Republicans’ private talking point about how they can continue to aid President Trump in denying election results boils down to what a senior Republican told The Washington Post this week: “What’s the harm in humoring him?”

Plenty, say national security officials who are concerned about how other countries – and the coronavirus – could take advantage of a slowed transition for President-elect Joe Biden. Plenty, say democracy experts who warn that the Republican Party is undermining the foundations of the U.S. electoral system and mirroring authoritarianism.

And amid such heavy criticism, and the fact that Trump’s legal team is struggling to provide any evidence or gain traction in the courts, we’re starting to see some cracks in the Republicans over holding the line for Trump.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., told Tulsa’s KRMG radio Wednesday that if Biden doesn’t start receiving intelligence briefings by Friday – which the Trump administration is blocking – he’ll get involved to try to make it happen.

Still, this implicit acknowledgment that Biden won was heavily caveated with Trumpian language. Lankford said this even as he tried to defend Trump’s legal challenges as giving the American people certainty over the vote – ignoring evidence it’s actually helping convince Trump supporters that Biden’s election is illegitimate.

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Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Wednesday that President-elect Joe Biden should receive intelligence briefings, according to CNN. Cracks are beginning to appear in Republicans’ willingness to humor President Trump’s efforts to dispute the election and put up roadblocks to a transition. Erin Schaff/The New York Times via Associated Press

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also said Wednesday that Biden should receive briefings, according to CNN.

CNN was also among those quoting Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, as saying that Biden should be receiving intelligence briefings now. And Politico quoted Collins as saying the General Services Administration is not acting appropriately by denying the Biden team access to government materials and resources.

Maine’s independent Sen. Angus King said Thursday in a television interview that the Trump administration’s refusal to allow a smooth transition leaves America vulnerable to national security threats.

Two moderate Republican governors, Larry Hogan of Maryland and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, have criticized Trump for not accepting the results.

At least two former pillars of the Republican Party, John Bolton and Karl Rove, have written op-eds urging Trump to concede. Bolton warned Republican leaders “will rue the day they stood silent.”

Georgia’s secretary of state, a loyal Republican, pushed back on Georgia Republican senators’ attempts to claim fraud in the state and that he step down for it. He’s authorizing a hand recount of ballots that he expects will confirm a Biden win in his state, The Post reports.

Those are cracks that suggest more could be coming. But given how willing the party has been to follow Trump this far down the road of undermining a legitimate election, we’re still skeptical party leaders would publicly accept election results before the president does.

Still, there are some timelines to be aware of that could make it even harder for Republicans to stick by Trump.

In the next few days, states still counting ballots are expected to finish. That could mean Biden wins Arizona and Georgia and gets 306 electoral votes to Trump’s expected 232, literally the inverse of the 2016 election, which Republicans had no trouble agreeing with right away.

In the next few weeks, all states will certify their results, a process done after local election officials carefully canvass them to check for errors and the state’s top election official signs off on them. That certification is the step in the American electoral process that makes the results official.

In mid-December, electors will meet and vote on the results. Could there be electors who change their vote against which candidate won their state? Yes. But states can punish them for it, and it would be extraordinary for some 40 electors, which Trump will probably need, to revolt to help him win.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has suggested that this December electoral college vote could be the moment he accepts that Biden won.

But there’s one more date looming in the minds of Republicans who have not yet publicly accepted the results: The Jan. 5 Senate runoffs in Georgia. They will determine which party controls the majority in the Senate and thus whether Democrats have a governing majority in Washington next year.

The Post’s Robert Costa, Paul Kane and Erica Werner report that Senate Republicans are afraid that if they cross Trump and admit he lost, it could demoralize and de-motivate Republican voters in Georgia to turn out in great numbers and help them win these races. (And Republicans have the edge in these races, since Georgia Republicans got more votes than Democrats in the November elections.)

Deny a presidential election to try to win two Senate seats. It’s a remarkably cynical and arguably dangerous consideration that some Republican leaders appear to be making right now. That explains why there are some cracks in the party on how much longer to keep doing this.

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