New York, Nov 24 President Donald Trump has at last set the stage for leaving office in January by agreeing to work with Joe Biden on the transition to his presidency, even as he stubbornly asserted that he would ultimately win.
He tweeted on Monday evening that he was agreeing to cooperate with Biden in the "best interest of our country" for him to become the 46th President of a country facing a profound crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic touching every aspect of life.
The cooperation on transition will enable Biden, who has already begun designating key personnel for his cabinet and other senior-level jobs, to start work on January 20 when he will be sworn-in.
However, beneath his claim of magnanimity was Trump's assertion that he will "prevail" in the November 3 election and reclaim the presidency.
The head of General Services Administration, Emily Murphy, wrote to Biden that her office which is in charge of facilitating the transition will cooperate with him.
"In the best interest of our country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same," Trump tweeted.
However, Murphy also wrote that she was acting "independently, based on the law and available facts" and was not pressured by the White House.
She had resisted authorising intelligence briefings or providing information and access to the administration and offering funds and facilities for the transition because the results have not been formally declared and Trump had not conceded.
On November 7, many of the media declared Biden the winner of the election with 306 electoral college votes to Trump's 232 based on their projections of the voting even though the counting is still continuing in some states.
It is customary in the US for the media to declare election results before the official notification, even if the counting was not complete. Most of the time politic accept the media verdict even though it is not legal.
Biden will be formally elected on December 14 by the members of the electoral college who were elected in the states.
Trump's tweet and Murphy's letter ended 16 days of suspense and chaos for the transition.
Biden had warned that "more people will get infected and die" from COVID-19 if the transition process is delayed and his incoming administration's ability to counter the pandemic from Day One is hindered.
Biden transition's Executive Director Yohannes Abraham welcomed the announcements calling them "a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track."
Trump and his campaign have been challenging the election in courts, but so far without success.
Without a nation-wide election body, states and even local bodies hold and announce election results.
On Friday, Georgia formally announced Biden the winner by 0.25 per cent of the votes.
Because of the tiny margin arrived at after a manual audit to count the votes, Trump can ask for a recount there.
Michigan declared Biden the winner on Monday, but Pennsylvania which had a deadline the same day was unlikely to meet it because some counties were not ready to certify the results.
In states like New York, the counting is still continuing.
After the media declared Biden the winner, Trump has been facing pressure from the Democrats, the media and, even, some in his own party to concede defeat and get on with the transition.
Republicans like Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Senators Mitt Romney and Susan Collins have recognised Biden as the president-elect and criticised Trump's refusal.
Many world leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have also recognised Biden as the victor.
Trump, though, spiked his offer of cooperation with the claim, "Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!"
This claim was mainly aimed at his base and is a payback for the four years of the Democrats delegitimising his election with claims of Russian collusion in 2016.
Special Counsel Robert Muller found no collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow after an expensive and extensive probe.
Even claims of Russ independently influencing the voting in favour Trump now seem doubtful because in this election, where Democrats concede there was no foreign interference, Trump has polled more votes than he did in 2016.
Trump alleging fraud in the election and refusing to concede was "incredibly damaging" and sends it sends the world "a horrible message about who we are as a country," Biden had said.
But the Democrats had questioned the legitimacy of Trump's election and Trump and his base prepare for their revenge citing some documented irregularities as evidence of massive fraud.
Trump had been sending mixed messages on the election. On November 15, he tweeted "He won because the Election was Rigged," but within hours he made a U-turn, tweeting, "RIGGED ELECTION. WE WILL WIN!"
On November 13, he had given an early hint saying at a news conference about the possibility of a national lockdown, "Whatever happens in the future, who knows, which administration will be, I guess time will tell."
(Arul Louis can be reached at arul.l@.in and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)
( With inputs from IANS )
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