KEY POINTS

  • Former presidents would acknowledge the results of the election and commit to a peaceful transfer of power
  • Trump is planning to file lawsuits to challenge the election result
  • He previously refused to promise a peaceful transition if he lost against Biden

President Donald Trump may break a longstanding U.S. tradition by refusing to concede and accept his defeat against former Vice President Joe Biden. 

Historically, the person who lost the election would send a congratulation letter to the winner, or make a public concession speech to acknowledge the election results, The Washington Post reported. The concession often included a prayer for the winner, and the promise of a smooth transition of power.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter acknowledged the election results with his deep regard for the U.S. political system after he lost to former California Gov. Roland Reagan. Like Trump, Carter only served one term. 

"I promised you four years ago that I would never lie to you, so I can't stand here and say that it doesn't hurt. The people of the United States have made their choice, and of course I accept their decision, but, I have to admit, not with the same enthusiasm that I accepted the decision four years ago," Carter said in his . "I've a deep appreciation of the system, however, that lets people make a free choice about who will lead them for the next four years." 

In 2016, Hillary Clinton called on voters to accept Donald Trump's administration with an open mind and give him the chance to lead the country. Clinton led by three million votes, but lost the Electoral College. 

"We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought. But I still believe in America and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead," Clinton had said, according to a transcript by CNN.

Trump has repeatedly claimed that he won the election "if you count the legal votes." He has said his campaign team would pursue lawsuits against swing states he carried in 2016 that flipped to Biden, including Pennsylvania and Michigan. 

In early October, the president hesitated to promise a peaceful transfer of power, saying he would do so only if the election was not "rigged."

"They spied heavily on my campaign and they tried to take down a duly elected sitting president, and then they talk about 'will you accept a peaceful transfer?'" Trump said. "And the answer is, yes, I will, but I want it to be an honest election and so does everybody else."
For US President Donald Trump, his raucous rallies were key to his brand For US President Donald Trump, his raucous rallies were key to his brand Photo: AFP / SAUL LOEB