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Politics Chat: Biden Calls For Hope And Healing In Speech

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The uncertainty, the wait, is over. Yes, there are still votes being counted this morning and races yet to be determined. Georgia and North Carolina, for example, are still too close to call. And there may be recounts. But the presidency has been decided, and America chose Joe Biden and his promise of unity.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE BIDEN: It's the honor of my lifetime that so many millions of Americans have voted for that vision. And now the work of making that vision is real. It's a task - the task - of our time.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's the president-elect speaking from Wilmington, Del., last night. And with us this morning is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let's start with the current president. He has not conceded, though let's remember there is nothing legal or binding about declaring victory or conceding defeat. Meanwhile, former President George W. Bush has called Joe Biden to congratulate him on his win. What's Trump's rationale for not accepting these results?

LIASSON: Well, the president is continuing to contest the election in court. He's been tweeting that he won the election. He says he got 71 million legal votes, suggesting that the 75 million and counting votes that Biden got are somehow illegal. But this is a hard thing for the president and nobody likes to lose. But for President Trump, his brand is about never, ever, ever losing. And it sounds like he wants to make sure he leaves the White House not looking like a loser for himself and his supporters. He needs to start the second chapter here by saying he's the real president and it was stolen from him.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There are lawsuits. What chances do they have of succeeding?

LIASSON: Legal experts on both sides say they have very little chance because they'd have to reverse hundreds of thousands of votes - tens of thousands of votes in multiple states. That generally doesn't happen. Even recounts, which the president has threatened in the states that are close enough to allow for a recount - he'd have to pay for those recounts. And historically, recounts never change more than a couple hundred votes here and there. So the prospects are slim.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let's turn to Biden's speech last night. What did you make of it?

LIASSON: Well, it was a unifying speech. He spoke directly to people who didn't vote for him. He said to those who voted for President Trump, I understand your disappointment. I've lost a couple of elections myself. But now let's give each other a chance. So that's his brand. He's going to try to unify. It was also a very practical speech - let's get down to work. He listed the things he believes he has a mandate for - control the virus, build prosperity, secure health care for Americans, achieve racial justice and save the climate. So he's going to get to work right away, and he's told the country what he wants to do.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And meanwhile, we're in this strange period - right? - where there's going to be several months until there's an inauguration where much could happen. Trump has hinted before the election that he would fire, for example, Anthony Fauci. Is that the kind of thing we should expect from him? What do you think the next two months will look like?

LIASSON: It's possible that the president could fire a lot of people. He could pardon a lot of people, most presidents do that on their way out. He could issue a lot of executive orders. Most of what President Trump could do between now and Inauguration Day could be reversed. But what I think will happen in the next couple of months is all of a sudden the focus of America will shift away from Donald Trump and towards the new president by definition. We've lived in a Donald Trump-centric political universe for four years, and that's what's going to happen. I think Biden has indicated he wants to hit the ground running. He has and his team have decades of experience in government. They're very organized and prepared. They know what they want to do in these agencies. And there's only so much that Donald Trump can do that would leave a permanent mark at this point.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Hit the ground running - Mara, let me ask you this, as someone who's obviously been a long time watcher of Washington. Joe Biden is calling for unity. How much success do you think he'll have on that front?

LIASSON: I think legislatively it depends on Mitch McConnell. If Republicans still control the Senate - we don't know that yet, we're waiting for some races in Georgia. But what's in Mitch McConnell's political interest? Does he want to compromise or not? We know that Joe Biden is a pragmatic centrist - kind of half a loaf guy. He is - wants to compromise. He's said that. He has said that cooperating is a choice. We can choose to cooperate or choose not to cooperate. And he says the American people want us to work together. He said also that it's a constant battle between the better angels of our nature and our darkest impulses, and what presidents say in this battle matters. So he's going to try as hard as he can to reach across the aisle.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, thank you so much.

LIASSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.