Several Republicans in Louisiana’s congressional delegation are very happy with their colleague, U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, for landing a high-profile post in the Biden administration.
Only don’t call it the Biden administration yet.
As Richmond, D-New Orleans, held a news conference Tuesday to announce he would resign his seat to join President-elect Joe Biden’s White House as a senior advisor, President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was in a Pennsylvania courtroom making the case that Trump had the election stolen from him, a claim courts have so far rejected.
As Biden tapped Richmond and other top aides to serve in his administration, Trump was claiming he won the election.
The dichotomy between Richmond’s new post and Trump’s continued refusal to acknowledge the election results led to some painstakingly crafted statements from Louisiana’s Republican delegation.
U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, a Baton Rouge Republican, issued a lengthy quote about Richmond’s departure creating a “void in our delegation.” In keeping with the party line, though, he deployed a caveat.
“Pending election results,” Graves’ statement said, “Cedric could land a spot in the West Wing with extreme proximity to the Oval Office.”
Biden won 306 electoral college votes – assuming Biden’s roughly 14,000-vote lead in Georgia withstands a recount – after the Democrat flipped some key midwestern swing states key to Trump’s win in 2016, along with Arizona. The Associated Press and other major news networks, including Fox News, called the race for Biden on Nov. 7.
Republicans in Congress have largely backed Trump's effort to fight the election results, and Louisiana's delegation is no exception.
U.S. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, of Jefferson, likewise did some verbal gymnastics to congratulate his “dear friend” Richmond. “I’ll miss him in the House,” Scalise said in an interview. At another point, he hedged: “There’s still recounts going on,” he noted.
“I’d rather wait until this election is certified,” he said, when asked how he plans to work with the Biden administration.
U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, acknowledged that the obstacles to Trump’s legal effort to overturn the election results, which involves flipping tens of thousands of votes across at least three swing states, are “apparent.” A Republican, who himself won re-election Nov. 3, Cassidy told reporters the legal process is “working its way out,” and said Trump will concede “if it turns out” he loses the court cases.
“Recognizing there are court challenges still taking place, that said, I am very pleased for Cedric,” Cassidy said. “I’m pleased for Louisiana. His position in the West Wing would obviously give him influence that would allow him to present issues that would be important to the people of Louisiana that otherwise may not be heard by that administration.”
A spokesperson for U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, the outspoken Madisonville Republican who is closely aligned with the president, declined to comment.
Congressman Clay Higgins, R-Lafayette, said in a statement that "if former Vice President Joe Biden is inaugurated as President of the United States on January 20th, then having Cedric in the White House would be a win for Louisiana."
"His powerful voice in Congress will certainly be missed," Higgins said. "Although Congressman Richmond and I have been regularly at odds ideologically, I’ve always respected his passionate service. I wish him the best and will continue to work with him on our shared missions, wherever we may see eye to eye, and wherever he may serve.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, in a statement, threaded the needle similarly: "While legal challenges have yet to be resolved in several key states, I am happy that my friend and colleague Cedric Richmond has been offered a position in a potential Biden administration," he said.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who typically goes to great lengths to avoid criticizing President Trump, said Wednesday on his talk radio show he hopes the president will concede soon, especially given the enormous pressures of the pandemic.
While Trump has "every right" to challenge fraud in the courts, Edwards noted the president hasn't successfully uncovered meaningful cases of fraud that would overturn tens of thousands of votes across multiple states he lost.
"Thus far we've heard a lot of talk," Edwards said. "We haven't seen much evidence at all. I don't know of a single meaningful case that has been prosecuted in any state in the country."
Richmond, at a press conference announcing his move to the West Wing, said he expects at some point Republican senators, Trump confidants and ultimately Trump himself will “understand how important” a peaceful transition of power is.
“I fully expect an orderly transition,” Richmond said. “I think he’s having a hard time coming to grips with the real facts and not the alternative facts, that the election is over.”