Here are some other times he’s implicitly acknowledged it’s over:
The almost slip-up on referring to the “next administration”
About a week after the election, on the same day some of the final states were being called and giving Biden a 306-vote electoral college win, Trump was holding a news conference about coronavirus treatments at the White House. He appeared to almost acknowledge a “next” administration before quickly correcting himself.
“This administration will not be going to a lockdown. Hopefully the, the — whatever happens in the future, who knows which administration will be? I guess time will tell.”
It was the first time Trump had, in public at least, appeared to recognize reality, and his almost slip-up suggested that he had thought as much behind closed doors. (The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey reports that he vacillates between realizing he lost and hoping it can somehow be overturned. He’s even talked about a 2024 run rather than fight 2020.)
He’s referred to the “Biden administration” other times as well
It came most recently on Thanksgiving, as he talked to troops overseas.
A reporter asked him what his plans were for his last Thanksgiving in the White House, and Trump instead tried to argue the election was stolen from him in various states, using baseless claims and conspiracy theories.
But then he said this about Biden’s forming Cabinet: “You can’t have somebody assume office and already they want to get rid of America First. I mean, they want to get rid of America First. They don’t want America First. You know why? Because, China doesn’t want it. China expressed their, uh, wish, ‘Please get rid of America First.’ And the Biden administration said, ‘Oh, that’s okay.’ ”
It was a criticism of the way Biden will govern, which itself is an acknowledgment that in less than two months, Biden will be governing — and likely overturning many Trump initiatives.
He acknowledged Biden is transitioning into power — and that Trump’s administration is going to help him do that
A problematic manifestation of Trump denying reality was an inability for the Biden team to use government resources to start building their government. Federal law allows for an incoming presidency to have access to taxpayer dollars and secure government buildings and top officials in the outgoing team. National security officials worried it would jeopardize Biden’s ability to keep Americans safe.
But a previously virtually unknown Trump appointee, Emily Murphy of the General Services Administration, refused to sign off on allowing the Biden team to all this. The Washington Post reports she was caught between not wanting to get ahead of her boss, Trump, and increasing pressure from Democrats and Republicans in Congress to allow Biden to fully start his transition to protect national security.
On Monday, sensing Trump’s always long-shot attempts to overturn the election foreclosing, she relented and signed off on allowing the more formal parts of his transition to move forward.
Murphy said in a letter to Biden she acted on her own. But in a tweet that same night, Trump tried to take credit for it, perhaps sensing there was no other option.
“In the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same,” he said in tweets.
A campaign official told The Post the above tweet would probably be the closest Trump would come to conceding.
Though news coverage portrayed Trump as having effectively conceded, he tried to assert on social media that he wasn’t giving up.
He’s tried to steal the election through a back door
This effort is likely illegal and certainly undemocratic. But as Trump’s legal challenges crumble pretty quickly in court, in the past week or so he’s shifted gears to a much more brazen tactic.
He’s been trying to convince local Republican lawmakers in key states to steal the election for him by declaring there’s too much potential fraud to certify election results, and then voting to give electors to him. The door opened a crack for him in Michigan last week when at least three Republican election officials objected to certifying results. Sensing an opening, Trump met with Michigan GOP lawmakers at the White House.
But his efforts failed. County and state boards certified the results, and these lawmakers emerged from their meeting with Trump saying they had no intention of overturning the results and giving electors to him.
Trump has since aimed at Pennsylvania, another state he lost that is controlled by Republican lawmakers. On Thursday, he said his team had met with some in the legislature and apparently presented their fraud claims. By Trump’s telling, they sounded receptive. “We’ve had excellent meetings with senators from Pennsylvania, Republican senators and others,” he said, “and they’re seeing things. They knew it was dishonest, but they didn’t know it was this dishonest.”
But this door is probably shut and locked, too. Pennsylvania lawmakers haven’t talked about the meeting. Pennsylvania’s top Republican lawmakers have previously said they wouldn’t be changing electors. And Pennsylvania has already certified its results, finalizing that Biden won the state’s electors.
His legal challenges have mostly devolved into public relations pushes and tweets
Trump keeps promising that major revelations in how the election was conducted are coming. “You’re gonna find fraud of hundreds of thousands of votes per state,” he said on Thanksgiving.
A reporter asked him when he’d present such evidence in court. It’s not like the Trump campaign hasn’t been trying. They’ve had weeks since the election to do so, holding anxious news conferences where his allies promise “this election is far from over.”
But when it comes time to go before the court, they back away from fraud claims they’re making on TV, or they get shoved out of court by judges for bringing them such unfounded allegations in the first place.
Trump’s lawyers have started abandoning him. They’ve lost nearly every court case they’ve tried to bring in swing states. Not a single vote has been overturned.
So rather than come up with new, tighter legal cases, this week his lawyers attended a hearing held by Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania about alleged election fraud. Not much new was revealed.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that “it played out like a campaign rally — with firebrand speeches from GOP lawmakers and whooping cheers from dozens of supporters.” And when Trump called in via cellphone held up to a microphone, he spewed election falsehoods that courts have already rejected.
Trump’s Twitter feed is much of the same.
This probably an efficient way to keep Trump’s base and GOP lawmakers loyal to him. But repeating the same false things over and over won’t actually overturn the election.
Trump is out of options, and every week he’s starting to talk more and more like he knows he’s lost.