Joe Biden said it was an “embarrassment” that Donald Trump had not conceded defeat after losing last Tuesday’s election, although the president-elect insisted the refusal to acknowledge his victory would not hold up his transition plans.
Speaking at his first press conference since he was declared the winner of last week’s election, Mr Biden said other senior Republicans who had not recognised his win, such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, would eventually change course.
“I haven’t had a chance to speak to Mitch,” Mr Biden said. “My expectation is that I will do that in the not too distant future. I think the whole Republican party has been put in a position, with a few notable exceptions, of being mildly intimidated by the sitting president.”
Mr Trump has refused to accept Mr Biden’s victory, instead falsely claiming that the election was stolen from him with the help of fraudulent mail-in ballots. The president’s campaign has launched a flurry of lawsuits alleging, without any real evidence, that there was a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to rig the outcome.
On Monday, William Barr, the US attorney-general, authorised prosecutors to investigate possible instances of electoral fraud in the presidential poll, a break from past practice that delayed such inquiries until after an election was settled.
Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, on Tuesday said that “there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration” while the General Services Administration has not formally recognised Mr Biden’s victory — a pre-requisite for a formal transfer of power to begin.
The failure of Republicans and administration officials to follow the norms of the political process by acknowledging Mr Biden’s victory and starting a transition has alarmed some Democrats. But while the president-elect said on Tuesday that Mr Trump’s refusal to accept defeat would “not help” his legacy, Mr Biden projected confidence that it would not hamper the transition process.
“We are going to be going, moving along, in a consistent manner, putting together our administration, the White House, and reviewing who we are going to pick for the cabinet positions, and nothing is going to stop that,” Mr Biden said.
And Mr Biden said he saw no “need” for legal action to get the General Services Administration to formally announce he had won the election in order to free up government office space and funding for his transition team.
“We can get through without the funding. There is nothing that slows up our efforts to put things together,” he added.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Biden campaign released summaries of the president-elect’s conversations with four foreign leaders: French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Angela Merkel, Irish taoiseach Micheál Martin and UK prime minister Boris Johnson.
“I think that I know from my discussions with foreign leaders thus far that they are hopeful that the United States democratic institutions are viewed once again as being strong and enduring,” Mr Biden said at the press conference in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.
Mr Biden said he had spoken with six foreign leaders on Tuesday and had a “number of other calls to return”.
“I am letting them know that America is back,” Mr Biden said. “We are going to be back in the game. It is not America alone.”
When asked whether Mr McConnell and other Senate Republicans, most of whom have stood by the president, will accept the results of the election, a smiling Mr Biden replied: “They will. They will.”