US President Donald Trump for the first time Thursday promised a smooth transition to President-elect Joe Biden and acknowledged his presidency was ending as calls grew for his removal from office for inciting a mob attack on the US Capitol.
An unusually tame Trump, in a video he released on Twitter after a temporary suspension from the platform, condemned rioters who rampaged in his name through a congressional session that certified Biden’s victory, although he did not go so far as to congratulate or even say the name of his successor.
“This moment calls for healing and reconciliation,” said Trump, in a jarring shift of tone a day after a grievance-fueled outdoor rally in which he encouraged thousands of supporters to march on the Capitol.
“We have just been through an intense election and emotions are high, but now tempers must be cooled and calm restored,” said Trump, standing before a lectern with the presidential seal.
“A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power,” he said.
“Serving as your president has been the honor of my lifetime,” Trump claimed, without explicitly conceding and insisting he was “fighting to defend American democracy.”
Trump’s turnaround came as aides including two cabinet members resigned and the two top Democrats in Congress urged his immediate removal, fearing the damage he can still inflict in his less than two weeks left in office.
Biden, who won seven million votes more than Trump in the November 3 election as well as a decisive edge in the vital state-by-state Electoral College, declined to address demands for Trump’s removal but accused him of an “all-out assault on the institutions of our democracy.”
“Yesterday, in my view, was one of the darkest days in the history of our nation,” Biden said at an event to introduce his nominee for attorney general, respected judge Merrick Garland, who if confirmed will quickly need to decide whether to prosecute Trump.
“They weren’t protesters,” Biden said. “They were a riotous mob, insurrectionists, domestic terrorists.”
“I wish we could say we couldn’t see it coming but that isn’t true,” Biden added. “We could see it coming.”