WASHINGTON: US President-elect Joe Biden took the first steps on Sunday (Nov 8) towards taking over the White House 73 days from now but Donald Trump showed no signs of being ready to admit defeat and continued to sow doubt about the election results.
As congratulations poured in from world leaders and supporters nursed hangovers after a day of raucous celebrations, the 77-year-old Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, 56, launched a transition website, BuildBackBetter.com, and a Twitter feed, @Transition46.
While Trump is refusing to concede Tuesday’s election and most Republican lawmakers are adopting a studied silence, former president George W Bush said the “outcome is clear”.
Bush, 74, the only living Republican ex-president, said he had called “President-elect” Biden and Harris to extend his “warm congratulations”.
While Trump has the right to request recounts and pursue legal challenges, Bush said “the American people can have confidence that this election was fundamentally fair, its integrity will be upheld and its outcome is clear.”
“Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man, who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country,” Bush said in a statement. “We must come together for the sake of our families and neighbours, and for our nation and its future.”
The transition website lists four priorities for an administration led by Barack Obama’s former vice-president: COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change.
“The team being assembled will meet these challenges on Day One,” it said in a reference to January 20, 2021, when Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.
Biden, who turns 78 on Nov 20, is the oldest person ever elected to the White House. Harris, 56, the junior senator from California, is the first woman and first black person to be elected vice-president.
Biden plans to name a task force on Monday to tackle the coronavirus pandemic which has left more than 237,000 people dead in the United States and is surging across the country.
He has also announced plans to rejoin the Paris climate accord and will reportedly issue an executive order on his first day reversing Trump’s travel ban on mostly Muslim countries.
Biden has vowed to name a cabinet that reflects the diversity of the country although he may have some trouble gaining Senate approval for more progressive appointees if Republicans retain control of the Senate – an outcome that will depend on two runoff races in Georgia in January.
‘ACCEPT THE INEVITABLE’
Biden, after John F Kennedy, is just the second Catholic to be elected US president. He attended church Sunday morning in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, and visited the graves of his son, Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015 and his first wife and daughter, who died in a 1972 car accident.
Trump, 74, was playing golf on Sunday at his course near Washington, the same place where he was on Saturday when the US television networks delivered the news that Biden had secured enough Electoral College votes for victory.
“Since when does the Lamestream Media call who our next president will be?” Trump complained in a tweet on Sunday.
First Lady Melania Trump also chipped in, tweeting: “The American people deserve fair elections. Every legal – not illegal – vote should be counted.”
The Trump campaign has mounted legal challenges to the results in several states but no evidence has emerged so far of any widespread irregularities that would impact the results.
Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Symone Sanders, a senior advisor to Biden, dismissed the court challenges as “baseless legal strategies”.
Biden received nearly 74.6 million votes to Trump’s 70.4 million nationwide and has a 279-214 lead in the Electoral College that determines the presidency.
Biden also leads in Arizona, which has 11 electoral votes, and Georgia, which has 16, and if he wins both he would finish with 306 electoral votes – the same total won by Trump in 2016 when he upset Hillary Clinton.
Only two Republicans senators, Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski, have congratulated Biden and Democratic Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina said the Republican Party has a “responsibility” to help convince Trump it is time to give up.
Romney, who voted to convict Trump at his impeachment trial, said the president will eventually “accept the inevitable”.
The Utah senator added that he “would prefer to see the world watching a more graceful departure, but that’s just not in the nature of the man”.
‘DO NOT CONCEDE, MR PRESIDENT’
But Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said the president should keep fighting.
“We will work with Biden if he wins, but Trump has not lost,” Graham said on the Fox News show Sunday Morning Futures. “Do not concede, Mr President. Fight hard.”
Another Trump ally, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, told the same show it was too early to call the election.
“What we need in the presidential race is to make sure every legal vote is counted, every recount is completed and every legal challenge should be heard,” McCarthy said.
In a victory speech on Saturday, Biden promised to unify the bitterly divided nation and reached out to Trump supporters, saying “they’re not our enemies, they’re Americans”.
“Let’s give each other a chance,” he said. “Let this grim era of demonisation in America begin to end, here and now.”
While only a handful of Republican lawmakers have congratulated Biden, the leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and other European countries have done so along with Australia, Canada, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan and South Korea.