WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Thursday angrily admonished a reporter for asking him whether he would concede the election once the Electoral College formally votes to make Democrat Joe Biden the next president, calling the journalist a “lightweight.”
Trump evaded the question by arguing that the Electoral College would make “a mistake” by voting for Biden and leveled more baseless claims about voter fraud. As Trump continued to repeat unfounded claims, Jeff Mason of Reuters pressed him to answer whether he would concede.
“Don’t talk to me that way,” Trump snapped. “You’re just a lightweight. Don’t talk to me that way.”
Trump’s combative exchange with reporters after a Thanksgiving call with troops stationed overseas was the first time he took questions since he lost the Nov. 3 election more than three weeks ago.
“I’m the president of the United States. Don’t ever talk to the president that way,” Trump said as he continued to lash out at Mason before moving on to “another question.”
States must certify their votes before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14 – many already have – and resolve all challenges to the outcome by Dec. 8.
Though he said he would continue his legal fights over the election results in states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan, Trump later acknowledged that he would leave the White House if the Electoral College formally recognizes President-elect Biden.
“Certainly I will. Certainly I will. and you know that,” Trump said, adding that it would be “very hard” to concede.
The president’s remarks were his first in recognizing the need for a peaceful transfer of power, a question that has hung over the country since Biden was declared the winner.
Trump has previously clashed with Mason, a former president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, in several exchanges throughout his presidency. Trump mocked Mason in September when the reporter refused to take off his mask while asking the president a question.
He also argued with Mason last year during a press conference with Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö when Mason pressed Trump on his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the call that launched his impeachment.
Contributing: John Fritze