WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said there would be an “orderly transition on January 20th” after Congress concluded the electoral vote count early Thursday certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory hours after he appeared to excuse the violent occupation of the US Capitol by his supporters.
Trump acknowledged defeat in the Nov. 3 election for the first time, after a day of chaos and destruction on Capitol Hill perpetrated in his name by supporters that halted business in Congress for more than six hours.
In certifying Biden’s win, longtime Trump allies such as Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell rejected Trump’s pleas for intervention, while the violence at the Capitol spurred several administration officials to quit.
“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th,” Trump said in a statement posted to Twitter by aides. His personal account was locked by the social media company for posting messages that appeared to justify the assault on the seat of the nation’s democracy.
Trump added, “While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!”
Trump on Wednesday had encouraged his supporters to march on the Capitol to protest lawmakers’ actions, expressed empathy for the mob, which violently forced its way inside, clashed with police and forced lawmakers into hiding.
“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” Trump wrote in a message that was later deleted by Twitter. He added, “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
In an earlier video he had praised the protesters as “special” people and said he understood their pain. Twitter later locked his account for the first time as it demanded he remove the tweets and threatened “permanent suspension.”
Trump’s response to the violence underscored his months-long obsession with trying to overturn the results of the election, spending the final days of his presidency angrily stewing and lashing out at Republicans for perceived disloyalty.
Trump spent much of Wednesday afternoon watching the insurrection on television from his private dining room off the Oval Office. But aside from sparing appeals for calm issued at the insistence of his staff, he was largely disengaged as the nation’s capital descended into unprecedented scenes of chaos as a mob of thousands tried to halt the peaceful transition of power.
Instead, a White House official said, most of Trump’s attention was consumed by his ire at Vice President Mike Pence, who said he would not overturn the will of voters in the congressional electoral count. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke only on the condition of anonymity.
The violence, coupled with the president’s tepid response, appeared to drive many Republicans to the breaking point after years of allegiance to Trump. In a sign of growing frustration, a number of White House aides were discussing a potential mass resignation, according to people familiar with the conversation, although some harbored concerns about what Trump might do in his final two weeks in office if they were not there to serve as guardrails when so few remain.
After four years with no shortage of fraught moments, Wednesday’s events quickly emerged as the nadir of morale in the Trump White House, as aides looked on in horror at the chaos at the Capitol fomented by Trump.
Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s chief of staff and a former White House press secretary, submitted her resignation Wednesday, but declined to say what has prompted her move. Deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, White House social secretary Rickie Niceta and deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews also resigned, according to officials.
More departures were expected in the coming days, officials said. But other aides indicated they were staying to help smooth the transition to President-elect Biden’s administration.
Trump has been single-mindedly focused on his electoral defeat since Election Day, aides said, at the expense of the other responsibilities of his office, including the fight against the raging coronavirus.
Indeed, it was Pence, not Trump, who spoke with the acting defense secretary to discuss mobilizing the D.C National Guard on Wednesday afternoon.
Trump only reluctantly issued the tweets and taped a video encouraging an end to the violence. The posts came at the insistence of staff and amid mounting criticism from Republican lawmakers urging him to condemn the violence being perpetrated in his name, according to the official.
And even as authorities struggled to take control of Capitol Hill after protesters overwhelmed police, Trump continued to level baseless allegations of mass voter fraud and praised his loyalists as “very special.”
“I know your pain. I know your hurt. But you have to go home now,” he said in a video posted more than 90 minutes after lawmakers were evacuated from the House and Senate chambers. “We can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special.”