Despite Joe Biden’s apparent ascension as the 46th president of the United States, President Donald Trump’s campaign is barreling forward with a blitz of legal fights in key states while still scrambling to find instances of voter fraud.
But inside the campaign, sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, say fatigue and disappointment have hit the rank and file on the president’s team, and the reality is settling in that the president lost the election.
“It’s a horrible feeling,” one Trump campaign aide told ABC News after the major networks called the race for Biden. Some staffers said they’d come to grips with losing in recent days, others said it didn’t feel real until Fox News made the final call on Saturday, according to sources.
Though the Trump team has filed lawsuits in several states, sources familiar with the actions stress to ABC News that there has been internal bickering over the suits with some members of the president’s legal team feeling they are “pointless” and “meritless.” Sources said in particular former New York City Mayor Giuliani, who is now the president’s personal attorney, and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s involvement should be seen as “the actions of Trump’s warriors who will do anything and ignore the obvious reality that this is over.”
Meanwhile, Trump has been defiant in the face of defeat, repeatedly and baselessly claiming he won the election in a series of all-caps tweets on Saturday after spending a few hours at his golf club in Virginia.
Another aide noted that they were proud that the president had expanded support from 2016, but, ultimately, the results show it wasn’t enough to overcome “how much so many people hate him,” citing the president’s handling of the coronavirus and relentless efforts to discredit mail-in ballots as key issues.
Since Election Day, many Trump campaign staffers have been huddled on a noisy floor in the campaign’s Arlington, Virginia, headquarters fielding hundreds of calls a day on a hotline the campaign set up as they try to find instances of voter fraud, multiple sources told ABC News.
But the hotline has turned into a nightmare for some, as staffers, some of whom have contracts that expire in the coming days, have been bombarded with prank calls from people laughing or mocking them over Biden’s win before hanging up, sources tell ABC News. Prank calling the Trump campaign’s hotline has already become a trend on TikTok, the social media network that was used earlier in the year in an attempt to tank the president’s rally in Tulsa by mass-requesting tickets.
The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Earlier on Saturday, before Biden was projected to win the election, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien and deputy campaign manager Justin Clark looked to rally the troops Saturday on a private call with top surrogates around the country, urging them that “we are still in this fight.”
ABC News obtained audio of the call from a source.
Stepien, who took over as campaign manager back in July, tried to make it clear to the surrogates that the call wasn’t a “fundraising solicitation,” but went on to ask for donations, saying it was the first way they could help the president moving forward.
“This is not a fundraising solicitation, I want to be super clear, this is an update call to make sure you know exactly where we are in the campaign … but if anyone wants to contribute to the Legal Defense Fund, you can go to DonaldTrump.com,” Stepien said.
The campaign has been aggressively raising money to fund its ongoing legal efforts, blasting dozens of texts and emails to supporters each day. But according to the fine print on the donations page, 60% of the funds raised will go to paying down the campaign’s debt.
Trump’s campaign manager urged surrogates that they could call on them in the coming days to show up to protests and voice their support for the president.
“At a moment’s instance we may need your help at protests in your state to make sure that the president is represented and our side of the argument is shown,” Stepien said.” At a moment’s notice, we may need your help and support on the ground, you know, waving the flag and yelling the president’s name and support.”
(By Will Steakin, Katherine Faulders, and John Santucci | ABC News)