President Donald Trump appeared to concede for the first time that President-elect Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election in a Sunday morning tweet, before walking back his initial message by tweeting, “I concede NOTHING!”
The first tweet was taken by many observers as an admission of defeat, and NBC’s Carol Lee reported that at least one White House official read it that way as well. Biden’s incoming chief of staff Ron Klain told NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday, “If the president’s prepared to begin to recognize that reality, that’s positive.”
Trump’s refusal to concede has made the transition process difficult for Biden — in fact, it has not officially started, leaving the incoming president without access to key government agencies, and portending a messy transfer of power in January.
Any hopes that the president’s tweet meant that was about to change were dashed in what Lee called “a bit of whiplash:” About an hour and a half after tweeting “He won,” in reference to Biden, Trump wrote, “He only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA. I concede NOTHING! We have a long way to go. This was a RIGGED ELECTION!”
The tweet echoed his first with its focus on the false conspiracy theory that the contest was somehow unfair — in his original message, Trump wrote, “He won because the Election was Rigged. NO VOTE WATCHERS OR OBSERVERS allowed, vote tabulated by a Radical Left privately owned company, Dominion, with a bad reputation & bum equipment that couldn’t even qualify for Texas (which I won by a lot!), the Fake & Silent Media, & more!”
He won because the Election was Rigged. NO VOTE WATCHERS OR OBSERVERS allowed, vote tabulated by a Radical Left privately owned company, Dominion, with a bad reputation & bum equipment that couldn’t even qualify for Texas (which I won by a lot!), the Fake & Silent Media, & more! https://t.co/Exb3C1mAPg— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2020
Both tweets are full of falsehoods.
There is no evidence that the election was “rigged.” It’s well-documented that observers representing the Republican Party and the Trump campaign were allowed to watch the vote-counting process in places Trump has claimed they weren’t — something that even the Trump campaign’s legal team has admitted.
And there is no evidence that Dominion Voting Systems, a company that makes voting machines and software, was compromised in any way. In fact, a national coalition of election security officials — which included the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Association of State Election Directors — described the election as “the most secure in American history.”
It’s difficult to say what the president’s intent was with his first tweet. Trump is an impulsive user of Twitter, and it is possible that his first tweet was not worded quite the way he intended.
But what’s clear is that rhetoric aside, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the president to maintain that he won, or will win, an election that concluded more than a week ago. Numerous reports suggest that he has privately come to terms with his election loss. But publicly, he has continued to claim that the election will still somehow go his way, despite the fact that his far-fetched legal campaign to contest the results offers no pathway to victory.
Trump’s efforts to overturn the election’s results are failing
Biden won the presidential election by a wide margin of Electoral College votes, and has begun assembling a team to help him transition to the presidency.
Despite this, Trump and his campaign have endeavored to change the election’s results through legal challenges — an effort that is currently hitting the wall it was always expected to hit. In recent days, many of these lawsuits have been rejected or abandoned in key states, and prominent law firms have withdrawn support for the president.
For example, on Friday alone, Trump’s campaign either abandoned or saw the rejection of cases in Michigan, Arizona, and Pennsylvania. And many of the lawsuits that Trump’s team has been pushing deal with such small numbers of ballots that there’s no way they can alter the outcome of a state’s vote count. Overall, Trump has a losing record when it comes to election lawsuits: The campaign has won only one case and lost 15.
And that win — a ruling that Pennsylvania mail-in voters who failed to provide identification on or before November 9 will have their ballots discarded — won’t affect the current vote count. The minor number of ballots that will be affected had not yet been counted.
Regardless of whether or not Trump ever makes an official concession speech, Biden’s victory in the Electoral College is decisive. States will certify their results in early December, setting the stage for Biden’s inauguration on January 20.
But Trump’s continued insistence that the election was stolen — supported to some extent by leaders in the Republican Party — has troubling long-term implications. He’s prompting tens of millions of Americans to either reject or question the legitimacy of the electoral process, and that in turn could shape American political life for many years to come.
This could, for example, give the Republican Party greater license to resist Biden’s political agenda since their base views Biden’s election as illegitimate. It also could create longer-term mistrust in American elections as fair, which could lead to the radicalization of some voters, and to the rejection of future election results.
In other words, Trump’s damage could far outlast his time in office.