WASHINGTON,Nov 27: US President Donald Trump said on Thursday he will leave the White House if the Electoral College votes for president-elect Joe Biden, the closest he has come to conceding the Nov 3 election, even as he repeated his unfounded claims of massive voter fraud.
Speaking to reporters on the Thanksgiving holiday, Republican Trump said if Democrat Biden – who is due to be sworn in on Jan 20 – is certified the election winner by the Electoral College, he will depart the White House.
But Trump said it would be hard for him to concede under the current circumstances and declined to say whether he would attend Biden’s inauguration.
“This election was a fraud,” Trump insisted in a sometimes rambling discourse at the White House, while continuing to offer no concrete evidence of widespread voting irregularities.
Biden won the election with 306 Electoral College votes – many more than the 270 required – to Trump’s 232, and the electors are scheduled to meet on Dec 14 to formalise the outcome. Biden also leads Trump by more than 6 million in the popular vote tally.
Trump has so far refused to fully acknowledge his defeat, though last week – with mounting pressure from his own Republican ranks – he agreed to let Biden’s transition process officially proceed.
Asked if he would leave the White House if the Electoral College votes for Biden, Trump said: “Certainly I will. Certainly I will. And you know that.”
“But I think that there will be a lot of things happening between now and the 20th of January. A lot of things,” he said. “Massive fraud has been found. We’re like a third world country.”
Desperate efforts by Trump and his aides to overturn results in key states, either by lawsuits or by pressuring state legislators, have failed, and he is running out of options.
In the US, a candidate becomes president by securing the most “electoral” votes rather than by winning a majority of the national popular vote.
Electors, allotted to the 50 states and the District of Columbia largely based on their population, are party loyalists who pledge to support the candidate who won the popular vote in their state.
Biden, Trump stay close to home amid pandemic
Biden and Trump both stayed close to home to celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday as the coronavirus pandemic raged across the country.
Biden spent the holiday in the small seaside town of Rehoboth, Delaware, where he and his wife Jill have a vacation home. The Bidens are hosting daughter Ashley Biden and her husband Dr Howard Krein for the holiday meal.
The former vice-president, appearing with his wife in a video message posted to his Twitter account on Thanksgiving, said his family typically holds a large gathering on the island of Nantucket off Massachusetts, but would remain in Delaware this year “with just a small group around our dinner table” because of the pandemic.
In the presidential-style address to a nation that has lost more than 260,000 lives to the coronavirus, the Democratic president-elect said Americans were making a “shared sacrifice for the whole country” and a “statement of common purpose” by staying at home with their immediate families.
“I know this isn’t the way many of us hoped we’d spend our holiday. We know that a small act of staying home is a gift to our fellow Americans,” said Biden. “I know better days are coming.”
Trump often likes to celebrate holidays at his Mar-a-Largo resort in Florida. But on Thursday he remained in the Washington area, spending part of the morning at his Trump National Golf Club in Virginia where he played a round of golf.
It was a far cry from last year when he made a surprise visit to Afghanistan, where he served turkey to US troops before sitting down to eat Thanksgiving dinner with them.
This time, Trump spoke by video link from the White House to members of the military.