Though advisers have long said he would leave on Jan. 20, it was Trump’s first explicit commitment to vacate office if the vote did not go his way.
Trump said he planned to continue to make claims of fraud about the results and said, without evidence, that Biden could not have won close to 80 million votes. His legal team has been widely mocked — and has lost almost every claim in every state, as officials certify results for Biden.
“It’s going to be a very hard thing to concede,” he said of the election. Aides have privately said Trump will never concede that he lost.
Asked whether he would attend Biden’s inauguration, he demurred. “I know the answer,” he said, though he declined to provide it.
Even as most of his lawyers have quit and many campaign officials say the effort to overturn the election is going nowhere, Trump said it was going “very well.”
The president made the remarks in the Diplomatic Room of the White House after he spoke to soldiers across the world. The Thanksgiving session — an annual tradition for Trump — marked the first time he took questions since the election.
He planned to have dinner with his family at the White House on Thursday night and spent much of the day at his golf club in Virginia.
The president also said he planned to campaign in Georgia for two Republicans in Senate runoffs set for January. The races are key to the party keeping the majority. Trump said he may go as soon as Saturday, though a White House spokesman later said he meant next Saturday.
Republicans close to Trump have said he was largely uninterested in the runoffs until his Thursday appearance. He railed against Georgia officials, who he believes have not intervened enough as the state has counted ballots and certified results for Biden.
Trump’s continued rhetoric has worried Republicans working on the race, who fear his campaign against the election could discourage some supporters from voting.
“I’m very worried about that,” Trump said, when asked if Georgia’s Senate runoff elections would be legitimate.
“You have a fraudulent system,” he said he told Georgia’s Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. He said his supporters feared the race was illegitimate.
Trump continued to falsely claim that there had been widespread voter fraud in his election, without offering proof. And he again falsely said Republican poll watchers were not allowed to observe in Pennsylvania, though his lawyers have said in court that some were allowed to observe.
Aides say Trump has begun discussing a 2024 presidential bid, but he said on Thursday that he was still focused on 2020.
“I don’t think it’s right he’s trying to pick a Cabinet,” Trump said of Biden. Trump had blocked a presidential transition for several weeks but relented this week and allowed his team to go forward.
Trump also glancingly addressed the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed at least 262,000 people in the United States, though mainly to brag. “The vaccines — and by the way, don’t let Joe Biden take credit for the vaccine. . . . Don’t let him take credit for the vaccines, because the vaccines were me,” he said.