President Donald Trump has apparently acknowledged losing the US election but then backtracked and said he concedes “nothing”.
President-elect Joe Biden, meanwhile, is focused on tackling the coronavirus pandemic and has set meetings with pharmaceutical companies developing vaccines.
Ron Klain, Biden’s pick for White House chief of staff, urged Trump’s administration to allow a seamless transition on Sunday, calling it vital for national security and combating COVID-19.
The pandemic will be a paramount concern for Biden, who takes office on January 20.
Klain said Biden’s scientific advisors will meet with Pfizer Inc and other drugmakers starting this week to prepare for the “giant logistical project” of widespread vaccination against a virus that has killed more than 245,000 Americans and left millions unemployed.
Biden defeated Trump in the November 3 election by winning a series of battleground states that the Republican incumbent won in 2016.
The Democratic former vice president also won the national popular vote by at least 5.5 million votes, or 3.6 percentage points, with some ballots still being counted.
Trump, pursuing long-shot litigation contesting election results in several states, made conflicting statements in a series of Twitter posts.
He initially appeared to admit for the first time publicly that Biden won, then reversed course. Trump also repeated unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud.
“He won because the Election was Rigged,” Trump wrote, not referring to Biden by name, adding a list of complaints about vote counting.
About 90 minutes later, Trump wrote, “He only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA. I concede NOTHING! We have a long way to go. This was a RIGGED ELECTION!”
“WE WILL WIN!” added Trump, who then went on a golf outing at a club he owns in Virginia.
Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, Klain said, “Donald Trump’s Twitter feed doesn’t make Joe Biden president or not president. The American people did that.”
The decision by the General Services Administration, headed by a Trump appointee, not to recognise Biden as president-elect has prevented Biden and his team gaining access to government office space and funding normally afforded to an incoming administration to ensure smooth transition.
Without explicitly mentioning the transition, Trump praised the agency’s administrator Emily Murphy, writing on Twitter: “Great job Emily!”
Klain said Murphy’s agency must formally recognise Biden, saying it is critical to ensure the president-elect receives intelligence briefings before taking office and to facilitate co-ordination with the White House coronavirus task force.
Klain urged Congress to pass bipartisan coronavirus relief legislation by year’s end. Talks on such legislation stalled before the election.
Klain previously said a smooth transition is necessary to ensure the government is prepared to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine early next year.
Pfizer announced last week its vaccine candidate proved more than 90 per cent effective in initial trials, giving hope widespread vaccination in the coming months could help get the pandemic under control.
Other companies also are in advanced stages of developing promising vaccines.
“You know, it’s great to have a vaccine but vaccines don’t save lives. Vaccinations save lives,” Klain said.
“And that means you’ve got to get that vaccine into people’s arms all over this country.”