Donald Trump seemed to hint for the first time that he may no longer soon occupy the White House, as he spoke publicly for the first time since the US presidential election was called for Joe Biden.
In ruling out a national coronavirus lockdown under his tenure, he appeared to acknowledge that the decision might not be his much longer.
“This administration will not be going to a lockdown,” Trump told an audience in the White House Rose Garden, in his first public remarks since Saturday. “Hopefully 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 has repeatedly tweeted that there was fraud in the election despite no evidence to support his claims. More lawsuits were thrown out of court on Friday and his team dropped a claim in Arizona.
The outgoing president has so far refused to concede the election. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, meanwhile, said Trump is “not even at that point yet” when it comes to conceding to Biden.
Some experts are concerned that Trump is preventing the incoming Biden administration from a smooth transition into government.
Federal and state officials in a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cybersecurity unit have described the election as “the most secure in American history”, saying they have seen no evidence that votes were compromised or altered in last week’s vote.
Former President Barack Obama told CBS on Friday that Republican officials who were “humouring” Trump were “delegitimising not just the incoming Biden administration, but democracy generally.”
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Joe Biden, for his part, has not endorsed a nationwide shutdown, but he appealed for Trump to take “urgent action” to curtail the spread of the virus. “The crisis does not respect dates on the calendar, it is accelerating right now,” he said in a statement Friday.
The US has repeatedly hit record high daily infection levels, recording more than 100,000 cases a day since early November. Trump attributed the record rise in cases in part to the country’s testing programme, despite rising hospitalisations in the US.
Trump also touted the country’s virus response, commending news that a vaccine candidate from Pfizer was determined to be 90% effective, which he called amazing.
“No medical breakthrough of this scope or magnitude has ever been achieved this rapidly,” said Trump, who estimated that under a “different administration” it wouldn’t have been possible, despite unprecedented global efforts to tackle COVID-19.
Trump said a vaccine would ship in “a matter of weeks” to vulnerable populations, though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet been asked to grant the necessary emergency approvals.
There’s also no information yet as to whether the vaccine worked in vulnerable populations or only in younger, healthier study volunteers.
Vice President Mike Pence said the good news of the day was “help is on the way”. Pence said people should wash their hands, practice social distancing and wear a mask if distancing isn’t possible.