US President Donald Trump on Sunday acknowledged for the first time that Joe Biden, the president-elect, has “won” the 2020 election, starting a process that could possibly lead to a full-fledged concession.
“He won because the Election was Rigged,” Trump wrote in a tweet, and went on to repeat his allegations of election fraud and irregularities that have found no traction outside his support base, have failed to stand up in courts and have been debunked by top election security officials of his own administration.
“I concede NOTHING!” Trump added, however. “We have a long way to go. This was a RIGGED ELECTION!”
Trump has refused to concede the election, which Biden has won by securing 306 electoral college votes, matching Trump’s 2016 winning haul that he had called a “landslide”.
Biden, the president-elect, has also beaten the Republican incumbent in popular votes by more than 5 million.
Trump has not only refused to concede, he has also blocked Biden and his team from receiving intelligence briefings, cooperation and information from agencies as part of a transition process that has been honored and respected by outgoing Republican and Democratic administrations.
Asked if Trump’s tweet was “step one” of a concession, Biden’s chief of staff Ronald Klain said on NBC’s Meet the Press show, “I accept it as a further confirmation of the reality that Joe Biden won the election.”
On the same programme, Asa Hutchinson, the Republican governor of Arkansas, a state that Trump won, welcomed the president’s tweet. “It was good actually to see President Trump tweet out that (Biden) won. I think that’s the start of an acknowledgment,” he said.
A growing number of Republicans, conservative pundits and media organisations have been calling for Trump to accept defeat, concede gracefully, facilitate a smooth transition of power, and leave office without further tarnishing his legacy with his unfounded allegations.
Spurred by Trump’s allegations of election fraud and irregularities, thousands of his supporters – including white nationalists such as “Proud Boys” – rallied in Washington, DC on Saturday, chanting slogans such as “stop the steal”, inspired by his claims that he had won election and that it was stolen from him.
The US president’s cavalcade drove past cheering supporters on his way to his golf course in the adjoining state of Virginia. He smiled and waved at them, but did not stop or make remarks as he had said he might.
Tensions flared and violence broke out between Trump supporters and counter-protesters. The clashes intensified later in the evening as invectives were exchanged, punches were thrown and water bottles were hurled. At least 20 people were arrested.