In the end, nothing could save him. Not the lawsuits, not the lies about voter fraud, not his iron-clad grip on the Republican Party.
And yet there was still one last refuge for President Trump on Saturday. He stepped into his motorcade to be whisked away to his private club in Virginia. Just before he arrived, he tweeted “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!”
Trump was on the golf course when he officially became a loser, a one-term commander in chief, the first in nearly three decades.
After finishing a round on the links, he walked out of the club to take a picture with a bride who was getting married there. Wearing a white “Make America great again” hat, he flashed a thumbs-up and a big grin. Someone shouted, “Thank you, Mr. President! We love you.”
No one mentioned he had just been defeated by former Vice President Joe Biden, or that people had rushed into the streets in cities across the country to celebrate. It was a reality that Trump had labored to keep at bay, and one he was finally confronted with as he returned to the White House.
Throngs of people were outside the perimeter of the fence cheering, singing and dancing. Trump reentered the building, not to be seen in public for the rest of the day.
There would be no concession speech. Instead he continued tweeting.
“I WON THE ELECTION,” he insisted as he made baseless claims about election officials tampering with ballots. “BAD THINGS HAPPENED WHICH OUR OBSERVERS WERE NOT ALLOWED TO SEE.”
But the world seemed to be tuning out the former reality television star. Foreign leaders — including some of Trump’s favorites, like India’s Narendra Modi and the Britain’s Boris Johnson — were already congratulating Biden.
News networks had ignored the president’s demands to not call the race in Biden’s favor. Even Fox News, Trump’s favorite cable channel, was throwing cold water on his claims of fraud.
“We continue to look into allegations as they pop up and we continue to not find that,” said Fox anchor Bret Baier.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not say anything publicly. Neither did House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), who the day before had tweeted that the election was “far from over” and that “Republicans will not back down from this battle.”
Saturday’s defeat was the kind of definitive conclusion that Trump has rarely faced throughout his life. Banks kept lending to him even after his businesses went bankrupt. Republican voters remained loyal despite a string of scandals. His party’s control of the Senate kept him in office despite impeachment by the House of Representatives.
This time, though, the raw math was not in his favor. His loss in Pennsylvania, where news networks projected that Biden had an insurmountable lead, removed any doubt.
The president’s campaign pledged to soldier on anyway, maintaining the illusion that he could still emerge victorious. Supporters were urged to provide cash for the “election defense task force.”
“The Democrats are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it,” said one fundraising email. However, the fine print on the donation page said a portion of the money would go toward debt from the presidential race, not to pay for legal efforts.
The campaign filed one lawsuit Saturday, claiming that some voters in Arizona had their choices invalidated because officials provided inaccurate instructions on how to use voting machines. The state is still counting its ballots, but the Associated Press has projected a victory for Biden.
Lawsuits had already been filed in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Nevada, and about half have already been rejected. The cross-country legal assault appeared aimed more at assuaging the president’s bruised ego than providing a realistic chance of securing him a second term.
Campaign manager Bill Stepien urged supporters on a conference call to attend demonstrations supporting Trump around the country, saying it would lift the president’s spirits, according to an official on the call.
“It may not change anything, but it’s important to try,” the official said. “Our people need to know we’re still fighting and that we don’t believe this outcome is legitimate.”
Times staff writer Eli Stokols contributed to this report.