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John Kasich Says Republicans Are 'Afraid' Of Trump

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Last night, President Trump received another loss in court. A federal judge in Pennsylvania dismissed the campaign's attempts to stop the certification of Pennsylvania's votes. This is just the latest of more than two dozen failed challenges brought by the Trump campaign to overturn the election results. President Trump refuses to concede, and for the most part, his party has supported his efforts to pursue legal challenges based on false allegations of widespread voter fraud.

Very few high-profile Republicans have publicly acknowledged Joe Biden as the winner, but one of them is John Kasich. He's the former governor of Ohio and a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, and he joins us now.

Governor Kasich, welcome.

JOHN KASICH: Thanks, Leila. Glad to be with you.

FADEL: So you endorsed President-elect Joe Biden. He won this election. What do you make of President Trump's attempts to overturn the results?

KASICH: (Laughter) It's just absurd. The whole thing is - it's just - it's ridiculous. I mean, he has clearly won this election. And it is just sort of amazing to me that Republicans just keep sitting on their hands. It makes no sense.

And the concern I have about it is also involving the transition, preparing for the vaccine that will come, you know, just really almost momentarily. The ability to plan, to execute, to deliver all those things, you know, are not going at the speed they ought to be because of the unwillingness of the Trump administration to allow them to have access to all the information they need when they come into office.

Secondly, there's a - maybe perhaps also a little bit of a military risk in this, where you don't have a President-elect Biden getting the intelligence reports that he ought to have. I know that Senator Harris gets them, but, you know, there's just no excuse for this.

So, you know, to me, it's just silly politics. And in many respects, it represents a cult of personality that the president has been able to inflict on the Republican Party itself. They're either in complete lockstep with him, or they're afraid of him. And it's extremely disappointing for someone who has been a Republican all of my life.

FADEL: You mention that this is silly politics, and some people are really pointing towards danger - that there is a danger of obstruction of democracy. Why do you think your fellow Republicans, for the most part, have either supported or stay silent in the face of Trump's legal challenges and these repeated false claims?

KASICH: Yeah, I think two reasons. One is they either buy into this, and they're part of the cult of personality, or secondly, they're afraid to anger the Trump base - that they're afraid that, you know, they'll be primaried, or they're afraid they'll be severely criticized. And, you know, it's a pretty remarkable situation. But as I like to say, you inherit the earth, and you lose your soul. So you win your political office, but you don't stand for much, what's the point?

So it's very serious. And again, I say with - in respect to this pandemic, there should be total and complete cooperation between the Trump administration and the incoming Biden administration in any variety of ways in which to deal with the distribution of the vaccine, a whole series of issues going forward.

FADEL: Have you spoken to leaders in the party about your concerns of silence or support? And frankly, does what you say hold weight with them when you endorsed a Democratic candidate for president?

KASICH: Well, look - you know, I appear a lot on television, and my voice has been very clear. And in terms of talking to Republican leaders, I haven't done that. But I have talked to them through the television because it's - I think is impossible for them to not hear what I've had to say. I have talked to Republicans who are not currently holding public office - a significant number - and some who are leaders. They have - they basically hold the same view that I have.

But again, they seem in the Congress of the United States to be frozen in place. Not all of them, but most of them - certainly, the leadership is toeing the line. And it's a sad day. But, you know, I think it was the Scorpions that wrote a song when the wall came down - "The Winds Of Change" (ph) was the name of the song. And we will see winds of change. They'll be blowing through shortly.

FADEL: Now, you wrote on Twitter a few days ago that, quote, "President Trump's actions to impede President-elect Joe Biden's transition doesn't make any sense. I can't imagine another president doing this, especially during a pandemic. Think about the families who will pay a high price for this kind of irresponsibility" - end quote. And I know you got at this a little bit, but what are your concerns about the transition process specifically if President Trump continues not to cooperate?

KASICH: Well, I mean, No. 1 is clearly around the issue of the pandemic and the ability to figure out a very secure, solid and speedy plan for the distribution of the vaccine. It appears as though the vaccines are right on the horizon, and it's an incredible logistical challenge to be able to distribute that to the - so many Americans that are going to be in a position of - willingly accept the fact that they'd like the vaccine. You should have total cooperation.

Also, I think better cooperation allows us to be in a position to get this economy moving, to understand exactly what the Trump people are going to do over the next couple of weeks so that the Biden administration can plan and prepare for, you know, a significant, hopefully, economic recovery.

And then finally, you know, the idea that the administration, as they're getting ready to go out the door, can try to implement some foreign policy actions that I think, frankly, border on irresponsible. I've always been one who's favored being able to negotiate a settlement and ultimately leave Afghanistan, but to just start willy-nilly withdrawing troops at this significant amount I frankly think is irresponsible.

But - so there's a foreign policy component to this as well - that there needs to be coordination, that Joe Biden ought to have access to all the intelligence like has happened in all of my lifetime when we've had a presidential transition.

FADEL: That was the former Republican governor of Ohio, John Kasich.

Governor Kasich, thanks for speaking with us.

KASICH: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.