Evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress has become one of the few high-profile supporters of President Trump to publicly acknowledge that the election was won by Joe Biden — and to urge his followers to pray for (rather than against) him.
“When Joe Biden becomes president, we should commend him for the things he does right. We should condemn the things he does wrong. And above all, we must pray fervently for our president,” Jeffress wrote in an opinion piece for Fox News. “If President Biden succeeds, we all succeed. May God bless Joe Biden, and may God bless the United States of America.”
Jeffress, a frequent visitor to the White House who traveled with Trump during the 2016 campaign, is the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas, and his sermons are carried on 1,200 television stations across the U.S. Jeffress is also a frequent guest on Fox News, so his voice reaches many evangelical Trump voters. His message to those refusing to accept Biden’s apparent victory was simple: Don’t be hypocrites.
“It’s always easier to submit and to pray for someone when he was our preferred candidate. But the rubber really meets the road when the person who takes office is not the one we supported,” Jeffress wrote. “Here is our chance to show that Christians are not hypocrites.”
He also said that Trump was fully within his rights to challenge the election results in court, but he remains skeptical that those cases will yield a new winner.
“I don’t pretend to be an election expert,” Jeffress told the Dallas Morning News in a phone interview. “I trust that if there is that kind of fraud that it would be uncovered.”
On Wednesday, however, Jeffress abruptly reversed himself, saying that the outcome of the election would not be decided until the Electoral College votes in December.
Jeffress isn’t the only Trump confidant and supporter to voice skepticism about the president’s legal strategy. Lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who testified during Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, believes those cases will not overturn Biden’s victory.
“I think this election has been conducted in a valid fashion. I don’t see any legal arguments that would change the outcome of the election,” Dershowitz said this week in an interview with Sky News. “There are some arguments in Pennsylvania about late ballots, but even if all those late ballots are discounted, Vice President Biden still wins the election overwhelmingly, so I think we can be secure that the next president of the United States will be Joe Biden.”
Biden, meanwhile, has called Trump’s refusal to concede the election “an embarrassment.” Numerous foreign leaders have reached their own conclusion and have congratulated Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in recent days. Yet many Republicans at home have been reluctant to acknowledge the reality reflected in the tally of votes nationwide.
Asked by reporters on Wednesday whether Biden was indeed president-elect, Sen. Marco Rubio seemed to hedge.
“Clearly if … none of these court cases hold up, that’s exactly what he will be,” Rubio responded. “And that’s what the preliminary results seem to indicate. But that doesn’t mean because I haven’t seen evidence of these claims, it doesn’t exist.”
Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania went further, telling the Washington Post’s Robert Costa, “There’s no question that most Republicans are disappointed that the president does not appear to have won this election.”
So far, however, just a handful of Republicans have offered Biden their congratulations.
But even for some of the people who know Trump best, the writing is on the wall.
“He’s going to go down to Palm Beach and play golf and live the normal life, I think,” Trump’s first wife, Ivana Trump, told People magazine this week. “He has plenty of money, places to go and live in and enjoy his life.”
Ivana, the mother of the president’s children Ivanka, Eric and Don Jr., added that Trump’s temperament will not allow him to go away quietly.
“He’s not a good loser,” she told People. “He doesn’t like to lose, so he’s going to fight and fight and fight.”