President Donald Trump speaks to reporters after attending a video conference call with military personnel at the White House in Washington Thursday.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Thursday that if the electoral college formalized President-elect Joe Biden's victory – despite insisting that such a decision would be a "mistake" – when he did his Thanksgiving Day, he will leave the White House spent renewing unsubstantiated claims that "massive fraud" and crooked officials in battlefield states caused his election defeat.
"Sure I will. But you know that, ”Trump said Thursday when asked if he would vacate the building to allow a peaceful change of power in January. But Trump, who was asking questions for the first time since election day, insisted that by then "a lot of things" would happen that could change the results.
"It's a long way," said Trump, although he lost.
The fact that a sitting American president even had to deal with the question of whether or not he would step down after losing re-election underscores the extent to which Trump has smashed convention after convention over the past three weeks. While there is no evidence of the type of widespread fraud that Trump has alleged, he and his legal team have nonetheless worked to challenge the integrity of the elections and seek the will of voters in an unprecedented breach of democratic norms to fall.
Trump spoke to reporters in the ornate diplomatic reception room of the White House after holding a conference call with U.S. military leaders stationed around the world. He thanked them for their service and jokingly warned them not to overeat turkey, and when the call ended, he turned to choice. He repeated complaints and furiously condemned officials in Georgia and Pennsylvania, two major swing states that helped Biden win.
Trump claimed, despite the results, that this may not be his last Thanksgiving day at the White House. And he insisted that there had been "massive fraud" despite state officials and international observers saying there was no evidence and Trump's campaign had repeatedly failed in court.
Trump's government has already given the go-ahead for a formal transition. But Trump struggled with Biden moving forward.
"I think it's not right for him to try and choose a cabinet," Trump said, although officials from both teams are already working together to bring Biden's team up to date.
And when he refused to admit, Trump announced that he would travel to Georgia before two Senate runoff elections to rally supporters to determine which party controls the Senate. Trump said the rally for Republican Sens. David Perdue and Senator Kelly Loeffler would likely take place on Saturday. The White House later made it clear that he meant December 5th.
One of the reasons the Republicans stood by Trump's side, and his unfounded fraud claims, was to fuel his loyal base ahead of those January 5 runoffs. In his remarks, however, Trump openly questioned whether this election would be fair in one step that could dampen Republican turnout.
"I think you are dealing with a very fraudulent system. I am very worried about that," he said. "People are very disappointed that we were robbed."
Speaking of the electoral college, Trump made it clear that even if he said he was leaving the White House, he will likely never officially admit.
"It will be very difficult to admit. Because we know there has been massive fraud," he said, noting that "time is not on our side."
"If you do," Trump voted against him, "you have made a mistake."
When asked if he would attend Biden's inauguration, Trump said he knew the answer but didn't want to share it yet.
But there were some signs that Trump was coping with his loss.
He once urged reporters not to grant Biden credit for outstanding coronavirus vaccines. "Don't let him approve the vaccines because the vaccines were me and I pushed people harder than ever," he said.
Whether he plans to officially declare his candidacy for 2024 or not – as he has discussed with aides – Trump, he "did not want to talk about 2024".
All states must certify their results before the electoral college meets on December 14th, and any dispute about the results must be resolved by December 8th. The state has already started this process, including Michigan, where Trump and his allies tried and failed to delay the process, and Georgia and Pennsylvania.
The certification of voting rights at the local and state level is usually a ministerial task that is hardly taken into account. That changed this year, however, when Trump refused to admit, and he lost his unprecedented attempts to reverse election results through a fusion of legal challenges and tampering with the certification process in battlefield states.
Biden won a record by a wide margin in both the electoral college and the referendum, where he received nearly 80 million votes.