WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday, emerging in public for the first time since his failed reelection bid to take part in the annual presidential rite.
Trump, who honored veterans in a ceremony that was held during a steady rain, has spent the last several days holed up at the White House tweeting angry, baseless claims of voter fraud after his election loss.
He's made no public comments since President-elect Joe Biden surpassed the 270 electoral votes on Saturday needed to win the presidency.
Although his official schedule has been devoid of public events, Trump has made several personnel moves — firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper and installing three staunch loyalists in top defense jobs. Trump's pick to serve as acting defense secretary, Christopher Miller, was among the Pentagon brass that joined the president for the solemn Veterans Day ceremony.
Meanwhile, his legal team has filed a barrage of lawsuits alleging voting fraud in the battleground states that went for Biden.
The president’s resistance to acknowledging the outcome of the race has stalled the transition process as the head of the General Services Administration, a Trump appointee, has held off on certifying Biden as the winner of the election.
The certification — known as ascertainment — frees up money for the transition and clears the way for Biden’s team to begin putting in place the transition process at agencies.
“I just think it’s an embarrassment, quite frankly,” Biden said on Tuesday of Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the election results. The president-elect and his wife, Jill Biden, marked Veterans Day with a visit to the Korean War Memorial in Philadelphia.
From his Twitter account on Tuesday, Trump again raised unsupported claims of “massive ballot counting abuse” and predicted he would ultimately win the race he has already lost. Trump’s tweets were swiftly flagged by the social media network as disputed claims about election fraud.
With the exception of weekend visits to his private golf club in northern Virginia, Trump has remained at the White House since Election Day and last appeared before cameras to deliver a statement six days ago.
His allies on Capitol Hill, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have encouraged the president’s baseless accusations. They signaled they are willing to let Trump spin out his election lawsuits and unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud for the next several weeks, until the states certify the elections by early December and the Electoral College meets Dec. 14.
Trump was also joined at Arlington National Cemetery by first lady Melania Trump as well Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence.
Pence had been scheduled to travel to Sanibel, Florida, Tuesday through Saturday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, but will instead be in Washington on Wednesday. Pence’s office didn’t immediately comment on the status of his trip.
Pence has vacationed on the island along Florida’s Gulf Coast several times previously.