Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker offered a withering assessment of President Donald Trump's refusal to begin handing the reins of government to President-elect Joe Biden Tuesday, saying that refusal is damaging the country at a crucial moment.
"This move" — Attorney General William Barr's decision to let the Department of Justice investigate claims of election fraud — "is so wildly inappropriate," Baker said. "And stalling an orderly transition process, especially at a time like this, is equally unacceptable.
"I can't think of a worse time to stall a transition than amid a deadly pandemic that the federal government continues to own primary responsibility for responding to," he said.
After saying that he's been a Republican for four decades, and has worked repeatedly to elect Republican candidates, Baker noted that the president's current intransigence has the institutional backing of the Republican Party as a whole.
"I'm dismayed to hear the baseless claims from the president, from his team, and from many other elected Republican officials in Washington," Baker said.
"[If] the Trump campaign has legitimate legal challenges, they should bring them to court, and the courts should deal with those as quickly and as fairly as possible," he added. "But I'm aware of no legitimate claims of wrongdoing anywhere near the scale it would take to affect this outcome, and there's no credible third-party entity that's verified the president's claims in any way.
"Continuing to make these claims erodes trust in the system when in fact, the election system is working exactly as it was designed to do," he said.
Baker has previously been critical of Trump, and has said he cast no vote for president in 2016 and 2020. But his remarks Tuesday were unusually detailed and forceful.
Baker joins a small group of Republicans — including Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney — who have acknowledged Biden's victory.
Baker discussed the nation's unprecedented political situation after providing a regular update on the COVID-19 picture in Massachusetts.
Cases and hospitalizations have increased more than 300% and nearly 200% since Labor Day, Baker said. With hospital occupancy at 67% and ICU occupancy at 50%, he added, "the trends obviously are going in the wrong direction, and show no sign of changing."
The good news, Baker said, is that Massachusetts has learned how to test, trace and manage health care resources more effectively since the pandemic first hit last spring.
To that end, he continued, the state's hospitals are currently preparing to convert acute-care beds to 400 ICU beds if necessary, and the state is planning to build hospitals in "suitable locations."
Still, Baker warned, the resources required to manage a COVID surge will ultimately be limited — and residents should act accordingly.
"When it comes down to it, controlling this virus depends in many ways on the everyday actions of everybody," he said.
"Our commonwealth has done incredible work to fight this virus since March, bur recently, folks have let their guard down."
Before turning to national politics, Baker then urged Massachusetts residents to adhere to new state guidelines unveiled last week, and to take simple steps including handwashing, social distancing and getting tested if they feel sick.
Below are Baker's full comments:
“I’m dismayed to hear the baseless claims coming from the president, from his team, and from many other elected Republican officials in Washington. I’ve been a Republican for 40 years. I’ve raised money for Republican candidates; I’ve knocked doors for Republican candidates; I’ve answered and made phone calls for Republican candidates. But this latest move, to employ the Department of Justice in all of this, is so wildly inappropriate — and stalling an orderly transition process, especially at a time like this, is equally unacceptable. I can’t think of a worse time to stall a transition than amid a deadly pandemic that the federal government continues to own primary responsibility for responding to.
“If the Trump campaign has legitimate legal challenges, they should bring them to court, and the courts should deal with those as quickly and as fairly as possible. But I’m aware of no legitimate claims of wrongdoing anywhere near the scale it would take to affect this outcome, and there’s no credible third-party entity that’s verified the president’s claims in any way. Continuing to make these claims erodes trust in the system when in fact, the election system is working exactly as it was designed to do.
“And let’s not forget: There are Republican elected officials with major roles to play in the vote-counting process in many of the states that are in dispute. Anybody who doubts that should take a look at some of Brad Raffensperger’s comments, who’s the current Republican secretary of state in Georgia, about whether or not he thinks the process there was above board, proper, and appropriate.
“Orderly transitions of power are good for the country. They’re good for the American people. There’s simply no question on this. And every campaign season, we hear a lot about doing what’s best for the country. And what this president is doing at this point in time is not in the best interest of this country. The administration needs to move forward and cooperate with the president-elect’s transition team immediately.”