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Denial and resignation, of Trump and a handful of helpers

WASHINGTON – President Trump’s motorcade was arriving just Saturday morning at his private golf club in suburban Virginia when news agencies ended the days of waiting and said he had lost the presidency to Joseph R . Biden Jr.

Aides called Mr. Trump to let him know their predictions over the past few days had come true: All major media had projected Mr. Biden to be the winner. But the president, who an hour earlier had said on Twitter that “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY MANY!, ”Wasn’t surprised, they said. And he didn’t change his plans to move forward with legal challenges to the election results that several of his own advisers had warned him were long shots at best, or to play golf.

Assistants said Mr. Trump did not intend to immediately deliver the kind of concession speech that has become traditional in the last presidential elections, and that his campaign is committed to continuing the legal battle through the country. In a statement released while still on the course at Trump National Golf Club, Mr. Trump said Mr. Biden was trying to “falsely pass himself off” as the winner.

“The simple fact is that these elections are far from over,” the president said. “From Monday, our campaign will begin to take our cause to court to ensure that election laws are fully respected and that the legitimate winner is seated.”

Mr Trump’s advisers described him as in complete denial that he would have to leave the White House in January and said he refused to drop his baseless accusation that Democrats had robbed him of victory.

They don’t think he’ll try in any way to stop Mr Biden from taking his place, but they said that while the president had not made a formal concession speech when he left, the pressure could mount on his Republican allies, his family members. and friends to convince Mr. Trump that he must give in to the inevitable and let the American people know that they accept their judgment on his four years in power.

Even some of Mr. Trump’s oldest advisers, such as former Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, have publicly said he needs concrete evidence to make the statements he made about the election.

“That sort of thing, all he does is ignite without informing.” And we can’t allow inflammation without information, ”Mr Christie told ABC News Thursday night.

Now that Mr. Biden has been declared the winner, White House advisers must face the reality that Mr. Trump will be a lame president for the next two and a half months, going after his alleged enemies on Twitter. and asserting power. from his office even as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage across the country.

Since early Wednesday morning, when Mr. Trump angrily declared the election a “fraud” on the public, most of him has been sitting in the Oval Office or Presidential Residence, watching TV coverage and mulling over .

Besides his children, he spoke on the phone and at the White House with a coterie of advisers, including former White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, his campaign manager, Bill Stepien, and his deputy campaign manager, Justin. Clark, and Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee.

Vice President Mike Pence spent part of Friday in the Oval Office with Mr Trump, but the President’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who tested positive for coronavirus the day after the election, worked remotely on the current challenges of the campaign.

Mr. Trump’s advisers had succeeded in persuading his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to withdraw from certain public allegations of fraud. But Mr Giuliani called Mr Trump directly to appeal, and the president signed a press conference outside a landscaping company in Philadelphia that began on Saturday morning just after the media called the race to the presidential election for Mr. Biden.

Aides was frank with him that there was not a long way to go. Only a few had seemed reluctant that Mr. Biden was likely to win, including the president’s son-in- Jared Kushner, people who spoke with Mr. Trump said.

Several Trump advisers have said they now want to give the president space to deal with the loss, but they are exhausted after four years of uproar and eager to find out what will come next.

Mr Trump had been anxious to leave the White House, and after reflections on a rally this week collapsed, aides said he was likely to visit his private club, Mar-a-Lago next week. , in Palm Beach, Florida. ., instead. But the president does not intend to end the tumultuous events he has had throughout his presidency just because his re-election campaign is over.

It was unclear whether Mr. Trump would follow tradition and invite Mr. Biden to the White House for a symbolic reunion like the one he had with President Barack Obama during his own transition four years ago. It is also a tradition for the outgoing president to attend the inauguration of his successor, but Mr. Trump has ignored many of the office’s standards.

Mr. Biden, as a former vice president, doesn’t need the kind of building introduction Mr. Trump did. Such a meeting would send a signal that could allay the anger of the president’s supporters nationwide over a loss – but it would be a remarkably different approach than a president who has so often sought to ignite passions.

Democrats are concerned that a range of traditional transitional practices could be disrupted by officials in the Trump administration. But so far, such operations are going on without any interruptions.

Senior White House adviser Chris Liddell led transitional operations for the Trump administration, officials said, coordinating with others to meet deadlines. Mr. Trump was unaware of these activities, a White House official said, in part because of his own superstitions about planning ahead of an election, and in part because officials feared he was trying to sidestep. mix in.

As Mr. Trump’s motorcade returned to the White House on Saturday afternoon, passing crowds of Biden supporters applauding the president’s ouster, Mr. Trump’s aides were still in varying degrees of shock over the outcome. of a race that many thought he would win.

Some of these helpers had already started to leave in anticipation of a loss. Ja’Ron Smith, the West Wing’s top black official and deputy assistant to the president, emailed his colleagues on Friday to let him know he was leaving. One of his colleagues said it was long overdue, but others saw it as the start of a slow exodus as opening day approached.

Mr Trump, for his part, has shown no sign of ending his hunt for fraud allegations that could lend credence to the lawsuits he wants to bring in a number of states. A campaign official said Mr Stepien and Mr Kushner had David Bossie, the leader of the conservative Citizens United group and a longtime Trump ally, to lead efforts to challenge the vote count in several states.

Some of the president’s allies in the Senate said they understood why he felt entrenched.

“I don’t blame him at all for fighting for every vote,” said Republican Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.

But before he even left the White House, one of Mr. Trump’s most powerful forms of communication was diminished. Twitter has become increasingly aggressive in flagging Mr. Trump’s false statements even as the president, in the days following the election, spread false information about “illegal ballots” and demanded that Local officials in several states stop counting ballots prematurely.

Twitter spokesperson Nick Pacilio said in a statement the company reported the president’s tweets “for making potentially misleading statements about an election.” This action is in line with our civic integrity policy and, as is the norm with this disclaimer, we will significantly limit engagement on these tweets. “

Mr. Trump posted the same false claim that he won the election on his Facebook page early Saturday. Facebook quickly added its own warning: “Votes are counted. The winner of the 2020 US presidential election has not been projected. “