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Even After The Inauguration, Trump's Election Fraud Claims Persist In Parts Of U.S.


Millions of Americans celebrated President Biden's inauguration, but there are also many Americans who don't accept him as the country's leader. Donald Trump's bogus election fraud claims are persisting in more rural, more conservative parts of the country. NPR's Kirk Siegler has the story.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Can I get a shot to go?


KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: The moment Joe Biden was being sworn in as the 46th president of the United States felt like just any other day at the Star Country Cafe in southwest Idaho. It's busy. Some people are going out of their way not to watch or talk to a reporter about the inauguration going on 2,300 miles to the east.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Thank you for offering, but I'll speak for everybody - no, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: It's a waste of time.


SIEGLER: What's the point? - ask these men sitting around a big table, the local coffee klatch, a morning fixture in small town cafes. They say the liberal news media just twists around what conservatives say. But a few tables over, Michael Lyons is happy to talk. He doesn't think Biden's message of unity is realistic.

MICHAEL LYONS: I'm hoping that the Republicans will stick with their values and stick with their - stand by their guns and just impede, if you want to use that word.

SIEGLER: Stand firm against the Democrats' agenda, that is. It's a common view here in one of the most conservative states in the nation, where voters went 2 to 1 for Donald Trump.

LYONS: Would I prefer him for president? Surely, I would, yes. Yeah. I believe he stood for the same values I stand for. So he's pro-life, pro-morality, pro-country.

SIEGLER: Cliche, but this really is Trump country almost everywhere you look, from the ubiquitous blue MAGA flags flying in driveways to even a QAnon bumper sticker in this cafe's parking lot claiming Biden and the Democrats are running a child sex ring. The conspiracy theory that the election was stolen from President Trump is also pervasive. Four years ago, you might have heard liberals in cities blaming Facebook for helping put a reality TV star in the White House. Today, conservatives like George Martin here are the ones pointing their fingers at Big Tech, which they believe helped sway the election to Biden. Martin talked through his face mask as he stood in line outside the local DMV.

GEORGE MARTIN: I think every American would want to have an audit of that election. I know that the Democratically controlled Congress isn't interested in that at all.

SIEGLER: More than 60 courts have thrown out Trump campaign challenges due to a lack of evidence of voter fraud. There were also two recounts in Georgia and a partial one in Wisconsin.

MARTIN: Maybe there wasn't any fraud. But tell you what - you have a lot of people in this country that don't think so - don't think that it was a fair election. And I'm one of them.

SIEGLER: Surveys show that large majorities of Republican voters across this country still don't believe Joe Biden legitimately won the election. Two states to the south in Arizona, the state GOP this weekend may vote to censure moderate Republican leaders who didn't support overturning that state's election results. But some longtime party activists there, like Kathleen Winn, say the very public infighting isn't productive.

KATHLEEN WINN: I do believe that Republicans will come together, but I think it's got to be for a greater cause. It can't be about being Republican. It's got to be about the things that we stand for.

SIEGLER: Winn lives in rock-ribbed conservative Mesa, a Phoenix suburb. She saw problems with the election, too, and is upset Trump isn't getting a second term. But it's time to move on.

WINN: I think we are still one of the few countries that - it was founded on fair elections and freedom. And I hope that that continues through this presidency and that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have a successful presidency because, ultimately, that'll be success for our country.

SIEGLER: In conservative America, many Republicans think their success rests on the party holding on to the coalition Trump built, which includes many first-time voters. Spend some time in places like Idaho, and it's clear that's not a guarantee. In Star, a defiant Jason Smith told me he has no plans to vote Republican anymore after this past election.

JASON SMITH: We just want to be left alone in this country. Trump was our president. And for most of us, he still is our president. We still follow him.

SIEGLER: Kirk Siegler, NPR News, Star, Idaho. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As a correspondent on NPR's national desk, Kirk Siegler covers rural life, culture and politics from his base in Boise, Idaho.