UPDATED, with comment from Andrew Cuomo: Speaking for the first time in public since the presidential race was called for Joe Biden, Donald Trump kept his remarks almost entirely to the development of a vaccine for COVID-19, only fleetingly referring to the result of an election he lost.
Just hours earlier, the networks called the remaining states, showing Biden with a decisive 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.
“Whatever happens in the future, who knows which administration it will be,” Trump, less animated than usual, said in remarks in the Rose Garden. “I guess time will tell.”
With cases rising more dramatically than at any time during the pandemic, Trump talked of his administration’s efforts to develop a vaccine far quicker than it normally would take.
“Operation Warp Speed is unequalled and unrivaled anywhere in the world,” Trump said, adding that the vaccine will be approved “very, very quickly, I hope.” He talked of the encouraging results from Pfizer, as well as from other companies.
“Millions of vaccines will soon be going out the door,” he said.
Trump’s campaign is challenging the results in courts in a number of states, but so far their efforts have not produced evidence of systemic vote fraud and judges have dismissed cases. The president has claimed the election was rigged, but they are unfounded claims among a blizzard of misinformation coming from right wing media and some of his most die hard supporters.
In his remarks in the Rose Garden, Trump did not concede the election to Biden. He almost acknowledged so when he said, “Ideally we won’t go to a lockdown. I will not go. This administration will not be going into a lockdown. Hopefully the …” He then caught himself before referring to Biden.
The president did not take questions from reporters.
Trump said that priority in vaccine distribution would be given to highest risk individuals, and that “as soon as April the vaccine will be available to the general population.”
The exception, he said, would be New York, blaming the state’s governor Andrew Cuomo. He said that Cuomo “wants to take his time with a vaccine.” Cuomo, though, has accused the Trump administration of politicizing the vaccine approval process in an effort to rush its development to before the election.
On Good Morning America this week, Cuomo said, “The good news is the Pfizer tests look good and we’ll have a vaccine shortly. The bad news is it’s about two months before Joe Biden takes over and that means this administration will be implementing a vaccine plan.”
On MSNBC, after Trump’s remarks, Cuomo said that the state is forming its own scientific review panel to review the FDA process “so we can say to people, ‘It is safe. You should take the vaccine.'” He said that the review would run concurrently with the federal government process.
New York Attorney General Letitia James also said that she would sue the Trump administration if the state did not receive a vaccine along with the rest of the country.
Trump also insisted that “a lot of the case levels are high” because of testing, even though the positivity and hospitalization rates have been rising in a number of states. That has been alarming public health officials, who fear a worsening situation as the weather gets colder.
In statement released before Trump’s remarks, Biden said, “This crisis demands a robust and immediate federal response, which has been woefully lacking. I am the president-elect, but I will not be president until next year. The crisis does not respect dates on the calendar, it is accelerating right now.”