WHITE HOUSE - Following his projected defeat by President-elect Joe Biden, U.S. President Donald Trump has mostly remained silent, except for posting largely debunked electoral fraud claims on Twitter.
On Friday, in remarks delivered at the White House, the president briefed the public on Operation Warp Speed, the federal effort to fast-track a vaccine for the coronavirus. But the day before, he tweeted about a “rigged election” (one of numerous postings to which Twitter attached an alert stating, “This claim about election fraud is disputed”) and attacked Fox News, a cable television channel that has been largely supportive of him throughout his presidency.
Trump had largely failed to mention the coronavirus pandemic, as cases soared to new highs this week in the United States and hospitalizations and deaths increased. Campaign senior adviser Corey Lewandowski was the latest of Trump's political aides and administration officials to test positive for the virus.
Speaking Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “Words have power. When the president speaks, his words weigh a ton, and we've heard some things lately that are very disconcerting.” But, "numbers have eloquence, too,” she added referring to the “horrifying 144,000 new infections” from the coronavirus recorded the previous day.
For months while he focused on political campaigning, Trump did not attend meetings of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Vice President Mike Pence led the group’s meeting on Monday for the first time in nearly three weeks.
The White House is rejecting criticism from the Democrats that Trump, stung by election defeat, has prematurely ceased governing.
“Absolutely false,” White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere told VOA. “Just as he promised, President Trump is fighting hard for a free and fair election, while at the same time, carrying out all of his duties to put America first. He’s also working to advance meaningful economic stimulus, engaging members of Congress on a government funding proposal and ensuring state and local governments have what they need to respond to the ongoing pandemic.”
The White House on Thursday released several executive orders signed by the president, including one to prohibit U.S. investments in Chinese firms tied to that country’s military.
Trump had lunch Thursday with Pence and later in the afternoon met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to the White House.
The president, however, was not seen by reporters Thursday. The previous day, he attended a Veterans Day ceremony in the rain at Arlington National Cemetery where he did not speak.
Trump last spoke publicly on November 5 in the press room. The three major terrestrial television networks cut away from his remarks as he leveled unfounded accusations that the Democrats were committing fraud and trying to steal the November 3 election.
Seven days later, it is the longest Trump has gone without speaking on camera during his presidency, according to the website factba.se, a compendium of Trump’s tweets, speeches and policies.
The Associated Press and other major media outlets, including Voice of America, project Biden as having more than the needed 270 electoral votes to defeat Trump, who will remain president until the inauguration on January 20.
The incumbent has not conceded, and the Trump campaign has launched legal efforts in several states to challenge vote counts.
Most Republican lawmakers in Congress appear to continue backing Trump’s position, with only a handful recognizing Biden as the president-elect.
Some senators from the president’s party have called for Biden to have access to high-level intelligence briefings — something currently not possible because the General Services Administration has not certified Biden as the winner.
It is customary for the president-elect to have access to federal office space and employees on the government payroll and to receive classified briefings.
"That is really important. It's probably the most important part of the transition," Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, told reporters Thursday, referring to Biden as the “apparent winner.”
Several other Republican senators concur, but some key lawmakers do not.
“I’ve always felt that any candidate should not necessarily be involved in those until that person becomes the president-elect, and he is not the president-elect," said Republican Sen. James Inhofe.
“We just had a divisive and hard-fought presidential election,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, alongside Pelosi, told reporters on Thursday. “But instead of working to pull the country back together so that we can fight our common enemy, COVID-19, Republicans in Congress are spreading conspiracy theories, denying reality and poisoning the well of our democracy.”