WASHINGTON — President Trump’s first acknowledgment that he was facing a post-White House life happened on Friday, as he was giving a coronavirus vaccine speech from the Rose Garden. His administration, he vowed, would not initiate another round of lockdowns. “Hopefully, the — the — whatever happens in the future — who knows which administration it will be? I guess time will tell,” he said.
Though he corrected himself in time, the slip revealed that Trump knew that he would soon be leaving the White House and President-elect Biden would be taking his place.
Some 36 hours later came a tweet that made that same acknowledgement more explicit. “He won because the Election was Rigged,” Trump tweeted, devoting the rest of that message—and many others sent to his 80 million followers throughout the course of a clement Sunday afternoon—to conspiratorial fantasies about Democratic operatives fixing millions of votes for Biden.
Even if his recognition that he had lost the presidency was limited, even if that recognition was qualified by delusions of fraud, this weekend nevertheless marked a new and perhaps terminal stage of the Trump presidency. Even if legal challenges to several states’ results continue, Trump appears to know that he has lost and is looking for a way to leave Washington in a way that will keep his supporters energized.
Trump “is never going to concede the election,” says Sam Nunberg, one of the original advisers from the 2016 campaign. At the same time, “he’d be happy to leave,” Nunberg believes. Governing no longer appears to interest the president; he has not attended a coronavirus task force briefing in nearly half a year. Millions have been left unemployed by the pandemic, but Trump has done little more to bring congressional Democrats and Republicans together than issue a series of tweets so confusing and contradictory that they have served only to draw the two parties further apart.
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