Donald Trump has said that he will leave the White House when the electoral college votes for Democratic president-elect Joe Biden in the closest the outgoing president has come to conceding defeat.
Biden won the presidential election with 306 electoral college votes – many more than the 270 required – to Trump’s 232. Biden also leads Trump by more than 6 million in the popular vote tally.
Trump has so far defied tradition by refusing to concede defeat, instead making a series of baseless claims about alleged ballot fraud and launching legal attempts to challenge the outcomes in several states such Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Trump’s comments, made to reporters at the White House after speaking to troops during the traditional Thanksgiving Day address to US service members, appear to take him one step nearer to admitting defeat and might allay fears that will continue fighting the result.
Asked if he would leave the White House if the college vote went against him, Trump said: “Certainly I will. And you know that. If they do, they made a mistake.
However, Trump said it would be “a very hard thing to concede” under the current circumstances and declined to say whether he would attend Biden’s inauguration, which is due to take place on 20 January.
“This election was a fraud,” Trump insisted, while offering no concrete evidence of such voting irregularities.
The electoral college is due to meet on 14 December when each state’s nominated electors will cast their votes for the winner of the state’s presidential ballot. The votes are officially counted by Congress on 6 January.
Some Republicans have floated the idea that they could ignore the popular vote and appoint pro-Trump electors to change the outcome in certain states, leading to concerns that the president might refuse to leave office.