The official White House line is simple: everyone should simply pretend that Joe Biden didn't win the election, reality be damned. Not only does Donald Trump keep tweeting that he "won" the race he lost, but White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the outgoing president will attend the inaugural ceremony in January because it will be "his own inauguration."
This transparently foolish rhetoric has not persuaded everyone on Trump's team. NBC News reported this morning:
President Donald Trump's National Security Council is preparing for "a very professional transition," because it looks like Joe Biden has won the election, national security adviser Robert O'Brien said in comments that aired Monday.
The White House national security adviser spoke last week at a global security forum sponsored by the Soufan Center, but the public saw his comments this morning for the first time when they were aired online.
To be sure, O'Brien, who's earned a reputation as a Trump loyalist, hedged a bit, and was less than categorical when acknowledging reality. But he also went quite a bit further than anyone else on the president's team.
"Look, if the Biden-Harris ticket is determined to be the winner — and obviously things look that way now — we'll have a very professional transition from the National Security Council," O'Brien said. He proceeded to describe the incoming Biden team in complimentary terms, and even bragged about American traditions: "[T]he great thing in the United States of America, we've passed the baton and had peaceful successful transitions even in the most contentious periods."
O'Brien went on to argue that he believes Trump will have an impressive legacy "as he leaves office." NBC News' report added, "O'Brien also sprinkled his remarks with references to the president departing Washington."
These are not usually the words we'd expect to hear from a White House official who seriously expects his boss to hold onto power.
In fact, if we see a presidential tweet later today in which Trump fires O'Brien, at least we'll know why.
Looking ahead, Americans can certainly hope that O'Brien is correct, and that the National Security Council is preparing for "a very professional transition" to the Biden administration, but some skepticism is probably in order. After all, it was about a month ago when O'Brien said Trump would "of course" accept the results of an election in which he was defeated.
In other words, the president's weird election posturing hasn't convinced his White House national security adviser, but Trump almost certainly doesn't care.