Trump acknowledges Biden victory a day after US Capitol chaos, pledges smooth transition of power
WASHINGTON: As the threat of a second impeachment loomed, President Donald Trump acknowledged on Thursday (Jan 7) that Joe Biden will be the next US president, a day after his supporters stormed the US Capitol as Congress was certifying Biden's victory.
Trump, who as recently as Thursday morning had continued to claim falsely that the election had been stolen from him, said his focus would now turn to ensuring a smooth transition to a Biden administration in a video released on Thursday evening.
Biden, a Democrat, is set to be sworn in on Jan 20.
The president condemned Wednesday's violence, saying rioters had defiled the seat of American democracy.
"Serving as your president has been the honour of my lifetime," Trump said. "And to all of my wonderful supporters, I know you are disappointed, but I also want you to know that our incredible journey is only just beginning."
The statement was a stark reversal for Trump, who has spent months insisting he prevailed in the Nov 3 election due to widespread fraud, despite no evidence.
"Now Congress has certified the results. A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation," he said.
His exhortation on Wednesday to thousands of supporters that they should march to the Capitol to protest the election results whipped up a mob that overran police officers and invaded the Capitol building, forcing members of Congress into hiding for their own safety.
The top Democrats in Congress, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, called on Vice President Mike Pence and Trump's Cabinet to use the US Constitution to remove Trump for "his incitement of insurrection".
The 25th Amendment allows a majority of the Cabinet to remove a president from power if he is unable to discharge the duties of the office.
But a Pence adviser said the vice president, who would have to lead any such effort, was opposed to using the amendment to oust Trump from the White House.
If Pence fails to act, Pelosi signaled she would likely reconvene the House to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump for his role in Wednesday's violence, which claimed five lives, including that of a Capitol Police officer, whose death was confirmed on Twitter by US Representative Dean Phillips.
A handful of Republicans also called for Trump's removal. The Wall Street Journal editorial page, seen as a leading voice of the Republican establishment, called on Trump to resign on Thursday evening.
Several members of Trump's administration, including Elaine Chao, the transportation secretary and the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, resigned as a symbolic gesture against the violence.