President Trump appeared to acknowledge Sunday that presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden “won” but quickly signaled that he will keep fighting, saying he concedes “nothing” because it was a “rigged election.”
All of the states have been called for either Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden, and the Democrat holds a 306-232 margin in the Electoral College and a 5 million vote lead in the popular vote as states certify their results.
“He only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA. I concede NOTHING!” Mr. Trump tweeted. “We have a long way to go. This was a RIGGED ELECTION!”
He tweeted the message hours after he seemed to acknowledge defeat. “He won because the Election was Rigged,” said a tweet raising questions about the poll-watching procedure and vote-tabulating equipment.
Mr. Trump said a mix of software issues and mail-in ballot chicanery cost him the election. His court challenges have largely fallen flat, however, as he flirts with acknowledging that he is not on track to occupy the White House beyond Jan. 20.
He tiptoed to the edge Friday, before stepping back from the brink during a Rose Garden event on the rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“This administration will not be going to a lockdown,” the president said. “Hopefully, the, the, uh, whatever happens in the future, who knows which administration will be. I guess time will tell. But I can tell you, this administration will not go to a lockdown. Lockdowns cost lives.”
After his address, Mr. Trump didn’t take questions from reporters about the election.
It was the president’s first public remarks since Mr. Biden was projected to be the winner of the election on Nov. 7.
The president’s Sunday tweets suggested a combative posture one day after he basked in the praise of tens of thousands of supporters who flooded the streets of Washington.
The president rode in a motorcade in a circuit around Freedom Plaza about a block from the White House as his fans punched the air, took pictures with phones and held signs that included “Best prez ever” and “Stop the Steal.”
People climbed onto walls to get a better view, and some supporters ran excitedly after the motorcade.
There were chants of “USA! USA!” “We want Trump! We want Trump!” and “Four more years! Four more years!”
The motorcade didn’t stop but proceeded to the president’s golf club in Northern Virginia.
Mr. Trump returned to his club Sunday, where his motorcade was greeted by roadside supporters and detractors with signs reading, “We love Trump!” or “Surrender Donnie.”
Mr. Biden’s team is waiting for the General Services Administration to green-light the transition process. So far, it has refused.
Ron Klain, who is poised to be Mr. Biden’s chief of staff, said Sunday that the GSA’s decision is critical for COVID-19 preparations, especially the vaccine rollout, and that Mr. Trump’s fuming is irrelevant.
“President Trump’s Twitter feed doesn’t make Joe Biden president or not president. The American people did that,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Mr. Trump later reposted an old tweet about veteran-owned businesses from GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, who must ascertain whether Mr. Biden is the apparent winner and sign off on the transition process. The president tweeted, “Great Job Emily!”
Mr. Trump is on the wrong side of the same 306-232 split he describes as his big Electoral College win over Hillary Clinton in 2016 — at least before a handful of “faithless electors” cut into both candidates’ totals, making it 304-227.
Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, said the president needs to come to grips with the results.
“The idea that he continues to tell his supporters that the only reason he may have lost this election is because of fraud is an absolutely disgraceful, un-American thing to do,” Mr. Sanders told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I would just hope to God that he has the decency in him to man up and say, ‘You know what? We fought hard, we lost the election, good luck to Joe Biden, I love America.’
“But the fact that he’s not even cooperating in the transition, the fact that he continues to deny reality, continues to suggest that Biden has illegally won the election, is beyond belief in terms of behavior for an American president,” he said.
John R. Bolton, a former national security adviser to Mr. Trump, said Sunday that the president’s claim of election fraud is “all a blue smoke and mirrors.”
Mr. Bolton, an outspoken Trump critic since he was ousted from the White House, said Republican leaders need to explain to Trump voters that the president lost the election fair and square.
“This is a character test for the Republican Party. I don’t buy the argument that Donald Trump has hypnotized Republican voters or that they’re not capable of accepting the truth,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
He said the Trump campaign has no evidence of vote tampering, though its lawsuits identify problems in states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona.
“Their basic argument is this was a conspiracy, so vast and so successful that there’s no evidence of it,” said Mr. Bolton. “Now, if that’s true, I really want to know who the people are who pulled this off. We need to hire them at the CIA. The fact is, this is all a blue smoke and mirrors, and I think people will accept that if they see leaders they respect explain it.”
• Dave Boyer and S.A. Miller contributed to this report.