On Friday, just four full days before Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in as the new president and vice president, Vice President Mike Pence called Harris to congratulate her, according to multiple news outlets. This marks the closest thing that the incoming Biden administration has received from the outgoing Trump administration to a concession. It is also the closest thing the Biden administration is likely to receive in terms of concession. President Donald Trump, who spent the past month pushing lies that the election had been stolen from him, culminating in last week’s mob insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, has not called Biden to concede. At this point, it seems safe to say he never will.
The New York Times reported that Pence’s call was “to congratulate her and offer his belated assistance” and that the “conversation, relayed by two officials briefed on the call, was described as gracious and pleasant.”
It comes as Pence appears to have taken over many of the roles of the president following last week’s attack in Washington, which a recently passed impeachment article alleges was incited by Trump. Reporting indicates that Trump was slow to call for the National Guard to support Capitol Police in the wake of last week’s riot. On Friday, the Washington Post reported that members of the mob—which had erected a gallows outside of the Capitol and had been heard chanting “Hang Mike Pence” while Trump proclaimed on Twitter that the vice president had failed him—came within a minute of coming face to face with Pence, his wife, and his daughter before the members of the second family were shepherded by Secret Service to an undisclosed Capitol safe room. The FBI further reported this week that some members of the mob had intended to kidnap and possibly assassinate members of the U.S. government, presumably including Pence. And so perhaps it makes some sense that the vice president has realized that participating in a peaceful transition of power means also acknowledging and communicating with the people on the other end of the transition. On Thursday, Pence tweeted images in which he appeared to be helping to orchestrate heightened security for next week’s inauguration ceremony following a slew of reported domestic terrorist threats to that event.
Trump, meanwhile, is reportedly planning to leave the White House without meeting with Biden, and presumably without having conceded defeat in November’s election. The closest he has come to doing the latter has been a pair of video statements—released, respectively, one day after the insurrectionary attack and shortly after his impeachment—in which he has said his focus is to ensure a “smooth, orderly, and seamless transition of power” to the “new administration” inaugurated on Jan. 20. Nowhere in these statements did Trump admit that he has been lying about the election results, nor does he say that Biden won.
As noted previously by Jordan Weissmann in Slate, as well as by others, the official posture of the mainstream Republican Party seems to be that there will be a transition of power on Jan. 20 and there needs to be unity, but there is no need for top GOP officials to acknowledge that Joe Biden won November’s election fair and square and that the party’s claims about voter fraud over the past two months have been an enormous lie.
As one example, Trump ally Ronna McDaniel—who retained her position last week as chairwoman of the Republican National Committee—has given typical statements saying “our country desperately needs to heal and unify” and that “the peaceful transition of power is one of our nation’s founding principles and is necessary for our country to move forward.” But nowhere in these statements did McDaniel acknowledge that Biden won the election by 7 million votes, winning the same number of Electoral College votes as Trump did in what he has described as his 2016 “landslide” victory. On Monday, I emailed the RNC to ask if McDaniel would affirm that Joe Biden won the election, with 81 million votes, and that there was no fraud or unlawful irregularities that affected the outcome.
As of the end of the week, McDaniel had not responded with any sort of acknowledgment of Biden’s legitimate victory. She and her party probably never will.