This story is part of , CNET’s coverage of the voting in November and its aftermath.
President Donald Trump said Thursday he would leave office if President-elect Joe Biden is chosen by the Electoral College next month, acknowledging for the first time what much of the country had concluded nearly three weeks ago.
“Certainly I will,” Trump told a reporter when asked whether he would leave the White House if the Dec. 14 vote certifies Biden. “And you know that.”
In his first remarks to reporters since the Nov. 3 general election, the president also made clear that he had no intention to concede, suggesting he would continue with legal challenges to the vote. Some of those challenges have been thrown out by or withdrawn from courts.
Trump’s refusal to concede has delayed the presidential transition process as the country faces a once-in-a-century health crisis. Public health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have said a smooth transition is critical for the effective distribution of vaccines for COVID-19, which has claimed more than 263,000 American lives. Biden has made addressing the coronavirus a cornerstone of his incoming administration.
Three vaccines appear to be promising though it’s unclear when any of them could be distributed. Pfizer and BioNTech have reportedly requested emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration for their vaccine. Moderna and an AstraZeneca-Oxford partnership have also produced vaccines.
Forecasting when or if Trump would concede has been a political parlor game for weeks. In a Nov. 15 tweet, the president appeared to indicate Biden had won before baselessly alleging the election had been taken from him.
“He only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA,” Trump tweeted in an apparent reference to the president-elect. “I concede NOTHING! We have a long way to go. This was a RIGGED ELECTION!”
Twitter added a label to the tweet: “This claim about election fraud is disputed.”
On Nov. 23, the president seemed to inch closer to a statement resembling a concession, saying in a series of tweets that he would authorize his team to engage in “initial protocols” for a transition process. Still, he vowed to fight, saying “Our case STRONGLY continues.”
The Trump administration has already approved the start of a formal transition.