As Donald Trump spent Sunday morning visiting one of his golf clubs and doubling down on bogus election fraud claims, conflicting reports emerged about whether the president’s family and top advisers were advising him to admit defeat.
The disparate reports probably reflected a White House in deep turmoil, some officials digesting the scale of their defeat in the presidential election but others, especially Trump himself, cling to a false narrative that the election was somehow stolen.
Citing two sources, CNN reported that Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, had spoken to him about conceding. Another source told CNN Trump’s wife, Melania, told him that it was time to accept Joe Biden’s victory.
Melania Trump was then yet to make a public statement on the election but had reportedly voiced her opinion in private.
“She has offered it, as she often does,” CNN reported this source as saying.
Later on Sunday she tweeted support for her husband, saying: “The American people deserve fair elections. Every legal – not illegal – vote should be counted.”
Shortly after noon, the New York Times said a White House official disputed CNN’s reporting on Kushner. This official claimed that Kushner had advised Trump to seek “legal remedies”.
Axios also reported on Kushner’s counsel. “A second source close to Kushner confirmed he had not advised Trump to concede,” the news site said.
Axios and CNN both reported that Trump is considering holding campaign-style rallies centered around potential recount battles and ongoing lawsuits. Axios wrote on Sunday evening that: “Team Trump is ready to announce specific recount teams in key states, and it plans to hold a series of Trump rallies focused on the litigation.”
Any advice would appear to have had little impact on Trump himself, who continued to tweet false and baseless allegations of electoral fraud and had yet to call Biden to concede the race, a longstanding tradition in US politics. There was little sign that the president’s two oldest sons, Eric and Don Jr, were advising him to concede.
Both the Times and Axios described behind-the-scenes conversations.
According to the Times, White House advisers and staffers convened on Saturday at Trump campaign headquarters. After campaign officials explained that any legal strategy likely would not change election results, Kushner asked some to explain this to Trump. When they asked Kushner if he should also be part of this conversation, Kushner reportedly said he would participate in subsequent discussions.
According to Axios, a source claimed there were some uncomfortable conversations in Trump’s circle, and that the majority accepted that Biden had won.
A spokeswoman for Melania Trump did not immediately respond to the Guardian’s request for comment.
Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has emphatically pushed for legal intervention. CNN also reported that the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, who tested positive for Covid-19 this week, had discussed next moves with Trump’s legal team.
Regardless of Trump’s view of the outcome, there has been no communication between the White House and Biden’s camp.
Biden senior adviser Symone Sanders told CNN’s State of the Union that while “a number of Republicans from the Hill have reached out … I don’t believe anyone from the White House has”.