Politics

These Trump supporters don’t believe Biden will be president — and nothing is changing their minds

Watch the CBSN documentary, “Hindsight is 2020: An Unprecedented Election,” in the video player above.


The votes are counted. The president knows it. In a few days, Joe Biden will be inaugurated.

But for a portion of President Trump’s most die-hard supporters, none of this proves that Mr. Biden won a fair election and will be the legitimate 46th president of the United States. Some still don’t believe Mr. Biden will be the one taking the oath of office on January 20.

“There’s no way that me nor many, many, many, many others would ever recognize this last election,” said Couy Griffin, a county commissioner in New Mexico who founded a group called Cowboys for Trump. Griffin is one of several Trump supporters featured in the new CBSN documentary “Hindsight Is 2020: An Unprecedented Election.”

“I will never accept a Biden presidency,” he said.

When asked who would be standing on the steps of the Capitol for the inauguration, Griffin replied, “I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine.” (Griffin, who live-streamed himself standing on those same steps during the January 6 riot, is now under arrest for entering the restricted area.)

After months of lies and conspiracy theories about the voting results, it’s clear that Mr. Trump’s false narrative about a stolen election has stuck with a core group of his voters. And even the sight of Mr. Biden being sworn in won’t change their minds. 

The deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters who were trying to stop the counting of electoral votes confirming Mr. Biden’s win showed how literal and dangerous this belief has become.

CBS News polling released this week found that only 31% of Republican voters consider Mr. Biden the legitimate winner of the 2020 election. About two-thirds of total voters and two-thirds of independents consider Mr. Biden’s victory legitimate, while virtually all Democrats — 96% — see Mr. Biden as the legitimate winner.

The data indicate that as Mr. Biden takes office, there are potentially millions of Americans who still aren’t willing to accept his presidency.

Harry Formanek, a Trump supporter in Boca Raton, Florida, would not even entertain hypothetical questions about Biden’s presidency, saying there was no reason to discuss it.

“Joe Biden will never be president of the United States,” Formanek, who also supports QAnon conspiracies, told CBSN. “It’ll never happen. It’s not going to happen.”

A number of GOP state and local elected officials continue to say the same.

Mr. Trump started attacking the integrity of the 2020 election months before Election Day arrived, spreading falsehoods to cast doubt on mail-in ballots and telling supporters “the only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.” On election night, as votes were still being counted in many states, Mr. Trump falsely declared himself the winner.

Later that same day, the first major “Stop the Steal” Facebook page appeared, created by the leader of the conservative nonprofit Women For America First. Facebook shut it down in less than 24 hours due to “worrying calls for violence from some members of the group,” but by then it had already attracted more than 350,000 followers — and become a rallying cry.

Trump supporters in key swing states chanted “Stop the Steal” outside of election offices, claiming that the late counting of mail-in ballots — which largely benefitted Mr. Biden — was part of a plot against the president. Such protests have continued online and in person, and “Stop the Steal” signs were spotted throughout the crowd that swarmed the Capitol on January 6.

Since November 7, more than 60 election lawsuits from Mr. Trump and allied groups have been thrown out, sometimes by judges he appointed. The Supreme Court swiftly rejected a challenge to the election results. Recounts and audits in multiple states found no systematic fraud, as Mr. Trump’s own Justice Department confirmed. 

All 50 states certified their election results, the Electoral College votes were submitted on December 14, and on January 6, Vice President Pence counted those votes in a joint session of Congress to confirm Mr. Biden’s win.

But as all of this played out, “Stop the Steal” became a self-reinforcing alternate reality. For its believers, every step that supported Mr. Biden’s victory was just proof that the steal is even bigger than they thought.

For Formanek, the past two months only convinced him that federal courts, state election officials and Republicans in Congress are either part of the steal or powerless to stop it. After watching the process unfold, “I’ve only grown stronger in my opposition” to the election results, he said. 

Back in December, hours before the Supreme Court dismissed that election lawsuit, Formanek told CBSN that he would trust Mr. Trump’s word over the nation’s highest court if it ruled against him.

“These Supreme Court justices, they’re human beings,” he said, explaining that he believes they’d be “afraid for their lives” and cave in to pressure from Mr. Trump’s opponents.

Formanek was a poll worker on Election Day, and notes that he witnessed no fraud at the polling place where he worked.

After the Capitol attack, Mr. Trump issued a video finally acknowledging that a new administration will be sworn in January 20 and promising a “smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.” Mr. Biden has been extending his hand to disappointed Trump supporters, calling for an end to divisiveness and stating in his victory speech, “Let’s give each other a chance.”

But there’s no sign that the movement is dying down, and the threat of further violence over the election results remains. 

The mayor of Washington, D.C. has urged Americans not to attend the inauguration, and the Capitol building is now protected by thousands of National Guard troops. Mr. Biden canceled a plan to travel into Washington on Amtrak out of security concerns.

Griffin, the Cowboys for Trump founder, live-streamed while he was at the January 6 rally that became a riot, warning of more demonstrations and “blood running out” of the Capitol. 

He insisted he doesn’t support violence, but repeatedly implied there could be more of it to oppose Mr. Biden entering the White House.

“The left is always talking about resistance,” he said. “The left hasn’t even seen resistance until the right comes alive, I guarantee. Because the left are all the gun-grabbers. The right’s the ones that still have the guns.”

Griffin was taken into custody on Sunday after he threatened to return to Washington with firearms to protest the inauguration. Investigators say he told FBI agents there is “no option that’s off the table for the sake of freedom.”

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