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Two months after the 2020 presidential election, less than a day after Congress certified the Electoral College results, and facing increasing pressure to resign, Donald Trump finally admitted on Thursday that he had lost and would not serve a second term.
“Now Congress has certified the results. A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th,” Trump said in a two-minute video posted to his Twitter feed. “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.”
He did not mention the name of the man who defeated him, President-elect Joe Biden. There has been no indication from the White House that Trump has, or intends to, call Biden to concede. But the president’s remarks were a stark contrast to statements he made on Wednesday, when he encouraged tens of thousands of his followers to head to the U.S. Capitol to disrupt the joint session of Congress in which lawmakers were voting on certifying the Electoral College returns. Trump had sought to block that certification, and a mob of more than 1,000 of his supporters clashed with police, broke windows and stormed into the Capitol, halting the proceedings for hours. Four people died during the melee.
Trump began his latest video by addressing what he called the “heinous attacks” on the Capitol.
“Like all Americans, I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem. I immediately deployed the National Guard and federal law enforcement to secure the building and expel the intruders,” Trump said, though multiple news organizations reported that Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the certification as the siege unfolded, made the call to mobilize the National Guard.
“The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy,” Trump continued. “To those who engage in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country. And to those who broke the law, you will pay.”
On Wednesday, in a video he posted to his social media channels that was promptly removed by Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, Trump continued to rail about voter fraud allegations that have been debunked or dismissed in court. He claimed the election “was stolen from us,” and then lavished praise on the supporters who had heeded his call to travel to Washington. “We love you,” Trump said as a mob continued to ransack the Capitol. “You’re very special.”
Thursday’s video made no mention of the bogus voter fraud claims he had spent weeks spouting. In its place, he offered an explanation that seemed crafted by a legal team who knew their client could soon face possible consequences.
“My campaign vigorously pursued every legal avenue to contest the election results,” Trump said. “My only goal was to insure the integrity of the vote. In so doing, I was fighting to defend American democracy.”
Trump’s markedly new assessment of the standing of the election came as Democratic lawmakers pushed to oust him from office, either by application of the 25th Amendment or new impeachment proceedings. Trump’s own former Cabinet members agreed that he needed to be removed and the Wall St. Journal editorial board also piled on, saying, “The best outcome would be for him to resign to spare the U.S. another impeachment fight.”
With his new video, however, Trump seemed to hope that his crusade to hold on to power would simply be forgotten.
“We have just been through a tense election and emotions are high, but now tempers must be cooled and calm restored,” Trump said. “We must get on with the business of America.”
Cover photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
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