President Donald Trump conceded publicly for the first time Thursday that he will not serve a second term, stopping short of congratulating President-elect Joe Biden but acknowledging a transfer of power is now underway.
"A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20," Trump said in a pre-recorded video taped at the White House. "My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power."
Trump's recognition of his loss comes two months after the fact and amid growing calls for either his removal from office or a fresh impeachment. It also came as legal questions swirled about his culpability for inciting rioters who invaded the US Capitol a day earlier.
In the video, released more than 24 hours after Wednesday's riot, Trump made calls for "healing and reconciliation" and said the country must move forward.
But he also misstated his role in activating the National Guard to combat his supporters who stormed the Capitol, who only a day earlier he called "special."
Earlier Thursday, Trump issued a dark-of-night statement vowing an "orderly
transition," which came about in part to stanch a wave of resignations from within the West Wing and the broader administration, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The resignations began Wednesday with the first lady's chief of staff, the White House social secretary, a deputy press secretary and Trump's deputy national security adviser all exiting before the night's end. Other officials, sources told CNN, had been considering resigning. And a growing number of Republican leaders and Cabinet members told CNN on Wednesday that they were considering having Trump removed from office by impeachment or through the invocation of the 25th Amendment.
But at least one person who was believed Wednesday to be considering resigning is now planning to remain in the administration. National security adviser Robert O'Brien has told aides he now intends to remain in his post until Trump leaves office, though his plans could still change depending on how Trump approaches the day. He made his decision before Trump released the statement.
O'Brien was persuaded to stay by other senior staffers, who expressed concern about the national security implications of a vacant post in the final days of the administration.
The statement from the President, released through his deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino's Twitter account at 3:50 a.m. ET, said "there will be an orderly transition on January 20" even though he disagreed with the outcome of the election.
Trump agreed to the statement after being advised of the dismay and disgust among many of his aides, though the person familiar said it was not the sole reason for its release. It also came after reports that early discussions were underway about invoking the 25th Amendment and restarting impeachment proceedings.
"Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20,"
Trump said in a statement after Congress certified his loss. "I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it's only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again."
The overnight statement was issued without the knowledge of the White House press office, a White House official said. He added Friday that he would not, however, be attending the inauguration of his successor and winner of the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden.