The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘I concede NOTHING!’ Trump says shortly after appearing to acknowledge Biden won the election

President Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House on Nov. 13, 2020. (Evan Vucci/AP)
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President Trump on Sunday doubled down on his refusal to concede the election to President-elect Joe Biden, even after suffering resounding court defeats over his election challenges and amid a growing popular-vote margin for the Democrat.

As Trump continued to falsely accuse Democrats of fraud, an influential Michigan Republican said Sunday that the certification of the state’s election results should not be delayed, in a move likely to further ramp up pressure on the president. And Trump’s campaign on Sunday scrapped a major part of its federal lawsuit challenging the election in Pennsylvania.

“He only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA,” Trump said of Biden in a morning tweet, providing no evidence to back up his claim. “I concede NOTHING! We have a long way to go. This was a RIGGED ELECTION!”

The president’s declaration comes as he and his administration continue to impede the transition. It follows an earlier Sunday morning tweet in which he appeared — if inadvertently — to acknowledge Biden’s win.

“He won because the Election was Rigged,” Trump said in the tweet. “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!”

As with his other accusations, Trump did not provide any evidence, and Twitter quickly flagged the tweet, noting that his “claim of election fraud is disputed.”

The Post's Lisa Rein explains how the Trump administration is adding challenges to the transition process for President-elect Joe Biden. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford, Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

Asked whether Trump’s original tweet was a sign that he was acknowledging defeat, Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, said, “No, no, no. Far from it.”

The president was being “sarcastic,” Giuliani said on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures."

In remarks in Wilmington, Del., last week, Biden weighed in on Trump’s refusal to concede the race, denouncing the president’s actions and suggesting that Americans are “ready to unite.”

“Well, I just think it’s an embarrassment, quite frankly,” Biden said of Trump’s insistence that he won the race. Biden added that Trump’s actions “will not help the president’s legacy.”

Trump and his allies filed lawsuits in five key states. But rather than revealing fraud, the effort by Trump’s legal team has done the opposite: It has affirmed the integrity of the election. Nearly every GOP challenge has been tossed out, and not a single vote has been overturned.

On Sunday, Trump’s attorneys filed a revised version of their Pennsylvania lawsuit, removing allegations that election officials violated the Trump campaign’s constitutional rights by limiting the ability of their observers to watch votes being counted. Trump and Giuliani have said repeatedly that more than 600,000 votes in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh should be invalidated because of this issue.

Trump’s pared-down lawsuit now focuses on allegations that Republicans were illegally disadvantaged because some Democratic-leaning counties allowed voters to fix errors on their mail ballots. Counties have said this affected only a small number of votes.

While most Republican lawmakers and officials have refused to acknowledge that Biden won the race, some on Sunday said their party needs to accept reality.

In an interview with The Washington Post on Sunday, Michigan’s Republican former secretary of state said that certification of Michigan’s election results should proceed and not be delayed by claims of voting irregularities in the state.

State Sen. Ruth Johnson is one of the first leading GOP officials to effectively acknowledge that Biden carried Michigan. While the former Michigan secretary of state said she is deeply concerned about claims of election improprieties, she added that does not believe they would change overall results. Current totals show Biden defeated Trump in Michigan by more than 148,000 votes.

The comments by Johnson, now chair of the state Senate Elections Committee, come two days before county canvassing boards in Michigan are due to vote on certification. On Nov. 23, the state canvassing board is required by state law to meet and move to certify the results.

Johnson said the claims of fraud and other problems are serious and need to be investigated — but not before the totals are certified.

“I don’t believe that enough votes are in question in Michigan to change the outcome, so I think we need to move forward” with county and state canvassing board certification of the results, she said.

After certification, Johnson said, state officials should authorize an independent audit so that serious claims of irregularities can be considered and any reforms implemented.

“The complaints that I heard are very concerning,” she said, citing ballot-counting procedures and allegations that Republican poll watchers were hampered in their ability to observe the count.

Johnson’s position puts her at odds with other state Republicans, some of whom called for an audit of the election before certification.

An audit could delay the issuance of official results, including the assignment of presidential electors. If certification were delayed beyond mid-December, some Republicans argue, the Republican-controlled legislature could step in to select electors.

Republican legislative leaders in Lansing said last week that they did not think the legislature should have a role in selecting electors, but both declined to say whether they thought Biden had won Michigan or whether certification should be delayed.

Pro-Trump demonstrators at the state Capitol on Saturday warned Republican leaders that they would play a political price if they did not support Trump’s contention that he carried the state.

Earlier in the week, Johnson signed an affidavit in a case challenging the results.

Other Republicans also urged their party and the president to acknowledge Biden’s victory.

In an appearance on NBC News’s “Meet the Press,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said he expects Biden will be the next president of the United States and that Trump should allow the transition to proceed smoothly.

“It’s important that we accept the outcome of the election,” Hutchinson said. He noted that Trump probably does not want to concede while some of his legal challenges remain unresolved, but he added, “We need to come together as a nation.”

John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, called on Republican leaders to explain to their voters that the president’s claims about the election are unsubstantiated.

“The fact is we’ve seen litigation in all the key battleground states, and it has failed consistently,” Bolton said in an interview on ABC News’s “This Week.” He added: “If the Republican voters are only hearing Donald Trump’s misrepresentations, it’s not surprising they believe it. It’s critical for other Republican leaders to stand up and explain what actually happened. Donald Trump lost what, by any evidence we have so far, was a free and fair election.”

Bolton noted that the Trump campaign’s “basic argument is this was a conspiracy so vast and so successful that there’s no evidence of it.”

“If that’s true, I really want to know who these people are that pulled this off,” he said. “We need to hire them at the CIA.”

Without responding to Bolton’s remarks, Trump later insulted his former national security adviser in a tweet, calling him a “real dope.”

Responding to Trump’s Sunday tweets, Biden’s incoming chief of staff, Ron Klain, said the president-elect did not win because of fraud — “he won because he got more votes.”

“He won the same number of electoral votes that President Trump himself called a landslide four years ago,” Klain said on NBC News’s “Meet the Press.” “But look, if the president’s prepared to begin to recognize that reality, that’s positive. Donald Trump’s Twitter feed doesn’t make Joe Biden president or not president. The American people did that.”

Officials voiced concerns about President Trump’s refusal to concede the 2020 election to President-elect Joe Biden on Nov. 15. (Video: The Washington Post)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who lost to Biden in the Democratic primary and has since become a forceful supporter of his candidacy, said Sunday that the president’s refusal to concede and his perpetuation of false claims of fraud are “absolutely disgraceful” and “un-American.”

“I would just hope to God that he has the decency in him to man up and say, ‘You know what, we fought hard. We lost the election. Good luck to Joe Biden. I love America,’ ” Sanders said. “But the fact that he is not even cooperating in the transition — the fact that he continues to deny reality and continues to suggest that Biden has illegally won the election — is beyond belief, in terms of the behavior for an American president.”

Jon Swaine in New York; Keith Newell and Aaron Schaffer in Washington; and Kayla Ruble in Detroit contributed to this report.