Outgoing US President Donald Trump has spent the morning seething in the White House – with a new series of tweets claiming he was cheated – before heading to the golf course again.
At the same, a possible split is forming in the Trump family, with reports that Trump’s two eldest sons, Don Jnr and Eric, are backing their father’s cheating claims, while son-in-law Jared Kushner has been urging him to accept the result and concede to Joe Biden.
The possibility of an ugly family split would add new drama to the last days of the Trump White House.
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Trump tweeted quotes from guests on Fox News’ morning programmes to bolster his baseless claims that the election result was fraudulent.
“We believe these people are thieves. The big city machines are corrupt. This was a stolen election. Best pollster in Britain wrote this morning that this clearly was a stolen election, that it’s impossible to imagine that Biden outran Obama in some of these states,” former Republican politician Newt Gingrich said, in one statement repeated approvingly by the President.
“Where it mattered, they stole what they had to steal.”
At the same time, Trump left the White House to play golf again, just like he did on Saturday.
The tweets suggest that Trump is not backing down or planning to concede despite signs he is already fracturing his family with his eldest sons and his son-in-law.
Trump’s eldest sons launched a series of morning tweets claiming their father’s defeat was fraudulent, in a sign of a split from Kushner.
Don Jnr and Eric both retweeted claims from Republican operatives that included the late boxer Joe Frazier voting in Philadelphia and that counting software was rigged against Republicans.
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Eric called for a ‘manual recount’ of all ballots – which would amount to as many as 150 million – becauseone county in Georgia said three days ago that it was briefly delaying counting due to a software glitch.
“Software from hell! There needs to be a manual recount of every ballot in this country right now!” he said.
And Don Jnr retweeted an anti-concession demand accusing Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania of “rampant fraud”.
It was unclear today whether either son has spoken to their father since his defeat was called by networks just before midday Saturday.
But it was revealed yesterday that their brother-in-law Jared has been urging Trump to come to terms with defeat and offer a concession.
Gingrich’s claims the election was corrupt came from a Fox & Friends interview in which he called Democrats ‘corrupt’ and claimed the outcome was a ‘left-wing power grab.’
Gingrich had spent Saturday at the same Trump golf course where the president was golfing when he was told that TV networks and the Associated Press had called the election and that he was defeated. It is unknown if the two men spoke there.
Trump also amplified claims by Jonathan Turley, a law professor, about fraud, specifically in Pennsylvania, which is the state which pushed Biden over the top to his electoral college majority.
Turley suggested that there could be a problem ‘authenticating’ ballots received after Tuesday and that this could affect the result of ‘the whole election.’
The claim is difficult to assess. Pennsylvania had already separated the late-arriving ballots, and it is so far not known how many there are and whether there enough to sway the election’s outcome.
The possibility of an ugly family split would add new drama to the last days of the Trump White House – although the two sons had offered contradictory signals themselves on Saturday.
Eric did not attend a press conference with Rudy Giuliani outside a landscaping company in Philadelphia – and across the road from a sex shop – where the president’s personal attorney claimed he had evidence of voting fraud in the city.
Eric had attended Giuliani’s Thursday press conference in the city where the former New York mayor and Borat prank victim claimed ‘Canadians and Martians’ may have voted in the Keystone state.
And Don Jnr’s flurry of tweets claiming the election was corrupt were accompanied by an Instagram post with his father paying tribute to his willingness to ‘fight’ in what could be interpreted as an elegy for a lost cause.
The question of who can tell Trump it is time to admit he is done has perplexed aides in his inner circle.
Some have launched public attempts to flatter him into conceding, including former chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who used a Wall Street Journal op-ed to say Saturday that Trump will concede once he is sure the election was not corrupt.
The Trump campaign has not produced evidence to support its claims of widespread fraud in the election.
Meanwhile, Biden is in the process of setting up his transition team, which will prepare him to take over as president on January 20.
President Donald Trump never admits defeat. But he faces a stark choice now that Democrat Joe Biden has won the White House: Concede graciously for the sake of the nation or don’t – and get evicted anyway.
After nearly four tortured days of counting yielded a victory for Biden on Saturday (local time), Trump was still insisting the race was not over. He threw out baseless allegations of voter fraud, promised a flurry of legal action and fired off all-caps tweets falsely insisting he’d “WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT.”
Trump is not expected to ever formally concede, according to people close to him, but is likely to grudgingly vacate the White House at the end of his term.
His ongoing efforts to paint the election as unfair are seen both as an effort to soothe a bruised ego and to show his loyal base of supporters that he is still fighting. That could be key to keeping them energised for what comes next.
“He intends to fight,” Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said as it was becoming clear that the president was headed for defeat.
Would Trump ever concede? “I doubt it,” said Trump’s longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone, whom the president recently pardoned. As a result, Stone said, Biden will have “a cloud over his presidency with half the people in the country believing that he was illegitimately elected.”
Allies suggested that if Trump wants to launch a media empire in coming years, he has an incentive to prolong the drama.
So, too, if he intends to keep the door open to a possible 2024 comeback – he would be only a year older then than Biden is now.
There are many in his inner circle egging him on, including his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. The former New York mayor has been promising to provide the president with evidence of voter fraud but has produced little, including during a press conference he held today in the parking lot of a small Philadelphia landscaping company next to an adult bookstore.
Trump’s adult sons, Donald Jr and Eric, have also urged their father to keep fighting and challenged Republicans to stand with them. Other political allies and White House officials, however, have pressed Trump to change his tone and commit to a smooth transition.
They’ve emphasised to him that history will be a harsh judge of any action he takes that is seen as undermining his successor. And they have advised him to deliver a speech in the coming week pledging to support the transition.
Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has told others that he has urged the president to accept the outcome of the race – even if Trump won’t come to terms with how it was reached.
At Fox News, where prime-time hosts wield enormous influence over Trump, Laura Ingraham gave voice to the president’s belief that the election had been unfair, while also pleading with him to keep his legacy in mind – and preserve his status as a GOP kingmaker – by gracefully leaving office.
“If and when it’s time to accept an unfavourable outcome in this election, and we hope it never comes, President Trump needs to do it with the same grace and composure that he demonstrated at that town hall with Savannah Guthrie,” she said Thursday.
“President Trump’s legacy will only become more significant if he focuses on moving the country forward.”
This story is based on interviews with more than a dozen Trump aides and allies, many of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions. That the peaceful transfer of power was even in doubt reflected the norm-shattering habits of the now-lame duck president, who even in victory never admitted that he had lost the popular vote in 2016.
Most aides believed the president would take the weekend to decide on a plan, which will most certainly involve more legal action. But some aides believe the legal skirmishes are more about putting up the appearance of a fight than producing results.
There were some indications Trump was moving in a less contentious direction, even as he continued to angrily complain to aides, reviving old grievances about the Russia investigation that began under President Barack Obama.
In a statement Friday, Trump suggested he would avail himself of every avenue under the law to challenge the election’s result.
Allies interpreted it as a begrudging acknowledgement of the likely outcome. “We will pursue this process through every aspect of the law to guarantee that the American people have confidence in our government,” Trump said in the statement. “I will never give up fighting for you and our nation.”
On Saturday, the White House released a terse statement saying the president “will accept the results of a free and fair election” and that the administration “is following all statutory requirements.”
Still, there were concerns that Trump’s rhetoric would inflame tensions in a nation that was already bitterly divided before the election. Isolated scuffles were reported near tabulation centers in Philadelphia and Phoenix.
Pro-Trump protesters – some of them openly carrying rifles and handguns – rallied outside tallying facilities in a few cities around the country on Friday, responding to Trump’s groundless accusations that the Democrats were trying to steal the White House.
Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee have bombarded supporters with impassioned pleas for cash, raking in tens of millions of dollars since Tuesday, according to people familiar with the matter.
Some of the money was earmarked to retire campaign debt, but the rest could be used to keep up an aggressive public campaign to continue to undermine faith in the election outcome.
The Biden campaign made clear its patience had limits.
“As we said on July 19, the American people will decide this election,” Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said on Friday.
“And the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.”
Trump, whose voluminous Twitter account seems to provide an apt entry for any occasion, offered this advice in 2016: “Vladimir Putin said today about Hillary and Dems: “In my opinion, it is humiliating. One must be able to lose with dignity,” So true!”
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