Like the election, Trump has a sad history of prematurely claiming victory only to have it backfire

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Like the election, Trump has a sad history of prematurely claiming victory only to have it backfire
President Donald TrumpAP
  • President Donald Trump claimed victory in the 2020 presidential election days before all the votes had been counted. As more legal votes were tallied, his edge eroded, and he lost to his Democratic opponent Joe Biden.
  • On Saturday, shortly after Trump tweeted that he won the election, major media outlets began calling the election for Biden, who tweeted that he is "honored" to have been chosen to lead the country.
  • Throughout Trump's presidency, he has repeatedly prematurely declared victory only to see the situation deteriorate. These include the worsening COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing fight against ISIS, and the North Korean nuclear threat that still looms.

President Donald Trump claimed victory over his Democratic opponent Joe Biden as votes were still coming in only to lose the presidential election. It was the latest in a string of premature celebrations that have been a hallmark of Trump's presidency.

Early Wednesday, Trump appeared to have an edge over Biden, but votes were still being counted in many important battleground states. Trump argued in a briefing at the time that he won the election, despite neither candidate having secured enough electoral college votes to win.

He again claimed victory in a follow-on address Thursday evening, as the edge eroded, arguing without evidence that the election was being stolen from him by the incorporation of so-called "illegal votes" into official state tallies.

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On Saturday morning, the president tweeted in all caps: "I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!" About an hour after that tweet came out, media outlets began calling the election for Biden in rapid succession (Insider and partner Decision Desk HQ called it Friday morning).

Shortly after Biden defeated Trump to become president-elect, Biden tweeted: "America, I'm honored that you have chosen me to lead our great country."

During his presidency, Trump has repeatedly claimed victory before it was actually in his grasp. America has seen him do this with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Islamic State, and the North Korean nuclear threat, among other things.

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Like the election, Trump has a sad history of prematurely claiming victory only to have it backfire
Trump arrives at Walter Reed Medical Center after testing positive for COVID-19Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

'It is disappearing'

Since February, Trump has claimed at least 38 times that the coronavirus is going away as case numbers and death tolls in the US continued to climb, CNN reported Friday.

In early October, Trump tested positive for the virus, as did other members of the president's family and a number of White House staffers. Trump was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and given experimental treatments.

After leaving the hospital, he tweeted a video in which he told Americans "don't be afraid of [the virus]. You're going to beat it." His message came as more than 200,000 people in the US had died after contracting COVID-19. Days later, he said "it is disappearing."

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Late last month, Trump's White House put out a press release that listed "ending the COVID-19 pandemic" as an achievement. White House officials acknowledged that the statement was "poorly worded."

On Thursday, the US set a single-day record of 120,000 new cases. As of Friday morning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was reporting that the US has seen 9,463,782 COVID-19 cases and 233,129 deaths.

Like the election, Trump has a sad history of prematurely claiming victory only to have it backfire
The black flag of the Islamic StatePhoto by NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

'You're going to have to get the next secretary of defense to lose to ISIS'

On December 19, 2018, a little over a year before the COVID-19 crisis, Trump declared victory over the Islamic State and publicly expressed an interest in withdrawing US forces from war-torn Syria.

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While the physical caliphate that stretched across Iraq and Syria had been crippled during Trump's presidency, the terror group remained an active threat in the region, despite its degraded capabilities. The prevailing view was that continued counter-terrorism pressure was needed.

A little over a week before the president's declaration, Brett McGurk, then the Special Presidential Envoy to the coalition to defeat IS in Syria and Iraq, said that "nobody is declaring mission accomplished." But, that's exactly what Trump did.

The day after Trump's victory tweet, James Mattis, then Trump's secretary of defense, met with him to convince him not to withdraw US troops from Syria. When Trump refused to budge on the issue, Mattis told the president: "You're going to have to get the next secretary of defense to lose to ISIS. I'm not going to do it," The Atlantic reported. Mattis resigned later that day, and McGurk did the same two days later.

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The plan to withdraw US troops moved forward, and in November 2019, the Defense Intelligence Agency reported that the Islamic State had exploited the "drawdown of US troops to reconstitute capabilities and resources within Syria and strengthen its ability to plan attacks abroad."

Like the election, Trump has a sad history of prematurely claiming victory only to have it backfire
A man watches a television show North Korea ruling party's founding 75th anniversary day military parade released by Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) at the Seoul Railway Station on October 10, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea.Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

'No longer a Nuclear Threat'

Trump also appears to have jumped the gun on North Korea, a country that continues to build out its long-range nuclear strike capabilities despite repeated assurances from the president that he put the country on a path toward denuclearization.

On June 12, 2018, Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a historic summit in Singapore. The next day, Trump tweeted proudly that "there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea."

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High-level US-North Korea negotiations defused tensions after more than a year of nuclear tests and frequent missile launches, including three launches of new North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of ranging the continental US, but the threat persisted.

Just weeks after the summit, The Washington Post reported that US intelligence indicated that North Korea had no intention of eliminating its weapon stockpiles and was instead working on ways to conceal them.

Similar reporting from other news outlets would follow in the months to come as further negotiations faltered.

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By mid-2019, North Korea was back to testing missiles, and in October of this year, North Korea unveiled a massive new intercontinental ballistic missile at a military parade, one that experts argued could potentially be capable of striking the US with multiple warheads.

A senior Trump administration official told Reuters the development was "disappointing."

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