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Denial, and Resignation, From Trump and a Handful of Aides

Since early Wednesday morning, when Mr. Trump angrily declared the election to be a “fraud” on the public, he has been mostly ensconced in the Oval Office or the presidential residence, watching television coverage and brooding.

Besides his children, he has spoken by phone and at the White House with a coterie of advisers, including the former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, his campaign manager, Bill Stepien, his deputy campaign manager, Justin Clark, his adviser Hope Hicks, and Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee.

Vice President Mike Pence spent part of Friday in the Oval Office with Mr. Trump, but the president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, who tested positive for the coronavirus the day after the election, has been working remotely on the campaign’s current legal challenges.

Mr. Trump’s advisers had succeeded in persuading his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to stand down from some of public allegations about fraud. But Mr. Giuliani called Mr. Trump directly to appeal to him, and the president signed off on a news conference outside a landscaping company in Philadelphia that started Saturday morning just after news outlets called the presidential race for Mr. Biden.

Some aides were candid with Mr. Trump that there was not much of a path forward, even though they said they would continue on. Only a few had seemed resistant to the idea that Mr. Biden was likely to win, including the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, people who spoke with Mr. Trump said.

As he played golf on Saturday, aides said, Mr. Trump was surprisingly calm, given the news he had received upon his arrival at the club.

But he had not yet begun to watch television news coverage of Mr. Biden’s victory. Nearly two hours after an uneventful return to the White House, Mr. Trump began posting angry, and false, tweets insisting that he had won the election and complaining that “MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WERE SENT TO PEOPLE WHO NEVER ASKED FOR THEM!”


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