Rubio refers to Biden as 'president-elect' as Trump refuses to concede

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) speaks to members of the media in the Senate Subway under the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 6, 2020 in Washington, D.C. - Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images North America/TNS

WASHINGTON — Sen. Marco Rubio referred to Joe Biden as “president-elect” on Monday evening, making him the first prominent Florida Republican — who isn’t retiring — to directly acknowledge Biden’s victory even as President Donald Trump continues to falsely claim he won the election.

In an interview with reporters on Capitol Hill, Rubio, who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, was asked his opinion on reports saying independent Maine Sen. Angus King could be named director of national intelligence for the incoming Biden administration.

While answering, Rubio used the term “president-elect” — more than a week after every major media outlet declared Biden the winner based on vote projections — joining just five of his GOP colleagues in acknowledging that Biden had won.

“Well that’ll be the president-elect’s decision, obviously,” Rubio said. “I’ve worked well with (King) during our time in the Intelligence Committee and I haven’t had a chance to talk to him about it. It’s a little premature for that but, yeah, I get along with him well and we work well together.”

Rubio was then asked if his answer to the King question meant that he was calling Biden the president-elect.

“You just called him the president-elect. Are you saying that Biden is the president-elect now?” a reporter asked Rubio.

He wouldn’t be that specific.

“Well, ultimately that’s what the results, the preliminary results, seem to indicate,” Rubio said. “You certainly have to anticipate that’s the highest likelihood at this point. But obviously the president has legal claims in court and will continue to pursue those and if that changes, obviously, it’ll be something we’ll have to deal with.”

Other Florida Republicans such as Sen. Rick Scott and Gov. Ron DeSantis have not called Biden president-elect. Trump has continued to insist, without evidence, that widespread voter fraud cost him the election.

“I won the Election,” Trump tweeted Monday, a statement that led Twitter to claim that “official sources called this election differently.” The Associated Press has called the election for Biden with 290 electoral votes to Trump’s 232. The outcome in Georgia, where Biden holds a slim lead over Trump with a recount underway, has not been decided but Biden already has the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the presidency, making him president-elect.

Most Republicans holding elected office have been wary of saying anything that disputes Trump’s baseless claims. The only Republican in Congress from Florida to acknowledge Biden’s victory before Monday was retiring Rep. Francis Rooney from Southwest Florida.

Previously, Rubio said he supported the idea that the General Services Administration should begin the process of transitioning power from Trump to Biden because if Trump’s court challenges were to overturn the election, an ongoing transition wouldn’t impede Trump’s ability to run the country. The GSA is an agency that manages the federal bureaucracy.

“We need to have that contingency in place,” Rubio told Bloomberg News last week. “I don’t think allowing the GSA to move forward on some of the transition work prejudices in any way any of the legal claims the president intends to make.”

Scott said last week that he does not favor any bureaucratic transition until all votes are counted, a process that will take weeks.

“We have plenty of time and we’re going to find out,” Scott said to the Miami Herald. “I hope there’s no fraud. None of us do. We want all the votes to be counted and when we do, we’ll go through the normal transition.”

But Rubio also said that Trump has a right to continue his court challenges even without providing evidence to the public of massive voter fraud because allowing legal challenges to play out will ensure that Americans have confidence in the result.

“The only way the outcome of this election is going to be widely accepted — which is what we need — is through the post-election process in our law,” Rubio said in a video last week.

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