WASHINGTON - As Americans across the country honor the men and women who have served in the U.S. military, President Donald Trump emerged from the White House on Wednesday to participate in the Veterans Day observance at Arlington National Ceremony, while President-elect Joe Biden visited a war memorial in Philadelphia.
It was Trump’s first public appearance since Biden surpassed the 270 electoral votes on Saturday needed to win the presidency. Trump has refused to concede, and instead leveled unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud following his election loss.
Trump was joined at Arlington National Cemetery by first lady Melania Trump as well Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence. The event featured a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in recognition and commemoration of the veterans who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
President Donald Trump attends a "National Day of Observance" wreath laying ceremony on Nov. 11, 2020 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
The ceremony was modified this year amid the coronavirus pandemic to practice physical distancing and “to ensure the safety of all participants,” officials said on the event page. Attendance of the Veterans Day observance was limited to official ceremony participants and was livestreamed for the public.
Pence had been scheduled to travel to Sanibel, Florida, Tuesday through Saturday, according to Federal Aviation Administration, but will instead be in Washington on Wednesday. Pence’s office didn’t immediately comment on the status of his trip.
Trump has spent the last several days holed up at the White House and has made no public comments since Biden was projected as the winner. Instead, he’s offered several postings on Twitter alleging unfounded claims of irregularities in voting in several battleground states that broke for Biden.
Although his official schedule has been devoid of public events, Trump has made several personnel moves — firing his Defense Secretary Mark Esper and installing three staunch loyalists to top defense jobs. Meanwhile, his legal team as filed a barrage of lawsuits alleging fraud in the battleground states.
Meanwhile, Biden marked Veterans Day with a visit to the Korean War Memorial in Philadelphia with his wife, Jill.
Biden’s son Beau was a major in the Delaware Army National Guard and died in 2015 of brain cancer. Biden often spoke emotionally of his son's service on the campaign trail.
President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden place a memorial wreath during a Veterans Day stop at the Korean War Memorial Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Nov. 11, 2020. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
Jill Biden made military spouses and families one of her signature issues when Biden served as Barack Obama's vice president, and aides say that may be one of her focal points as first lady.
Biden otherwise was spending the day in private briefings with his transition team.
But Trump’s resistance to acknowledging the outcome of the race has stalled the transition process as the head of the General Services Administration, a Trump appointee, has held off on certifying Biden as the winner of the election.
The certification — known as ascertainment — frees up money for the transition and clears the way for Biden’s team to begin putting in place the transition process at agencies.
“I just think it’s an embarrassment, quite frankly,” Biden said Tuesday of Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the election results.
From his Twitter account on Tuesday, Trump again raised unsupported claims of “massive ballot counting abuse” and predicted he would ultimately win the race he has already lost. Trump’s tweets were swiftly flagged by the social media network as disputed claims about election fraud.
With the exception of weekend visits to his private golf club in northern Virginia, Trump has remained at the White House since Election Day and last appeared before cameras to deliver a statement six days ago.
His allies on Capitol Hill, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have encouraged the president’s baseless accusations. They signaled they are willing to let Trump spin out his election lawsuits and unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud for the next several weeks, until the states certify the elections by early December and the Electoral College meets Dec. 14.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. It was reported from Cincinnati.