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Jumat, 27 November 2020

A Trump concession is becoming less relevant - Sydney Morning Herald

Like so many other times during his presidency, Donald Trump’s latest press conference left observers feeling baffled and bewildered.

Will he accept defeat, or won’t he? Did he just acknowledge Joe Biden’s victory, or didn’t he?

US President Donald Trump speaks during a videoconference with members of military in the Diplomatic Room of the White House before taking questions from reporters.

US President Donald Trump speaks during a videoconference with members of military in the Diplomatic Room of the White House before taking questions from reporters.Credit:Bloomberg

For a fleeting moment, it looked like a Thanksgiving miracle was about to unfold.

On Friday (AEDT), after his annual holiday tradition of speaking to US troops via videoconference, Trump agreed to take questions from reporters for the first time since the November 3 election.

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Asked whether he would finally concede if the Electoral College voted for Biden when it met next month, Trump made a rare admission: "It's going to be a very hard thing to concede."

Pressed further on whether he would exit the White House peacefully on January 20, inauguration day, Trump came the closest yet to acknowledging his presidency was all but over.

"Certainly I will, and you know that,” he said. "But I think that there will be a lot of things happening between now and the 20th of January. A lot of things.”

Joe Biden is setting up his team despite Donald Trump's refusal to publicly concede.

Joe Biden is setting up his team despite Donald Trump's refusal to publicly concede.Credit:AP

Then, when asked if he would attend Biden’s inauguration, he replied: “I don't want to say that. I mean, I know the answer — I'll be honest, I know the answer — but I just don't want to say it yet.”

It was a telling set of comments for Trump, who spent the rest of the press conference undoing his nearly-there concession by repeating his unfounded claims of “voter fraud” and “rigged” ballots.

Once again, he blamed the media and tech companies, claiming dishonesty and censorship.

Once again, he said without evidence that dodgy machines had systematically “flipped” votes to Biden when they were meant to be cast for him.

And again, he insisted that his legal challenges would eventually prove the election was “stolen” — even though most courts have dismissed his claims as frivolous.

Yet, for all his bravado, you get the feeling that reality is sinking in for Trump, even as he boldly insists he will continue to fight for a second term.

Which begs the question: why does he still bother?

Part of it boils down to Trump’s long-standing mission to sow doubt about the election simply because he didn’t like the result.

Sadly, his plan seems to have worked: when Biden is inaugurated next year, he will lead a bitterly divided country where tens of millions of people falsely believe he is an illegitimate president.

Part of it is also designed to line Trump’s own pockets: as The Age reported earlier this month, the Trump campaign has been bombarding people with daily fundraising emails begging for donations for its so-called “Election Defence Fund”.

But when you read the fine print, the initiative essentially creates a slush fund for Trump, in which donations under $5000 are unlikely to go into a recount at all. In fact, most of the money is funnelled into a political account that was set up for Trump after the election and has broad discretion over how donations can be used.

And part of it is the simple fact that Trump hates to lose — and never thought he’d lose to a career politician he dubbed as “Sleepy Joe".

This much was clear at Friday’s press conference, when he told reporters: “This is not a candidate that could get 80 million votes. This is not a candidate that beat Barack Hussein Obama with a black voter [...] This is not a candidate that beat Hillary Clinton to a pulp. It just doesn't work that way!"

Trump was right about one thing, though: much will happen between now and inauguration day.

On December 14, the Electoral College will cast its votes for president, based on the popular votes of each state. Biden has secured enough support from the public to gain 306 Electoral College votes — exceeding the 270 required to take office — compared to Trump’s 232.

Within weeks, a COVID-19 vaccine is also expected to be approved by the US drug regulator, giving at least a limited supply to front-line medical workers and high-risk groups such as the elderly. On this front, Trump deserves some credit for fast-tracking the process under his administration’s aptly titled program, Operation Warp Speed.

And then, on January 5, the new swing state of Georgia will come under the spotlight again when it holds two “run-off” elections that will determine which party gets control of the Senate - and in turn, how much power Biden will have to implement his first term agenda.

As the days pass, whether Trump will or won’t concede is becoming less relevant. The emerging question now is whether he's paving the way for another presidential run in 2024.

“I don’t want to talk about 2024 yet,” he said, “because this is far from being over.”

Trump Biden 2020

Understand the election result and its aftermath with expert analysis from US correspondent Matthew Knott. Sign up to The Sydney Morning Herald's newsletter here, The Age's here, Brisbane Times' here and WAtoday's here

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2020-11-27 05:45:00Z
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