimacy of the election system and Mr. Biden’s win, while also prolonging his own legally dubious and, so far, failing attempt to convince Republicans who control the Statehouse to send pro-Trump delegates to the Electoral College.

Mr. Biden’s advisers say they are confident he will be awarded Michigan’s 16 Electoral College votes. But they acknowledge that the resulting national spectacle of court fights and new charges of fraud could prove “very harmful to the democratic process,” as Mr. Biden’s senior adviser, Bob Bauer, put it on Friday.

Civil rights leaders are especially alarmed at Mr. Trump’s efforts, given that most of them have falsely portrayed cities with large Black populations, like Detroit and Philadelphia, as so corrupt that their votes shouldn’t count. The argument that Mr. Trump’s attempt is all for show and will not succeed has done little to allay their concern.

“How is it ‘show’ when you’re basically systematically delegitimizing Black voters by your rhetoric,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the Legal Defense and Educational Fund of the NAACP, which filed suit against Mr. Trump in Michigan on Friday for trying to disenfranchise Black voters (it did so on behalf of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and three residents). “How can that be anything but incredibly dangerous,” she added.

Ms. Ifill marveled at the position of the Republican Party, which was the nation’s first true civil rights party from the time of slavery through the late 1950’s, but now, under Mr. Trump’s unchallenged leadership, is effectively taking a stance against voting in entire cities and states.

“Civil rights haven’t moved — one party has moved, and that move has not been toward an embrace of democracy, it’s been away from it,’’ she said.

If Mr. Trump has shown nothing else, it is that he has made the Republican Party — which initially sought to resist him — his own. Though a handful of prominent Republicans have rebuked his refusal to cede power, far more, across all levels of government, have either tacitly or explicitly embraced a new standard in presidential elections: No winner can be declared until the full Electoral College certification process is complete, no matter how clear the results after Election Day.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas has acknowledged that he hadn’t “seen anything that would change the outcome” but told reporters on Thursday that Mr. Biden “is not president-elect until the votes are certified.” Mr. Cornyn congratulated Mr. Trump as president-elect on the day the major news organizations projected him as the winner in 2016.

Former Senator Jeff Flake, a staunch opponent of Mr. Trump, has urged Republicans to recognize Mr. Biden as president-elect. But he noted that Republicans worry about alienating Mr. Trump when they need his help for the upcoming Georgia runoffs, which will decide control of the Senate.

“If the Republicans abandon him, he may just abandon them,’’ he said.

Mr. Trump’s baseless argument that this is still an election up for grabs was prevalent in interviews with Republicans across the country on Friday.

Ginger Howard, a Republican national committeewoman from Georgia, said she still believed there were other avenues for Mr. Trump to pursue, despite the state’s certification of Mr. Biden as the winner there.

“There’s still recourse for sure, we’ve got some other options,” she said Friday without elaborating.

Jason Thompson, who represents Georgia to the Republican National Committee, also echoed

Mr. Trump’s unfounded skepticism.

“It’s not like I’m saying there’s no way he won,” he said. “All I’m saying is we’ll never know for sure.”

Some Republicans interviewed cited Mr. Trump’s legal challenges as grounds to believe the race was not over — even though judges have overwhelmingly rejected the president’s claims.

“There are questions regarding votes in several states, and until those matters have been fully litigated it would be premature for him to concede the election,” said Bruce Ash, a former Republican official in Arizona. Election officials across the country have said that there is no evidence of voter fraud or other irregularities that shaped the race’s outcome.

Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, a Republican, acknowledged in a statement to The Times that, “I have not seen any proof of widespread election fraud in Philadelphia or anywhere else in Pennsylvania.”

Yet he affirmed Mr. Trump’s right “to pursue litigation,’’ and would only go so far as to say “all signs indicate” that Mr. Biden was “likely” the next president.

Representative Seth Grove, a Republican in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, declined on Friday to say that Mr. Biden had won the state. “The president’s just exercising his legal rights,’’ he said. “At the end of the litigation, it’s going to be Biden or Trump.”

In Pennsylvania, Mr. Trump has less opportunity to try to block certification than he does in Michigan and Wisconsin, where he has requested recounts in two counties. After the state’s 67 counties certify their votes — the deadline is Monday — they go to Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat, who has sole power to certify state results.

In Michigan, the president’s opportunity is limited if not nonexistent. On Friday, the State Bureau of Elections submitted its formal report recommending that the canvassing board affirm Mr. Biden’s win. Errors in some vote tabulations, which Mr. Trump has seized upon, were “attributable to human error,’' and “did not affect the actual tabulation of votes,” the elections bureau said.

That, said Christopher Thomas, an election adviser to the City of Detroit, means the canvassing board is obligated to affirm the vote. “The law doesn’t say you can decide or not — the law says if you get certified returns you go ahead and do what you’re supposed to do, ”he said.

As Monday’s vote approaches, Mr. Shinkle, the Republican board member, finds himself in a tight spot. In contrast to past cases, he said, “I’ve got many more so-called conservatives saying bad things about me.” He said he had some unresolved concerns about the vote totals in Detroit, where there were discrepancies with roughly 350 votes out of more than 250,000 cast.

His wife, Mary Shinkle, provided an affidavit for Mr. Trump’s federal lawsuit to stop the certification of results in Wayne County, which the campaign dropped on Thursday.

Mr. Shinkle said he is his own counsel, and that his primary goal is to be able to look in the mirror and feel good about his decisions. “I can’t let any other individual be involved in that decision,” he said. “I just have to do the best that I can based on what’s ethical and legal.”

Trip Gabriel and Katie Glueck contributed reporting.

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Analysis & Comment

Opinion | Why Trump Will Fail in Michigan

The country is coming to a crossroads on Monday. That’s the date Michigan is to certify the results of the 2020 election. Yet President Trump has chosen a state he lost by more than 150,000 votes — more than 14 times the size of his 2016 victory in Michigan — to try to subvert the election.

Having failed in the courts, President Trump is now grasping at a new lifeline: pressuring Republican election officials and legislators to ignore the reality that Joe Biden legitimately won the popular vote in their states. This tactic, now being played out in Michigan, is no doubt sending the anxiety levels of Biden supporters back to where they were before the courts had calmed these efforts by exposing how empty most of the legal claims were.

But this tactic, too, is destined to fail — though it is toxic for the country’s politics.

Michigan has an unusual system for certifying vote totals. In many states, a single actor, the governor or secretary of state, has the final authority to certify the winner of an election. But Michigan employs four-member canvassing boards, first at the county level — which is now complete — and then at the statewide level. These boards, including the statewide canvassing board that meets Monday, include two Democrats and two Republicans. The governor appoints them, with the Senate’s consent. This structure was designed to provide checks against partisan manipulation of the certification process. But the president is hoping to get the two Republicans on the board to refuse to certify, thus blocking certification.

Because the president almost succeeded in getting the two Republicans on the Wayne County board to do that, many wonder whether he might manage to get the Republican members of the state canvassing board to refuse to certify. But even if they turn out to be so unethical as to refuse to acknowledge the fact that Mr. Biden legitimately won Michigan, the tactic is not going to work.

The Biden campaign and Michigan voters would likely first turn to the state or federal courts. A court would likely issue an order to the state board to certify the result — legally, this is known as issuing a writ of mandamus — because the board’s legal duty is clear and unequivocal once it has received the certified vote totals from the counties. If the resistant board members were still willing to defy the court and go to jail (presidential pardons do not apply to state crimes), a court could also issue the certification itself.

Michigan’s governor also has legal powers she could invoke, though whether she would choose to do so would involve complex political judgments. Under the state’s Constitution, she has the power — the Constitution, actually, calls it a duty — to remove or suspend from office a canvassing board member for “gross neglect of duty,” “corrupt conduct” or “for any other misfeasance or malfeasance” in carrying out their duties. Failing to certify on the facts in Michigan would easily meet this standard.

The Trump campaign team is pursuing whatever avenues they imagine might conceivably block certification, in Michigan and elsewhere, including calling up Republican canvassing officials and inviting Republican legislative leaders from Michigan to the White House for “discussions.” That’s because once states certify, Mr. Biden is the legal winner. Not only is getting a court to overturn the legal result of an election extremely difficult, but the Biden electors would be officially appointed and it would be much harder for the General Services Administration not to make the relevant finding that unlocks the transition process.

One of the many tragedies of what has gone on since the election is that we should be celebrating our achievement at having smoothly managed to conduct an exceptionally high turnout election under the most difficult circumstances. Think of the list of concerns we had in advance of the election: foreign interference; inability to staff polling places; huge lines on Election Day; excessive challenges at the polls or even violent confrontations; high rejection rates of absentee ballots; large numbers of absentees arriving too late to be counted; long delays in mail delivery that compromised the outcome.

That’s a partial list. None became significant issues, though election reforms are still needed. We also worried about partisan election administration, because the chief election officer in most states, the secretary of state, is typically a partisan elected official. Yet secretaries of states from both parties have not just performed in a completely professional manner, they have done so heroically against political pressures and personal threats.

Yet the country, mired in baseless accusations of fraud, cannot even see this achievement, let alone celebrate it. Even those who voted for Mr. Biden are too consumed with anxiety about getting safely to Jan. 20 to celebrate the country’s triumph in how well the election was run.

President Trump will undoubtedly continue to try any tactic to fend off the reality that he lost the election. But even if he manages to corrupt a few partisan actors, it will not change the outcome. The election survived the stress test we faced. The postelection process will as well.

The real danger is that the country will become increasingly ungovernable.

Richard H. Pildes is a professor at New York University’s School of Law and an author of the casebook “The Law of Democracy: Legal Structure of the Political Process.”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: [email protected].

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Politics

Trump’s Attempts to Overturn the Election Are Unparalleled in U.S. History

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election are unprecedented in American history and an even more audacious use of brute political force to gain the White House than when Congress gave Rutherford B. Hayes the presidency during Reconstruction.

Mr. Trump’s chances of succeeding are somewhere between remote and impossible, and a sign of his desperation after President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. won by nearly six million popular votes and counting, as well as a clear Electoral College margin. Yet the fact that Mr. Trump is even trying has set off widespread alarms, not least in Mr. Biden’s camp.

“I’m confident he knows he hasn’t won,” Mr. Biden said at a news conference in Wilmington, Del., on Thursday, before adding, “It’s just outrageous what he’s doing.” Although Mr. Biden dismissed Mr. Trump’s behavior as embarrassing, he acknowledged that “incredibly damaging messages are being sent to the rest of the world about how democracy functions.”

Mr. Trump has only weeks to make his last-ditch effort work: Most of the states he needs to strip Mr. Biden of votes are scheduled to certify their electors by the beginning of next week. The electors cast their ballots on Dec. 14, and Congress opens them in a joint session on Jan. 6.

Even if Mr. Trump somehow pulled it off, there are other safeguards in place to face the challenge, assuming people in power do not simply bend to the president’s will.

The first test will be Michigan, where Mr. Trump is trying to get the State Legislature to overturn Mr. Biden’s 157,000-vote margin of victory. He has taken the extraordinary step of inviting a delegation of state Republican leaders to the White House, hoping to persuade them to ignore the popular vote outcome.

“That’s not going to happen,” Mike Shirkey, the Republican leader of the Michigan State Senate, said on Tuesday. “We are going to follow the law and follow the process.”

Beyond that, Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, could send Congress a competing electoral slate, based on the election vote, arguing that the proper procedures were ignored. That dispute would create just enough confusion, in Mr. Trump’s Hail Mary calculus, that the House and Senate together would have to resolve it in ways untested in modern times.

Federal law dating to 1887, passed in reaction to the Hayes election, provides the framework, but not specifics, of how it would be done. Edward B. Foley, a constitutional law and election law expert at Ohio State University, noted that the law only required Congress to consider all submissions “purporting to be the valid electoral votes.”

But Michigan alone would not be enough for Mr. Trump. He would also need at least two other states to fold to his pressure. The most likely candidates are Georgia and Arizona, which both went for Mr. Trump in 2016 and have Republican-controlled legislatures and Republican governors.

Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona has said he will accept the state election results, although only after all the campaign lawsuits are resolved. Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, where a hand recount reaffirmed Mr. Biden’s victory on Thursday, has not publicly said one way or another who won his state.

Mr. Trump has said little in public apart from tweets endorsing wild conspiracy theories about how he was denied victory. Yet his strategy, if it can be called that, has become clear over two days of increasingly frenetic action by a president 62 days from losing power.

In just that time, Mr. Trump has fired the federal election official who has challenged his false claims of fraud, tried to halt the vote-certification process in Detroit to disenfranchise an overwhelmingly Black electorate that voted against him, and now is misusing the powers of his office in his effort to take Michigan’s 16 electoral votes away from Mr. Biden.

In many ways it is even more of an attempted power grab than the one in 1876. At the time, Hayes was governor of Ohio, not president of the United States. Ulysses S. Grant was, and when Hayes won — also by wrenching the vote around in three states — he became known as “His Fraudulency.”

“But this is far worse,” said Michael Beschloss, the presidential historian and author of “Presidents of War.” “In the case of Hayes, both sides agreed that the outcome in at least three states was in dispute. In this case, no serious person thinks enough votes are in dispute that Donald Trump could have been elected on Election Day.”

“This is a manufactured crisis. It is a president abusing his huge powers in order to stay in office after the voters clearly rejected him for re-election.”

He added: “This is what many of the founders dreaded.”

Mr. Trump telegraphed this strategy during the campaign. He told voters at a rally in Middletown, Pa., in September that he would win at the polls, or in the Supreme Court, or in the House — where, under the 12th Amendment, every state delegation gets one vote in choosing the president. (There are 26 delegations of 50 dominated by Republicans, even though the House is in the hands of the Democrats.)

“I don’t want to end up in the Supreme Court, and I don’t want to go back to Congress, even though we have an advantage if we go back to Congress,” he said then. “Does everyone understand that?”

Now that is clearly the Plan B, after the failure of Plan A, an improvisational legal strategy to overturn election results by invalidating ballots in key states. In state after state, the president’s lawyers have been laughed out of court, unable to provide evidence to back up his claims that mail-in ballots were falsified, or that glitches on voting machines with software from Dominion Voting Systems might, just might, have changed or deleted 2.7 million votes.

Those theories figured in a rambling news conference that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, held with other members of his legal team on Thursday. The group threw out a series of disconnected arguments to try to make the case that Mr. Trump really won. The arguments included blaming mail-in ballots that they said were prone to fraud as well as Dominion, which they suggested was tied to former President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela (who died seven years ago), and had vague connections to the Clinton Foundation and George Soros, the philanthropist and billionaire Democratic fund-raiser.

“That press conference was the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history,” Christopher Krebs, who was fired Tuesday night by Mr. Trump as the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency of the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted Thursday afternoon.

“And possibly the craziest,” he went on. “If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re lucky.”

Mr. Krebs has often noted that the purpose of a reliable election system is to convince those who lost elections that they have, indeed, lost.

Even some of Mr. Trump’s onetime enthusiasts and former top aides have abandoned him on his claims, often with sarcastic derision. “Their basic argument is this was a conspiracy so vast and so successful that there’s no evidence of it,” said John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s third national security adviser, who was ousted last year.

“Now if that’s true, I really want to know who the people are who pulled this off,” he said on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “We need to hire them at the C.I.A.”

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Threats and Tensions Rise as Trump and Allies Attack Elections Process

President Trump’s false accusations that voter fraud denied him re-election are causing escalating confrontations in swing states across the country, leading to threats of violence against officials in both parties and subverting even the most routine steps in the electoral process.

In Arizona on Wednesday, the Democratic secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, issued a statement lamenting the “consistent and systematic undermining of trust” in the elections and called on Republican officials to stop “perpetuating misinformation.” She described threats against her and her family in the aftermath of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory over Mr. Trump in her state.

In Georgia, where Mr. Biden holds a narrow lead that is expected to stand through a recount concluding Wednesday night, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has said he, too, received menacing messages. He also said he felt pressured by Senator Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to search for ways to disqualify votes.

In Pennsylvania, statehouse Republicans on Wednesday advanced a proposal to audit the state’s election results that cited “a litany of inconsistencies” — a move Democrats described as obstructionist and unnecessary given Mr. Trump’s failure to present any evidence in court of widespread fraud or other problems. Republicans in Wisconsin filed new lawsuits on Wednesday in the state’s two biggest counties, seeking a recount. Mr. Biden reclaimed both states after Mr. Trump won them in 2016.

Nowhere was the confusion and chaos more evident than in Michigan on Tuesday night, when two Republican members of the canvassing board in Wayne County, which includes Detroit, initially refused to certify election results, pointing to minor recording discrepancies. It was a stunningly partisan move that would have potentially disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of voters from a predominantly Black city, and after a stream of public backlash, the two board members reversed their votes and agreed to certify.

“You could see the racism in the behavior last night,” Mike Duggan, the Democratic mayor of Detroit, said at a news conference on Wednesday, condemning Republican efforts to block the vote. “American democracy cracked last night, but it didn’t break. But we are seeing a real threat to everything we believe in.”

In courtrooms, statehouses and elections board meetings across the country, the president is increasingly seeking to force the voting system to bend to his false vision of the election, while also using the weight of the executive office to deliver his message to lower-level election workers, hoping they buckle.

The effort has been joined by surrogates like Mr. Graham, who has used his visibility as a senior United States senator to make false claims about vote processing in Nevada; forward disputed accusations about mail ballots in Pennsylvania to the Justice Department; and level unsubstantiated accusations about supposedly fraudulent votes for Mr. Biden.

Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, and Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and the former mayor of New York, have made blanket attacks against cities with large Black populations like Atlanta, Detroit and Philadelphia, painting those places in evidence-free tirades as too corrupt to be trusted to hold honest elections.

The extraordinary assault on the voting system by the president and his allies has taken on added intensity as the certification deadlines in several states approach in the next two weeks. The certification of results will further forestall Mr. Trump’s attempt to overturn his unambiguous loss.

Barring some breakthrough in a legal push that continues apace, the president’s strategy appears to center on disrupting the process through which states finalize their vote counts and submit their delegate slates to the Electoral College.

Republicans’ attempts to follow his lead in Wayne County failed in the face of angry Detroit residents who were outraged by what they saw as an open attempt to disenfranchise them. A public comment session with hundreds of voters and civil rights leaders rippled into a three-hour uproar, as they condemned the fact that two white officials were threatening the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of Black voters.

“You look at Black cities and you have extracted a Black city out of the county and said the only one at fault is the city of Detroit, where 80 percent of the people who reside there are African-Americans,” exclaimed the Rev. Wendell Anthony, the president of the Detroit chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., his face almost touching the computer screen. “Shame on you,” he added. “You are a disgrace.”

“But on Jan. 20, 2021, at 12 noon,” he said, “no matter what you do, the president of the United States will be Joseph Biden and the vice president, for the first time ever, will be a Black woman named Kamala Harris.”

“Do you know how many young Black teenagers voted for the first time this year?” said Benita Bradley of Detroit during the Zoom call on Tuesday night. “And you sit here and slap those people in the face. What you are doing to brown and Black people in this community makes you part of the problem, you are the problem. You are the reason why young kids don’t see the promise in voting. But our country will go forward. We will unify.”

The two Democratic members of the Wayne County canvassing board, Jonathan C. Kinloch and Allen Wilson, reacted with similar shock and anger at the initial refusal to certify the votes. After the two Republican members reversed course and voted to certify, the process moves to the Board of State Canvassers, where the results are to be finalized by Nov. 23.

Dana Nessel, the Democratic attorney general of Michigan, said she had kept a wary eye on the Wayne County proceedings, and was particularly worried about any potential litigation stemming from a canvass fight.

“I keep hoping we’ll see a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “But it was obvious that these are plans that have been in place for a long time and it’s just a matter of how far the Republicans will take this.”

The events involving the Wayne County canvassing board on Tuesday were a distillation of these waning days of the Trump presidency — a clash over an attempt by Mr. Trump to present once more an alternative version of reality. With only minor irregularities reported, the two Democratic members were prepared to accept that Michigan had conducted a smooth election and to certify the results despite some minor errors, a routine step in the process. The Republican members, William Hartmann and Monica Palmer, had made clear in the days leading to the meeting that they were prepared to accept Mr. Trump’s assertions that Democrats were stealing his presidency.

Ms. Palmer had raised questions on social media about Mr. Biden’s lead in the race in the days after the election, searching for discrepancies in online data from the secretary of state’s office. She also queried Republicans who had applied to be poll challengers at the T.C.F. Center in Detroit, where absentee ballots were counted, seeking examples of the party’s monitors being denied access.

Mr. Hartmann had filled his Facebook page with false allegations and conspiracy theories that the vote was manipulated against the president. They included a post with allegations about malfeasance in Detroit that a judge has called “not credible” and another that featured a video promoting a cornucopia of fraud allegations — including against Detroit — that have unraveled in court or been debunked by election officials. Mr. Hartmann also promoted a video from the right-wing cable network One America News that Facebook flagged as having “false information” about the coronavirus death rate.

Tuesday’s inflammatory meeting also drew attention to Mr. Hartmann’s social media feeds, where old posts showed racist depictions of President Barack Obama, whom Mr. Hartmann once referred to as a “Muslim President” (Mr. Obama is Christian).

Neither Ms. Palmer nor Mr. Hartmann responded to requests for comment, but Mike Shirkey, the Republican leader of the State Senate, said in a statement on Wednesday that there had been “disturbing reports of individuals who allegedly threatened the children of members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers.”

Ms. Hobbs, the secretary of state of Arizona, said her experience as a social worker had prepared her for “threats of violence and vitriol’’ and called them “abhorrent.” She said they would not prevent her from performing her duties. “Our democracy is tested constantly, it continues to prevail, and it will not falter under my watch,” she said.

She called on the president, Congress and elected leaders to cease spreading misinformation that undermines the system.

“It is well past time that they stop,” she said. “Their words and actions have consequences.”

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Opinion | How Can We Trust This G.O.P. in Power Again?

So how do I feel two weeks after our election? Awed and terrified. I am in awe at the expression of democracy that took place in America. It was our most impressive election since 1864 and maybe our most important since 1800. And yet, I am still terrified that, but for a few thousand votes in key states, how easily it could have been our last election.

To put my feelings in image form: It’s like Lady Liberty was walking across Fifth Avenue on Nov. 3 when out of nowhere a crazy guy driving a bus ran the red light. Lady Liberty leapt out of the way barely in time, and she’s now sitting on the curb, her heart pounding, just glad to be alive. But she knows — she knows — how narrowly she escaped, that this reckless driver never stops at red lights and is still out there, and, oh my God, lots of his passengers are still applauding the thrilling ride, even though deep down many know he’s a menace to the whole city.

Let’s unpack all of this. Stop for a second and think about how awesome this election was. In the middle of an accelerating pandemic substantially more Americans voted than ever before in our history — Republicans, Democrats and independents. And it was their fellow citizens who operated the polling stations and conducted the count — many of them older Americans who volunteered for that duty knowing they could contract the coronavirus, as some did.

That’s why this was our greatest expression of American democratic vitality since Abraham Lincoln defeated Gen. George B. McClellan in 1864 — in the midst of a civil war. And that’s why Donald Trump’s efforts to soil this election, with his fraudulent claims of voting fraud, are so vile.

If Trump and his enablers had resisted for only a day or two, OK, no big deal. But the fact that they continue to do so, flailing for ways to overturn the will of the people, egged on by their media toadies — Lou Dobbs actually said on Fox Business that the G.O.P. should refuse to accept the election results that deny Trump “what is rightfully his” — raises this question:

How do you trust this version of the Republican Party to ever hold the White House again?

Its members have sat mute while Trump, rather than using the federal bureaucracy to launch a war against our surging pandemic, has launched a war against his perceived enemies inside that federal bureaucracy — including the defense secretary and the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration — weakening it when we need it most.

Engineering Trump’s internal purge is 30-year-old Johnny McEntee, “a former college quarterback who was hustled out of the White House two years ago after a security clearance check turned up a prolific habit for online gambling,” but Trump later welcomed him back and installed him as personnel director for the entire U.S. government, The Washington Post reported.

A political party that will not speak up against such a reckless leader is not a party any longer. It is some kind of populist cult of personality.

That’s been obvious ever since this G.O.P. was the first party to conclude its presidential nominating convention without offering any platform. It declared that its platform was whatever its Dear Leader said it was. That is cultlike.

Are we just supposed to forget this G.O.P.’s behavior as soon as Trump leaves and let its leaders say: Hey fellow Americans, Trump tried to overturn the election with baseless claims — and we went along for the ride — but he’s gone now, so you can trust us to do the right things again.”

That is why we are so very lucky that this election broke for Joe Biden. If this is how this Republican Party behaves when Trump loses, imagine how willing to tolerate his excesses it would have been had he won? Trump wouldn’t have stopped at any red lights ever again.

And the people who understood that best were democrats all over the world — particularly in Europe. Because they’ve watched Trump-like, right-wing populists in Turkey, Hungary, Poland, Russia and Belarus, as well as the Philippines, get themselves elected and then take control of their courts, media, internet and security institutions and use them to try to cripple their opponents and lock themselves into office indefinitely.

Democrats abroad feared that this same political virus would overtake America if Trump were re-elected and have a devastating effect.

They feared that the core democratic concept that America gifted to the world in 1800 — when John Adams lost his election to Thomas Jefferson and peacefully handed over the reins of power — was going to wither, undermining democracy movements across the globe. Every autocrat would have been emboldened to ignore red lights.

Seeing an American president actually try to undermine the results of a free and fair election “is a warning to democrats all over the world: Don’t play lightly with populists, they will not leave power easily the way Adams did when he lost to Jefferson,” the French foreign policy expert Dominique Moïsi remarked to me.

That is why Biden’s mission — and the mission of all decent conservatives — is not just to repair America. It is to marginalize this Trumpian version of the G.O.P. and help to nurture a healthy conservative party — one that brings conservative approaches to economic growth, infrastructure, social policy, education, regulation and climate change, but also cares about governing and therefore accepts compromises.

Democrats can’t summon a principled conservative party. That requires courageous conservatives. But Democrats do need to ask themselves why Trump remains so strong among white working-class voters without college degrees, and, in this last election, drew greater support from Black, Latino and white women voters.

There is a warning light flashing for Democrats from this election: They can’t rely on demographics. They need to make sure that every voter believes that the Democratic Party is a “both/and” party, not an “either/or” party. And they need to do it before a smarter, less crude Trump comes along to advance Trumpism.

They need every American to believe that Democrats are for BOTH redividing the pie AND growing the pie, for both reforming police departments and strengthening law and order, for both saving lives in a pandemic and saving jobs, for both demanding equity in education and demanding excellence, for both strengthening safety nets and strengthening capitalism, for both celebrating diversity and celebrating patriotism, for both making college cheaper and making the work of noncollege-educated Americans more respected, for both building a high border wall and incorporating a big gate, for both high-fiving the people who start companies and supporting the people who regulate them.

And they need to demand less political correctness and offer more tolerance for those who want to change with the times but need to get there their own ways — without feeling shamed into it.

We need our next presidential election to be fought between a principled center-right Republican Party and a “both/and” Democratic Party. Great countries are led from a healthy center. Weak countries don’t have one.

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Opinion | Our Political System Is Unfair. Liberals Need to Just Deal With It.

The American voters chose to give the Democrats the White House, but denied them a mandate. Even if Democrats somehow squeak out wins in both Georgia Senate races, the Senate will then pivot on Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Not only does this take much of the liberal wish list off the table, it also makes deep structural reform of federal institutions impossible. There will be no new voting rights act in honor of the late Representative John Lewis, no statehood for Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, and no Supreme Court packing. For that matter, the filibuster will not be eliminated, which would have been the essential predicate for all of those other changes as well as expansive climate or health care legislation. Anything that Democrats want to do that requires a party-line vote is forlorn.

In response to this disappointment, a number of left-of-center commentators have concluded that “democracy lost” in 2020. Our constitutional order, they argue, is rotten and an obstacle to majority rule. The Electoral College and the overrepresentation of small, mostly conservative states in the Senate is an outrage. As Ezra Klein has argued, our constitution “forces Democrats to win voters ranging from the far left to the center right, but Republicans can win with only right-of-center votes.” As a consequence, liberals can’t have nice things.

The argument is logical, but it is also a strategic dead end. The United States is and in almost any plausible scenario will continue to be a federal republic. We are constituted as a nation of states, not as a single unitary community, a fact that is hard-wired into our constitutional structure. Liberals may not like this, just as a man standing outside in a rainstorm does not like the fact he is getting soaked. But instead of cursing the rain, it makes a lot more sense for him to find an umbrella.

Liberals need to adjust their political strategy and ideological ambitions to the country and political system we actually have, and make the most of it, rather than cursing that which they cannot change.

There are certainly some profound democratic deficits built into our federal constitution. Even federal systems like Germany, Australia and Canada do not have the same degree of representative inequality that the Electoral College and Senate generate between a citizen living in California versus one living in Wyoming.

There is also next to nothing we can do about it. The same system that generates this pattern of representative inequality also means that — short of violent revolution — the beneficiaries of our federal system will not allow for it to be changed, except at the margins. If Democrats at some point get a chance to get full representation for Washington, D.C., they should take it. But beyond that, there are few if any pathways to changing either the Electoral College or the structure of the Senate. So any near-term strategy for Democrats must accept these structures as fixed.

The initial step in accepting our federal system is for Democrats to commit to organizing everywhere — even places where we are not currently competitive. Led by Stacey Abrams, Democrats have organized and hustled in Georgia over the last couple of years, and the results are hard to argue with. Joe Biden should beg Ms. Abrams (or another proven organizer like Ben Wikler, the head of the party in Wisconsin) to take over the Democratic National Committee, dust off Howard Dean’s planning memos for a “50 state strategy” from the mid-2000s and commit to building the formal apparatus of the Democratic Party everywhere.

This party-building needs to happen across the country, even where the odds seem slim, in order to help Democrats prospect for attractive issues in red states (and red places in purple states), to identify attractive candidates and groom them for higher office and to build networks of citizens who can work together to rebuild the party at the local level.

A necessary corollary of a 50 state strategy is accepting that creating a serious governing majority means putting together a policy agenda that recognizes where voters are, not where they would be if we had a fairer system of representation. That starts with an economics that addresses the radically uneven patterns of economic growth in the country, even if doing so means attending disproportionately to the interests of voters outside of the Democrats’ urban base. That is not a matter of justice, necessarily, but brute electoral arithmetic.

That does not mean being moderate, in the sense of incremental and toothless. From the financialization of our economy to our constrictive intellectual property laws to our unjust tax competition between states for firms, the economic deck really is stacked for the concentration of economic power on the coasts. Democrats in the places where the party is less competitive should be far more populist on these and other related issues, even if it puts them in tension with the party’s megadonors.

We also need to recognize that the cultural values and rituals of Democrats in cosmopolitan cities and liberal institutional bastions like universities do not seem to travel well. Slogans like “defund the police” and “abolish ICE” may be mobilizing in places where three-quarters of voters pull the lever for Democrats. But it is madness to imagine that they could be the platform of a competitive party nationwide.

That doesn’t mean that we should expect members of the Squad not to speak out for fear of freaking out the small town voters that Democrats like Representative Abigail Spanberger of Virginia represent. But it does mean recognizing that, unlike the more homogeneous Republicans, the Democrats have no choice but to be a confederation of subcultures. We need to develop internal norms of pluralism and coexistence appropriate to a loose band of affiliated politicians and groups, rather than those of a party that is the arm of a cohesive social movement.

The Democratic Party has a future within the constitution the country has. The question for the next decade is, will we withdraw into pointless dreams of sweeping constitutional change or make our peace with our country and its constitution, seeking allies in unlikely places and squeezing out what progress we can get by organizing everywhere, even when the odds of success seem slim.

Steven Teles, a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University and a senior fellow at the Niskanen Center, is an author, with Robert Saldin, of the book “Never Trump: The Revolt of the Conservative Elites.”

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Opinion | G.O.P. Support for Trump’s Refusal to Concede

To the Editor:

Re “Tensions on Rise as Trump Denies Election Result” (front page, Nov. 16):

When President Trump won 304 electoral votes in 2016, he called it a “landslide,” even though he had three million fewer popular votes than Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton conceded, because she’s gracious and she accepts how our democracy works.

Now Joe Biden has won 306 electoral votes and five million more popular votes than Mr. Trump. Mr. Biden is not calling it a “landslide” because he is gracious. And Mr. Trump has refused to concede, perhaps because he does not know how to graciously acknowledge ever losing anything.

It’s past time for the Republican leadership to step up, to stop this now. It’s a travesty and it demeans us, at home and abroad. Demand the transition of presidential power that our democracy is built on. Mr. Biden won. Actually in a “landslide,” according to Mr. Trump, 2016.

Susan Grey
Columbia, S.C.

To the Editor:

I have been a Republican for over 50 years. Lately I have become disillusioned by the party’s slide from conservatism to libertarianism, but the actions following the recent presidential election mark a more dramatic and totally unacceptable move toward fascism. I will take the following vow and call upon all patriotic Republicans to take it as well.

If the Republican Party continues to refuse to accept the outcome of the election, I will never vote for another Republican at any level of government ever again.

Perhaps we need a new party.

Bruce Powell
Cresskill, N.J.

To the Editor:

The conventional wisdom is that most Republican senators are supporting President Trump’s refusal to concede the election because they want his support in the runoff in the two Senate races in Georgia on Jan. 5.

I think the Republican senators still haven’t learned their lesson after four years. Mr. Trump will do whatever is best for him, not the Republican Party. I believe that he wants the Democrats to win in Georgia. If there is a Democratic Senate, it is more likely that it will pass legislation that is anathema to Mr. Trump and his base. That would permit him — or his designee, perhaps a member of his family — to run more successfully in 2024.

A more balanced legislative program would not engage Republican voters the same way as a more progressive program that Mr. Trump railed against during the campaign. Mr. Trump will be willing to sacrifice the next four years in order to put himself in a stronger position in 2024.

David M. Dorsen
Washington
The writer was assistant chief counsel of the Senate Watergate Committee in 1973-74.

To the Editor:

There is no good reason that President Trump should not contest voting procedures in court. Logically, he cannot both sue and concede the election, however inconvenient to Joe Biden and his team. Yes, we Democrats are certain that our candidate won. But the future peace will not be won by shouting down a large and deeply indoctrinated and now deeply disappointed segment of our population.

Let them run out the string the law grants them. A semblance of unity could be reached sooner and with less societal disruption. We all have a stake in this.

William Appel
Friday Harbor, Wash.

To the Editor:

It is time that the Republicans select a group to visit the White House — similar to August 1974 when they persuaded Richard Nixon to resign — to get President Trump to concede and stop this childish behavior.

Michael Bogner
Bel Air, Md.

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Opinion | Trump or No Trump, Religious Authoritarianism Is Here to Stay

Will President-elect Joe Biden’s victory force America’s Christian nationalists to rethink the unholy alliance that powered Donald Trump’s four-year tour as one of the nation’s most dangerous presidents? Don’t count on it.

The 2020 election is proof that religious authoritarianism is here to stay, and the early signs now indicate that the movement seems determined to reinterpret defeat at the top of the ticket as evidence of persecution and of its own righteousness. With or without Mr. Trump, they will remain committed to the illiberal politics that the president has so ably embodied.

As it did in 2016, the early analysis of the 2020 election results often circled around the racial, urban-rural, and income and education divides. But the religion divide tells an equally compelling story. According to preliminary exit polls from Edison Research (the data is necessarily rough at this stage), 28 percent of voters identified as either white evangelical or white born-again Christian, and of these, 76 percent voted for Mr. Trump. If these numbers hold (some other polls put the religious share at a lower number; others put the support for Mr. Trump at a higher number), these results indicate a continuation of support for Mr. Trump from this group.

The core of Mr. Trump’s voting bloc, to be clear, does not come from white evangelicals as such, but from an overlapping group of not necessarily evangelical, and not necessarily white, people who identify at least loosely with Christian nationalism: the idea that the United States is and ought to be a Christian nation governed under a reactionary understanding of Christian values. Unfortunately, data on that cohort is harder to find except in deeply researched work by sociologists like Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry.

Most pollsters shoehorn complex religious identities into necessarily broad labels, so they fail to separate out the different strands of Mr. Trump’s support. There are indications that the president in fact expanded his appeal among nonwhite evangelical and born-again Christians of color, particularly among Latinos. Mr. Biden, on the other hand, who made faith outreach a key feature of his campaign, appears to have done well among moderate and progressive voters of all faiths.

Conservative voters of faith “came in massive numbers, seven and a half million more above the 2016 baseline, which was itself a record,” Ralph Reed, head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a longtime religious right activist, said at a postelection press briefing. “We believe they’re the reason why Republicans are going to hold the Senate.”

In their responses to the election outcome, some prominent religious right leaders have enabled or remained true to the false Trumpian line of election fraud. Michele Bachmann, the former Minnesota congresswoman and 2012 presidential candidate, said, “Smash the delusion, Father, of Joe Biden is our president. He is not.” In Crisis Magazine, a conservative Catholic publication, Richard C. Antall likened media reporting on the Biden-Harris ticket’s victory to a “coup d’état.” Mat Staver, chairman and founder of Liberty Counsel, added, “What we are witnessing only happens in communist or repressive regimes. We must not allow this fraud to happen in America.”

Even as prominent Republican figures like George W. Bush and Mitt Romney slowly tried to nudge Mr. Trump toward the exit, leaders of the religious right continued to man the barricades. The conservative speaker and Falkirk Center fellow David Harris, Jr. put it this way:

If you’re a believer, and you believe God appointed Donald J. Trump to run this country, to lead this country, and you believe as I do that he will be re-elected the President of the United States, then friends, you’ve got to guard your heart, you’ve got to guard your peace. Right now we are at war.

Others stopped short of endorsing Mr. Trump’s wilder allegations of election fraud, but backed his right to challenge the results. Mr. Reed told the Religion News Service, “This election will be over when those recounts are complete and those legal challenges are resolved.” The Rev. Franklin Graham tweeted that the courts will “determine who wins the presidency.” The conservative pastor Robert Jeffress, who gave a sermon before Mr. Trump’s inaugural ceremony in 2017, noted that a Biden win was “the most likely outcome.”

After processing their disappointment, Christian nationalists may come around to the reality of Joe Biden’s victory. There is no indication, however, that this will temper their apocalyptic vision, according to which one side of the American political divide represents unmitigated evil. During a Nov. 11 virtual prayer gathering organized by the Family Research Council, one of the key speakers cast the election as the consequence of “the whole godless ideology that’s wanted to swallow our homes, destroy our marriages, throw our children into rivers of confusion.” Jim Garlow, an evangelical pastor whose Well Versed Ministry has as its stated goal, “Bringing biblical principles of governance to governmental leaders,” asserted that Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris are at the helm of an “ideology” that is “anti-Christ, anti-Biblical to its core.”

The comments pouring in from these and other figures may be forgotten when Mr. Biden takes office. But they are worth paying attention to now for what they say about the character of the movement. While many outsiders continue to think of Christian nationalism as a social movement that arises from the ground up, it in fact a political movement that operates mostly from the top down. The rank-and-file of the movement is diverse and comes to its churches with an infinite variety of motivations and concerns, but the leaders are far more unified.

They collaborate in a densely interconnected network of think-tanks, policy groups, activist organizations, legal advocacy groups and conservative pastoral networks. What holds them together is not any centralized command structure, but a radical political ideology that is profoundly hostile to democracy and pluralism, and a certain political style that seeks to provoke moral panic, rewards the paranoid and views every partisan conflict as a conflagration, the end of the world. Partisan politics is the lifeblood of their movement.

If one considers the movement from the perspective of its leaders, it is easier to see why it is unlikely to change in the new political circumstances we find ourselves in. The power of the leadership is the function of at least three underlying structural realities in America’s political and economic life, and those realities are not going to change anytime soon.

The first is the growing economic inequality that has produced spectacular fortunes for the few, while too many ordinary families struggle to get by. Leaders of the movement get much of the support for their well-funded operations from a cadre of super-wealthy individuals and extended families who are as committed to free-market fundamentalism as they are to reactionary religion. The donors in turn need the so-called values voters in order to lock down their economic agenda of low taxation for the wealthy and minimal regulation. These donors include, among many others, the Prince-DeVos family, the fracking billionaire Wilks brothers, and members of the Green family, whose Hobby Lobby fortune helped build the Museum of the Bible. The movement gets another big chunk of its funding from the large mass of people who are often in the middle rungs of the economic spectrum and whose arduously cultivated resentments toward those below them have been turned into a fund-raising bonanza.

The second structural reality to consider is that Christian nationalism is a creation of a uniquely isolated messaging sphere. Many members of the rank and file get their main political information not just from messaging platforms that keep their audiences in a world that is divorced from reality, but also from dedicated religious networks and reactionary faith leaders. The fact that Mr. Trump was able to hold on to a high percentage of the vote in the face of such overwhelming evidence of malfeasance is proof enough that the religious-nationalist end of the right-wing information bubble has gotten more, not less, resistant over time.

The third critical factor is a political system that gives disproportionate power to an immensely organized, engaged and loyal minority. One of the most reliable strategies for producing that unshakable cohort has been to get them to agree that abortion is the easy answer to every difficult political policy question. Recently, religious right leaders have shifted their focus more to a specious understanding of what they call “religious freedom” or “religious liberty,” but the underlying strategy is the same: make individuals see their partisan vote as the primary way to protect their cultural and religious identity.

Republicans have long known that the judiciary is one of the most effective instruments of minority rule. Mr. Trump’s success in packing the federal judiciary — as of this writing, 220 federal judges, including three Supreme Court justices — will be one of his most devastating legacies. The prospect of further entrenching minority rule in the coming years will keep the alliance between Republicans and the religious right alive.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the Christian nationalist response to the 2020 election is that we’ve seen this movie before. The “stolen election” meme won’t bring Mr. Trump back into the Oval Office. But then, the birther narrative never took President Barack Obama out of office, either. The point of conspiratorial narratives and apocalyptic rhetoric is to lay the groundwork for a politics of total obstruction, in preparation for the return of a “legitimate” ruler. The best guess is that religious authoritarianism of the next four years will look a lot like it did in the last four years. We ignore the political implications for our democracy at our peril.

Katherine Stewart (@kathsstewart) is the author of “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism.”

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Secret Service Struck Again by Coronavirus Outbreak

WASHINGTON — The Secret Service’s Uniformed Division has sustained a coronavirus outbreak, according to four people briefed on the matter, the latest blow to a beleaguered agency that has faced challenges in performing its duties during the pandemic.

The outbreak is at least the fourth to strike the agency since the pandemic began, further hobbling its staffing as it continues to provide full protection to President Trump and prepares for the number of people it is charged with protecting to grow because of the election of Joseph R. Biden Jr.

At least 30 uniformed Secret Service officers tested positive in recent weeks for the virus, and the agency asked about another 60 to quarantine, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing personnel matters. At least a handful of agents also tested positive or were forced to isolate, two of the people said.

The Washington Post first reported the outbreak.

It was unclear how the officers contracted the virus. Many traveled to Trump or Biden campaign events in the final weeks of the election, the people said. Several senior White House officials and Trump allies also contracted the virus after attending an election night party at the White House.

A spokeswoman said the Secret Service kept up its duties during the campaign season and that it was taking precautions, including testing, contact tracing and isolating people as needed, to respond to Covid-19.

“The health and safety of our work force is paramount,” said the spokeswoman, Julia McMurray.

Officers in the Uniformed Division have different responsibilities from the famed Secret Service agents who guard presidents and their families. The officers provide protection for physical locations like the White House and the vice president’s home at the Naval Observatory in Washington. They also screen crowds at public events. The division — which has 1,600 officers — was widely faulted after fence jumpers breached the White House grounds during former President Barack Obama’s second term.

Many officers and agents privately expressed concerns in the final weeks of the presidential race about traveling to campaign events across the country. They feared contracting the virus at the events or while traveling, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The pandemic has been particularly taxing on law enforcement agencies whose officers come in direct contact with people to do their work. In the first few months of the outbreak, one in six New York Police Department officers were out sick or on quarantine.

The pandemic has created unique problems for the Secret Service as the nature of its work — especially during a presidential campaign — forces the agency to deploy its agents across the country, including to events held by Mr. Trump where social distancing was rarely practiced and wearing masks was not required.

In the most glaring example of the dangers agents faced, Mr. Trump held a rally in June at an indoor arena in Tulsa, Okla. One of Mr. Trump’s allies who attended the event, Herman Cain, died from the virus six weeks after the rally.

In August, at least 11 employees at the Secret Service’s training facility in Maryland tested positive for the virus. The agency had shuttered the facility earlier in the year to develop procedures to mitigate transmission of the coronavirus. But several trainees were believed to have contracted the virus during training exercises and at a nearby hotel where they practiced no social distancing.

Earlier in the summer, two members of the Secret Service who were dispatched to provide security at the Tulsa rally tested positive. Around that time, Vice President Mike Pence canceled a trip to Florida after members of his detail showed symptoms of the virus.

The latest outbreak comes at a time when the Secret Service’s resources are already stretched. During a transition, the agency is expected to provide more protection for the president-elect and vice president-elect and their families while continuing its regular duties of protecting the president and his family.

During his hospitalization for the coronavirus in October, Mr. Trump had an agent drive him past a group of supporters outside the hospital. Medical experts said Mr. Trump was likely contagious at the time and that the agents who were in a hermetically sealed Chevy Suburban with him could have easily been infected, even though they were covered in the same kind of personal protective equipment used by medical professionals.

Annie Karni contributed reporting.

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Trump Pentagon Purge Could Accelerate His Goal to Pull Troops From Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — Consistent is not the adjective many would use to describe President Trump’s national security policy. But there is one goal he has nurtured since the 2016 campaign: withdrawing all American troops from Afghanistan.

Now, in the waning days of his presidency, Mr. Trump is scrambling to make it so, aided by conservative antiwar forces who see it not only as good policy but also as a linchpin to any future he may seek in politics.

This week, Mr. Trump dismissed his defense secretary, Mark T. Esper, who had repeatedly expressed reluctance for a fast pullout from Afghanistan, replacing him with Christopher C. Miller, the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, who may lack the stature and experience to push back effectively on Mr. Trump’s 11th-hour foreign policy actions.

Notably, Douglas Macgregor, a retired Army colonel and fierce proponent of ending American involvement in Afghanistan, was named this week as a senior adviser to Mr. Miller.

Mr. Trump recently nominated a new ambassador to Afghanistan, William Ruger, the vice president for research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute — a vocal and well-financed opponent of current conflicts abroad. Even before any Senate confirmation, which seems unlikely before Inauguration Day, Mr. Ruger maintains a large chair at Mr. Trump’s foreign policy table.

“The president has had difficulty finding personnel who would faithfully execute on his preferences,” Mr. Ruger said in an interview on Friday. With the new Pentagon leadership, “the president could really cement a legacy here,” he said, adding that Mr. Trump “could be the leader who ends America’s longest war.”

This week, the American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Austin S. Miller, traveled to Washington on a previously scheduled trip as officials in both countries braced for a possible announcement as early as next week to quickly reduce the 4,500 United States troops still left in Afghanistan. Mr. Trump has said previously that he wants to pull all troops from Afghanistan by Christmas.

With his recent flurry of firings and appointments, Mr. Trump has effectively pulled down a majority of the personnel guardrails against a fast withdrawal.

Mr. Trump’s views on reducing the United States’ footprint overseas are long standing and a central component of his “America First” foreign policy agenda. After originally supporting the war in Iraq, he spent years criticizing President George W. Bush for America’s wars in the region. During his 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump astonished fellow Republicans by directly attacking Mr. Bush about the war in Iraq and suggesting he failed to prevent the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

But what many Republicans failed to grasp is that Mr. Trump’s positions on the so-called endless wars were good politics. Rancor toward those conflicts has grown among many conservatives, including those in the Koch circle, as well as libertarians among congressional Republicans and even those on the left, including Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, among others.

Last year, VoteVets, the liberal political action committee, and the conservative Concerned Veterans for America teamed up to persuade Congress to revoke authorizations of military force passed after Sept. 11. Mr. Trump also replaced the hawkish John R. Bolton with Robert C. O’Brien as his national security adviser. Mr. O’Brien has said the United States needs to redirect its resources from Afghanistan and toward the competition and possible conflicts with China and Russia.

Polls have shown that a majority of veterans have grown disenchanted with the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, which helped Mr. Trump earn strong support among veterans who voted in 2016. Many have been disappointed that troops remain deployed in Afghanistan and that other promises to reduce the military presence in other regions have not been fulfilled.

Exit polls this month suggest that Mr. Trump won veterans 54 percent to 44 percent; in 2016, the poll found he won veterans 60 percent to 34 percent, a major shift that could stem from a variety of factors including his mixed record on these issues.

Transition: Latest Updates

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will find himself having to address these political dynamics at home and the realities on the ground as progress toward peace between the Taliban and the Afghan government stalls.

Critics of a fast withdrawal before the Taliban meet the conditions of a recent peace agreement fear that any attempt to pull all American troops by year’s end would potentially result in deaths on the ground. Citing recent escalating violence across the county, they worry that the Taliban could succeed at seizing more territory, especially in the south, the group’s historic center of power.

“It’s irresponsible to make troop reduction your entire political objective,” said Evelyn N. Farkas, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense. “If you withdraw irresponsibly, you put strategic objectives and military lives at risk.”

Critics of an accelerated withdrawal point to logistical challenges of the strategy. Several current and former Pentagon officials have noted that a withdrawal within two months — which seems to be Mr. Trump’s goal — would be challenging, given the amount of military equipment that would have to be shipped out to avoid becoming spoils for the Taliban.

“Those in the Pentagon will use the logistics argument to slow this down,” said Dan Caldwell, a senior adviser to Concerned Veterans for America, a group that has strongly influenced veterans’ policies under Mr. Trump. “People there have slow-walked this and tried to box the president in and that likely upset the president and did not endear Secretary Esper to him.”

Over the last year, the organization has spent over $3 million on advertisements in support of an Afghanistan withdrawal. Conservative news media personalities, including Tucker Carlson, have also advocated the drawdown. If Mr. Trump actually announces an expedited plan, “we are going to go big,” Mr. Caldwell said.

Of course with Mr. Trump, strongly expressed intentions concerning troops often do not come to fruition.

After announcing a full troop withdrawal from Syria in late 2018 — and abandoning Kurdish allies, for which he was widely criticized — he opted to leave several hundred troops in Syria.

He has also told aides he wanted to greatly reduce the 700 American troops in Somalia — most of them Special Operations forces — and so far that has gone nowhere.

Mr. Ruger said the pressure would remain when Mr. Biden takes office.

“Regardless of who the president is, we will support good policies,” he said. “Getting out of Afghanistan is good policy.”

Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting from Kabul.

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