In the face of growing calls for his removal, President Donald Trump finally acknowledged on Thursday night that he’d lost the presidential election to Joe Biden and called for the country to come together.
In a video released by the White House, Trump delivered what has become the customary statement most unsuccessful candidates issue hours after an election, though he never congratulated Biden or even uttered his name.
“We have just been through an intense election and emotions are high,” he said. “But now tempers must be cooled and calm restored. We must get on with the business of America.”
Trump said he would focus his final days in office on ensuring a smooth transition of power.
“Now Congress has certified the results. A new administration will be inaugurated on Jan. 20,” he said. “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”
Trump recorded the speech at the White House on Thursday after several Republican allies urged him to speak out following Wednesday’s deadly clashes at the Capitol after pro-Trump protesters stormed the building, delaying the certification of Biden’s win.
Steve Cortes, a senior Trump campaign adviser, described Trump’s statement as “pitch perfect” in tone and substance. “We cannot pretend that Biden won legitimately, but we must also acknowledge the present reality and move forward,” he said.
But Trump’s speech might have come too late. He faces calls for his removal from office and for criminal charges to be filed over his remarks inciting supporters on Wednesday. His aides are abandoning him in droves, and some allies no longer support his potential candidacy in 2024.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer joined others in both parties on Thursday in calling on Trump to be removed from office — either by impeaching him for the second time, or pressuring Vice President Mike Pence and Cabinet officials to invoke the 25th Amendment process. Pence‘s office declined to comment.
And on Thursday night, the editorial board at the conservative Wall Street Journal, a Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper, called on Trump to resign.
“Too little too late,” Michael Short, a former White House spokesperson and veteran GOP operative said of Trump’s statement. “Four and potentially a fifth person are dead, dozens of police injured, national security documents may be missing, and there was not one ounce of contrition.“
Trump spent two months trying to overturn the election, alleging fraud with scant evidence, pressuring state leaders, threatening Republicans who disobeyed him, even criticizing his own vice president.
He tried to justify his campaign on Thursday as an effort to “ensure the integrity of the vote,” even though local and state officials across the country denied there was any reason for concern, and as he lost dozens of court cases in which he sought to reverse his loss.
“Serving as your president has been the honor of my lifetime,” Trump said. “And to all of my wonderful supporters, I know you are disappointed. But I also want you to know that our incredible journey is only just beginning.”
In his first on-camera remarks since the protest, he also on Thursday condemned the violence and lawlessness that overtook Capitol Hill.
The statement was a stark contrast to the lighthearted messages he had sent out shortly after the rioters broke into the Capitol and drove the complex into lockdown. Though he told the rioters at the time to be peaceful, Trump said, “We love you,” and called the participants “special.” He also wrote in a since-removed tweet: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away.”
Numerous social media platforms removed his posts and disabled his accounts for further inciting violence. Trump’s video statement on Thursday was also his first post since Twitter lifted a 12-hour freeze on his account.
Daniel Lippman and Gabby Orr contributed to this report.
Trump, facing removal threats, concedes election The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Politico.