US President Donald Trump suggested for the first time since Election Day that he might not have won another term but stopped short of conceding the race to Joe Biden.
Speaking in the White House Rose Garden on Friday about coronavirus vaccines, Trump vowed his administration would not “lock down” the country again but said another president could.
“This administration will not be going to a lockdown. Hopefully, 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,” he said.
The event marked the president’s first public comments since November 5. He has remained mostly out of public view since news networks projected Biden as the winner last Saturday, but has tweeted a steady stream of unfounded claims that the election was “rigged” and that he was the real winner.
Trump’s reclusion has triggered a fresh round of criticism that he has failed to lead on the pandemic as cases surge nationwide. More than 10.6 million people in the United States have contracted the virus and more than 243,000 have died, according to figures compiled by Bloomberg.
The president’s failure to concede has also affected Biden’s transition planning, with advisers to the Democrat barred from making official contact with government health experts about their efforts. That interaction will not be allowed to take place until the administrator of the General Services Administration, Emily Murphy, makes an ascertainment that Biden is the president elect.
In his comments, Trump recapped milestones in the race for a vaccine but offered little new information. Earlier this week, Pfizer Inc, said its shot was 90 percent effective in a late-stage trial while Moderna Inc said it reached a key study benchmark and would soon have data on its vaccine’s effectiveness. The president indicated that regulators would quickly authorise the shots, and that US citizens would have broad access to them by spring.
Trump criticised New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, apparently over concerns he has raised about the vaccine. Cuomo, a Democrat, had said the state would independently review any vaccine out of concern the approval process was tainted by politics.
Trump said: “He wants to take his time with the vaccine he doesn’t trust where the vaccine is coming from.” The president added, “We can’t be delivering it to a state that can’t be giving it to its people immediately.”
Trump didn’t take questions from reporters, who asked why he has not conceded to Biden.
‘Whatever the outcome’
After Trump’s event, Vice-President Mike Pence tweeted that the legal challenges over balloting would continue. But he allowed that he and Trump might not prevail. “Whatever the outcome: We Will Never Stop Fighting to Make America Great Again!” Pence wrote.
The president suffered a series of major setbacks earlier Friday in his bid to overturn Biden’s victory. News networks called Georgia for the Democrat and legal challenges for Trump crumbled in three other key states.
The president’s lawyers moved toward dropping an Arizona lawsuit after Biden’s lead in the state widened enough to be insurmountable. National news outlets Wednesday joined the Associated Press and Fox News in calling the Arizona race for Biden.
“Since the close of yesterday’s hearing, the tabulation of votes statewide has rendered unnecessary a judicial ruling” in Arizona’s presidential election, wrote the campaign’s lawyer, Kory Langhofer. Two down-ballot races remain that may still be affected by the litigation, he added.
At least one GOP-led legal challenge remains. The Arizona Republican Party filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging how that state’s largest jurisdiction, Maricopa County, audits votes via hand counts. And Republican state lawmakers continue to call for an audit of the results to unearth any irregularities.