Administration

Trump breaks public silence, but doesn’t talk election

President Trump made his first public remarks Friday from the Rose Garden since Joe Biden won the presidential election, but made no mention of his loss or unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud.

Trump offered no concession to Biden and took no questions after he and other advisers spoke about the development of coronavirus vaccines for roughly 45 minutes.

The closest Trump came to talking about the election outcome came when he seemed to acknowledge the possibility of a new administration taking hold as he railed against future lockdowns to blunt the spread of the coronavirus. 

“This administration will not be going to a lockdown. Hopefully the — the, whatever happens in the future, who knows which administration it will be, I guess time will tell, but I can tell you this administration will not go to a lockdown,” Trump said. 

The event represented Trump’s first public remarks since last Thursday, when he declared without evidence that the election was being stolen from him in a statement from the White House briefing room. Two days later, Biden was projected the victor in the presidential race, making Trump the latest in a handful of one-term presidents. 

Trump has refused to concede the race to Biden and instead his campaign has mounted legal challenges to the election results in Pennsylvania, Michigan and other states. Hours before Trump spoke, his campaign dropped a lawsuit seeking a review of ballots cast in Arizona after numerous outlets called the state for Biden. A Michigan judge also rejected a Republican effort to block the state’s largest county from certifying its election results, ruling that the lawsuit’s voter fraud claims were “incorrect and not credible.”

The law firm Porter Wright Morris & Arthur also withdrew from representing the campaign in another case in federal court in Pennsylvania that alleges voting irregularities, after a New York Times report about internal tensions related to the firm’s representation of Trump.  Election officials have disputed Trump’s claims of electoral fraud. 

Biden earlier Friday afternoon was also projected the winner in Georgia, a historically red state that has not elected a Democrat for president in nearly three decades. Trump was also projected the winner in North Carolina. The two states were the final remaining outstanding to call in the presidential race. 

Trump, who ahead of the announcement tweeted that the election had been “rigged” and promoted a debunked theory about a voting software company leading to false results, used the Rose Garden event to take credit for the news of the effectiveness of Pfizer’s vaccine earlier this week. 

He touted “Operation Warp Speed,” the federal government program to accelerate the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, as part of the “single greatest mobilization in U.S. history.” And he promised that a vaccine would be distributed to elderly Americans, front-line workers and high-risk populations in “a matter of weeks,” though one has not yet been submitted for approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

“No medical breakthrough of this scope and magnitude has ever been achieved this rapidly, this quickly,” Trump said. “Operation Warp Speed is unequalled and unrivaled anywhere in the world.”

The president continued to downplay the pandemic, acknowledging the rising COVID-19 cases but attributing them to a rise in testing — a claim that has been disputed repeatedly by health experts. 

“Case levels are high but a lot of the case levels are high because of the fact that we have the best testing program anywhere in the world,” Trump said. 

He was joined by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Vice President Pence, both of whom praised his leadership on the pandemic in their own prepared remarks. 

Trump has repeatedly minimized the threat from the virus, even after contracting it himself, and eschewed public health guidelines to hold large rallies throughout the final months of his campaign. Surveys show that a large majority of Americans disapprove of the handling of the coronavirus, which was a leading issue in the election campaign. 

Biden has drawn a sharp contrast with Trump on the virus, and earlier this week unveiled a team of coronavirus advisers to help him during the transition even as Trump continues to dispute the results. 

Following a briefing with health advisers before Trump’s news conference, Biden issued a statement warning about the surge in cases and imploring Americans to social distance and wear masks. 

“This week’s news on progress toward a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is positive, but it will be many months before there is widespread vaccination in this country,” Biden said. “This crisis demands a robust and immediate federal response, which has been woefully lacking. I am the president-elect, but I will not be president until next year.”

“Today, I renew my call for every American, regardless of where they live or who they voted for, to step up and do their part on social distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing to protect themselves and to protect others,” Biden continued. 

Jessie Hellmann contributed. 

Tags Donald Trump Joe Biden Mike Pence

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