US President Donald Trump said he will leave the White House if the Electoral College formalises Joe Biden’s victory at the polls.
But he insisted such a decision would be a “mistake” as he spent his Thanksgiving renewing baseless claims that “massive fraud” and crooked officials in battleground states caused his election defeat.
The fact that a sitting American president even had to address whether or not he would leave office after losing re-election underscores the extent to which Mr Trump has smashed one convention after another over the last three weeks.
While there is no evidence of the kind of widespread fraud Mr Trump has been alleging, he and his legal team have nonetheless been working to cast doubt on the integrity of the election and trying to overturn voters’ will in an unprecedented breach of norms.
Joe Biden won by wide margins in both the Electoral College and popular vote, where he received nearly 80 million votes.
Asked whether he would vacate the building and allow a peaceful transition of power in January, Mr Trump said: “Certainly I will. But you know that.”
“This has a long way to go.”
Mr Trump’s administration has already given the green light for a formal transition to get underway, but he took issue with Mr Biden moving forward.
But he has made it clear that he will likely never formally concede, even if he said he would leave the White House.
“It’s gonna be a very hard thing to concede. Because we know there was massive fraud,” he said, noting that, “time isn’t on our side”.
Asked whether he would attend Mr Biden’s inauguration, Mr Trump said he knew the answer but did not want to share it yet.
But there were some signs that Trump was coming to terms with his loss.
At one point he urged reporters not to let Mr Biden take credit for pending coronavirus vaccines.
“Don’t let him take credit for the vaccines because the vaccines were me and I pushed people harder than they’ve ever been pushed before,” he said.
As for whether or not he plans to formally declare his candidacy to run again in 2024 — as he has discussed with aides — Mr Trump he did not “want to talk about 2024 yet”.
All states must certify their results before the Electoral College meets on December 14, and any challenge to the results must be resolved by December 8.
State have already begun that process, including Michigan, where Mr Trump and his allies tried and failed to delay the process, and Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Vote certification at the local and state level is typically a ministerial task that gets little notice, but that changed this year with Mr Trump’s refusal to concede and his unprecedented attempts to overturn the results of the election through a fusillade of legal challenges and attempts to manipulate the certification process in battleground states he lost.