Donald Trump refuses to concede defeat as recriminations begin
Donald Trump refused to formally concede the US election on Saturday, even as senior Republicans began to distance themselves and as recriminations were reported among aides to a president doomed to electoral defeat.
Before the race was called on Saturday morning, Trump continued to tweet his defiance and to attract censure from Twitter for making baseless claims about voter fraud and his supposed victory.
He also went to his course in Virginia to play golf. From there, he issued a defiant statement.
“The simple fact is this election is far from over,” he insisted. “Joe Biden has not been certified as the winner of any states, let alone any of the highly contested states headed for mandatory recounts, or states where our campaign has valid and legitimate legal challenges that could determine the ultimate victor.”
The statement was of a piece with Trump’s previous tweets and statements, addressed to the media and the nation since the election on Tuesday – angry, refusing to admit defeat, and alleging improprieties by his opponent without providing evidence.
“The American people are entitled to an honest election,” Trump said. “That means counting all legal ballots, and not counting any illegal ballots. This is the only way to ensure the public has full confidence in our election.
“It remains shocking that the Biden campaign refuses to agree with this basic principle and wants ballots counted even if they are fraudulent, manufactured or cast by ineligible or deceased voters. Only a party engaged in wrongdoing would unlawfully keep observers out of the count room – and then fight in court to block their access.”
None of what Trump alleged has been proved to be true.
Nonetheless, Republican legal challenges to counts in key states were set to continue. Leading the effort to marshal a legal force in the mould of that which led the party to victory in the 2000 Florida recount were Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr and his younger brother Eric Trump, and Rudy Giuliani.
“Beginning Monday,” Trump added, “our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated. So what is Biden hiding? I will not rest until the American people have the honest vote count they deserve and that Democracy demands.”
Trump’s sons have railed in support of their father since election day but his most visible daughter, Ivanka, has been largely quiet. Nowhere to be seen is an army of lawyers of the size – and skill – that would be needed to add muscle to president’s claims of a rigged election.
Trump’s failure to assemble a coherent legal team – and raise as much as $60m to fund legal challenges to stop vote counts in some swing states and continue them in others – was in many ways a reflection of previous failures among the small circle of mostly family advisers he has kept around him since winning power in 2016.
The challenge to Biden’s victory was placed in the hands of Trump’s personal lawyer, Giuliani, and Jay Sekulow, an attorney who defended the president during the Mueller investigation and the impeachment process. Giuliani, a former New York mayor, played a high-profile role, dispatched to Philadelphia to demand Republican operatives be granted greater oversight over the count. But legal analysts dismissed Trump lawsuits and legal maneuverings as having little to no merit.
At the White House, Trump advisers reportedly raised the prospect of electoral defeat, and how the president should handle it. According to the Washington Post, some close to Trump have advocated that when Biden was declared the winner, Trump should offer public remarks icommitting to a peaceful transfer of power.
One senior campaign aide, however, said there had been no discussion of a formal concession speech.
Before Biden’s win was called, some of Trump’s usual supporters in the media had begun to melt away. Late on Friday, the Fox News host Laura Ingraham, one of Trump’s most ardent loyalists, advised the president to “accept defeat” with “grace and composure”.
“If and when it’s time to accept an unfavorable outcome in this election, and we hope it never comes, President Trump needs to do it with the same grace and composure that he demonstrated at that town hall with Savannah Guthrie,” Ingraham said, referring to the host of an event in October hosted by NBC.
Ingraham also railed at Trump’s “failed” political consultants and campaign officials who she said “blew through hundreds of millions of dollars without the legal apparatus in place to challenge what we all knew was coming.
“Why aren’t the best lawyers in America on television night after night explaining the president’s legal claims?” Ingraham asked.
The New York Post also changed its tune. In October, the paper called Trump “an invincible hero, who … survived every dirty trick the Democrats threw at him”. But on Thursday, Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid published two articles, one that accused Trump of making an “unfounded claim that political foes were trying to steal the election” and another that described Don Jr as “panic-stricken”.
Support from Republicans in Congress was notably tepid, party leaders playing both sides. On Friday, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said only: “Every legal vote should be counted. Any illegally-submitted ballots must not. All sides must get to observe the process. And the courts are here to apply the laws and resolve disputes.”
The South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham said he was standing by Trump’s claims of vote rigging – but also said Biden “deserves” to have his choice of cabinet members confirmed by the legislators.
Joe Biden has won ...
… despite Donald Trump’s protestations. A new era is upon us following a result that has renewed hope for the US and the world. After four years of turmoil, misinformation, manipulation and division, a new president offers fresh promise for democracy, progress and for huge challenges like the climate emergency, Covid-19, inequality, and racial injustice.
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