In a candid social media post, Michelle Obama has reflected on President Donald Trump’s shock 2016 election victory and the resulting coordination in the transfer of power from her husband, former President Barack Obama.
The post came as Trump continues to refuse to concede the recent election to President-elect Joe Biden, despite the Democrat’s resounding projected victory in the Electoral College. Trump has instead clung to several long-shot legal challenges while alleging, without evidence, widespread fraud.
While some Republican officials have acknowledged Biden’s victory, the majority have refrained from doing so, instead offering explicit or tacit support for Trump’s baseless claims. Observers have warned that the refusal to accept defeat threatens to further undermine faith in the democratic process in the United States.
“This week, I’ve been reflecting a lot on where I was four years ago,” Obama wrote in the Instagram post, along with a photo from 2016. “Hillary Clinton had just been dealt a tough loss by a far closer margin than the one we’ve seen this year. I was hurt and disappointed – but the votes had been counted and Donald Trump had won. The American people had spoken.”
“My husband and I instructed our staffs to do what George and Laura Bush had done for us: run a respectful, seamless transition of power – one of the hallmarks of American democracy,” she said. “We invited the folks from the president-elect’s team into our offices and prepared detailed memos for them, offering what we’d learned over the past eight years.”
Obama posted the message on Monday, as Trump continued to block agency officials from cooperating with Biden’s newly launched transition team. Meanwhile, the General Administration Services, a little known agency that, under US law, holds the key to granting Biden’s team access to government agencies and transition funds, has so far not recognised Biden’s victory.
Biden’s team, and outside observers, have increasingly warned that a delay in the transition before the January 20 inauguration could lead to lapses in the new administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and national security readiness.
Obama recounted of 2016, “I have to be honest and say that none of this was easy for me. Donald Trump had spread racist lies about my husband that had put my family in danger. That wasn’t something I was ready to forgive. But I knew that, for the sake of our country, I had to find the strength and maturity to put my anger aside.”
However, she added that granting Trump access to the highest office in the country in the days after the election was “was the right thing to do – because our democracy is so much bigger than anybody’s ego”.
She ended the missive with a warning: “The presidency doesn’t belong to any one individual or any one party. To pretend that it does, to play along with these groundless conspiracy theories -whether for personal or political gain – is to put our country’s health and security in danger.”
“This isn’t a game,” she added. “So I want to urge all Americans, especially our nation’s leaders, regardless of party, to honor the electoral process and do your part to encourage a smooth transition of power, just as sitting presidents have done throughout our history.”