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David Perdue appears to tacitly acknowledge Biden’s victory in video call with Republican group

In a private zoom call obtained by The Washington Post, Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) referred several times to a new administration run by President-elect Biden. (Video: The Washington Post)

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) appeared to tacitly acknowledge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in a video recording obtained by The Washington Post on Thursday, speaking just days before President Trump plans to travel to Georgia to campaign for Perdue and fellow senator Kelly Loeffler.

Neither Loeffler (R-Ga.) nor Perdue has acknowledged Biden’s victory in public, and both have supported the president’s unfounded claims that fraud tainted the election.

But in a video meeting recorded Wednesday with members of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), Perdue spoke pragmatically about the role a GOP-controlled Senate could play as a check on the Biden administration. He did not discuss Trump’s efforts to overturn the election.

“We know what this change of command at the top will mean with our foreign relations,” Perdue said in the video, adding: “If we can keep the majority in the Senate, we can at least be a buffer on some of the things that the Biden camp has been talking about in terms of their foreign policy.”

The recording highlighted a stark tension running through the Senate runoff campaign in Georgia, with both candidates making a hard sell that control of the chamber is more important than ever — an argument that presumes a Biden victory.

That message conflicts with the fact that Trump has not conceded and has continued to seek to overturn the result — and has lashed out angrily at fellow Republicans who have not joined him in that fight.

In the recording, Perdue described Biden and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as longtime former colleagues and “known negotiators” who could make deals not seen between the White House and Congress in “two or three administrations.”

And he referred to Trump’s term as “the last administration.”

“We have an opportunity to do something that maybe we lost in the last administration between [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and Trump,” Perdue said. “That was just a bridge too far to think that we were going to get them to negotiate. But here we have Biden and McConnell, who are ex-colleagues in the Senate, who are known negotiators, who, if Biden can get away from this extreme part of his party, he might make some deals.”

Perdue used a more hypothetical tone at another point on the video, saying that the Senate could be in a position for such deals “if they end up being in power,” referring to the Democrats in the White House.

Perdue spokesman John Burke called the video a “non-story,” adding: “Senator Perdue totally supports President Trump and his fight for transparency and accuracy in this election. Perdue for weeks has been repeatedly sounding the alarm about what the consequences of total Democratic control of Congress would be if [Senate Majority Leader Charles E.] Schumer wins these two seats in Georgia.”

Perdue made no mention in the video of how he would work with Trump in a second term.

Participants on the Zoom video call, which was moderated by former U.S. senator Norm Coleman, the RJC national board chairman, had been asked to keep the session off the record.

Coleman declined to comment when reached by telephone.

Matt Brooks, the RJC’s executive director, said it is “grasping at straws” to conclude that either Perdue or Loeffler acknowledged Biden’s win on the call with the group.

“A lot of the focus was on the risks associated with a Senate majority led by Chuck Schumer,” Brooks said. “Any inference that either of these two are not supportive of the president just isn’t true, and in fact they’re all going to be campaigning together in Georgia. Both Senator Perdue and Senator Loeffler strongly supports President Trump and President Trump supports them.”

Trump roils Georgia GOP as party waits to see if presidential visit helps — or hurts — in crucial Senate runoffs

Perdue and Loeffler were both thrown into runoffs after neither exceeded 50 percent of the vote in the crowded fields of their Nov. 3 contests. Excluding their seats, Republicans are set to control the Senate 50-48 when they convene next year, meaning the Jan. 5 runoffs will determine the balance of power. If Democrats pick up both seats, they would effectively control the chamber with Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris’s tie-breaking vote.

Perdue and Loeffler, whose victories will depend on high turnout among Trump supporters, so far have avoided incurring the president’s wrath, but they have fielded hostile questions from Trump loyalists at campaign events demanding to know what they plan to do to help the president uncover fraud in Georgia’s elections.

Privately, Perdue has previously acknowledged that the president’s time in power could be waning. On a donor call last month, he noted that Trump “may not be able to hold out.”

But both senators have called for the resignation of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican whom they accused, without evidence, of mismanaging the election.

Trump has repeatedly attacked both Raffensperger and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) for refusing to echo his baseless claims that Biden narrowly won Georgia because of fraud.

Trump’s baseless election fraud claims in Georgia turn Senate runoffs into a ‘high-wire act’ for Republicans

On the RJC video, Perdue said Republican senators could block Biden spending initiatives, administration appointments and judicial nominations.

“We hold the strings,” Perdue said. “Not only the purse strings, but also the nomination and confirmation strings to a Biden administration or a Biden court, if you will.”

Loeffler also appeared with Perdue on the RJC call Wednesday. She never mentioned Biden by name, but at one point she agreed with Perdue that her top priority if she is elected is to protect “the work that has happened over the last four years.”

“We have to preserve that,” she said.

“We are going to hold them accountable in that advise-and-consent process,” Loeffler said in the video. “So, you know, I think we’re going to see a lot of folks from the Obama administration come back, which is, you know, a great chance for us to review their records and hold them accountable for their track records.”

Loeffler spokesman Stephen Lawson said the senator was in no way acknowledging Biden’s victory.

“She supports the president exhausting every available option to ensure the results of the election are accurate while she also works to hold the Senate majority on January 5th,” he said. “This is a total non-story.”