Trump addresses pandemic but not election during annual turkey pardon

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to ‘hollow out government agencies’ Trump’s remaking of the judicial system Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban ‘inflicts concrete harms,’ study says | China objects to US admiral’s Taiwan visit MORE presided over the annual turkey pardon Tuesday, making reference to the coronavirus pandemic but not the fact that it will be his last time fulfilling the Thanksgiving tradition before leaving office in January.

Trump’s White House remarks were closely watched given how infrequently he has spoken in the three weeks since Election Day, but he stayed on script and offered praise for front-line workers during an unprecedented holiday season.

“What we’ve endured and been able to endure with the vaccines now coming out one after another, it’s an incredible thing that happened,” he said. “One of the greatest medical achievements that this planet has ever seen. But it’s time to remember that we live in a great, great country. The greatest of them all. And there’s nothing even close, as far as I’m concerned.” 

“We send our love to every member of the armed forces and the law enforcement heroes risking their lives to keep America safe, to keep America great, and as I say, America first. Shouldn’t go away from that. America first,” he added, the only point in his remarks where he came close to acknowledging that he would not be commander-in-chief for much longer.

Trump has in the past sprinkled jokes about current events into his remarks at the yearly tradition. But this year’s remarks made no such reference to his refusal to concede or the start of the formal transition to the Biden administration.

There were some light-hearted moments, such as when he noted the two turkeys chosen to be spared hailed from a farm in Iowa.

“Like so many presidential flocks, this one started in the great state of Iowa in what can only have been described as an act of blatant pandering — and by the way, I love the state of Iowa — these two turkeys sought to win the support of Iowans across the state by naming themselves Corn and Cob,” he said.

The president’s schedule has been light since Election Day. He has only made a handful of public appearances, and he has not taken questions from reporters in three weeks. Trump made an abrupt and brief speech in the White House briefing room earlier Tuesday to tout stock market gains, but quickly left before answering questions.

He has in the past seemed to enjoy the pomp of the turkey pardon.

He poked fun at his impeachment during last year’s turkey pardon, quipping that the two birds “already received subpoenas to appear in Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump tells GSA that Biden transition can begin Hillicon Valley: Leadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns | Snapchat launches in-app video platform ‘Spotlight’ | Uber, Lyft awarded federal transportation contract Democrats accuse GSA of undermining national security by not certifying Biden win MORE’s basement on Thursday. … It seems the Democrats are accusing me of being too soft on turkey.”

In 2018, he joked about recounts in the midterm elections. The quip came after Stacey Abrams, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, refused to concede and accused her GOP opponent, now-Gov. Brian KempBrian KempChris Christie: Trump’s legal team has been ‘a national embarrassment’ Media and Hollywood should stop their marching-to-Georgia talk GOP chairwoman leans into election claims: Party will ‘run down every single irregularity’ MORE, of tactics used to suppress voters.

Those remarks gained renewed prominence this time around given Trump’s own refusal to concede. 

“The winner of this vote was conducted by a fair and open election conducted on the White House website. This was a fair election,” Trump said in 2018. “Unfortunately, Carrots refused to concede and demanded a recount and we are still fighting with Carrots. I will tell you we’ve come to a conclusion. Carrots, I’m sorry to tell you, the result did not change.”

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