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Trump pardons turkey after agreeing to presidential transition

The Guardian logo The Guardian 24/11/2020 Martin Pengelly
a bird sitting on top of a bed: Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

His attempt to reverse electoral defeat having proved a turkey, on Tuesday afternoon at the White House, Donald Trump pardoned one.

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According to tradition, two turkeys named Corn and Cob stayed at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel before the official ceremony. After an online poll, Corn was chosen to be pardoned.

Appearing with first lady Melania Trump, the president made brief remarks, thanking healthcare workers and researchers working for a Covid-19 vaccine and the US armed services, who he said put “America first”.

“Corn,” he said, raising a hand over the large white turkey, which had been placed on a table covered in flowers and pumpkins. “I hereby grant you a full pardon.”

The pardon and a short statement in the briefing room earlier constituted Trump’s first public remarks since the General Services Administration said on Monday it would finally release funding to Joe Biden’s transition team.

a stuffed animal on a bed: Corn and Cob, a pair of turkeys that will be pardoned by Donald Trump, walk inside their hotel room at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington DC on Monday. © Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images Corn and Cob, a pair of turkeys that will be pardoned by Donald Trump, walk inside their hotel room at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington DC on Monday.

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The Democrat, who beat Trump by 6m ballots and 306-232 in the electoral college, can now properly plan to assume office on 20 January. Shortly before Trump pardoned a turkey, Biden introduced his national security appointees.

As the turkey pardon approached, the world was quick to notice that at the same event in 2018, Trump made remarks which now sounded decidedly familiar.

“This was a fair election,” he said then, shortly after seeing his Republican party lose the House in midterm elections before and after which he made baseless claims about voter fraud. “Unfortunately, Carrots [a turkey] refused to concede and demanded a recount, and we’re still fighting with Carrots.”

To laughter, Trump said: “We’ve come to a conclusion. Carrots, I’m sorry to tell you, the result did not change. It’s too bad for Carrots.”

Trump has not come to his own conclusion about his defeat by Biden, refusing to concede and tweeting that though the transition process would begin, “we will keep up the good fight and I believe we will prevail”.

He has lost 35 of 36 election-related lawsuits. But he still has 57 days left in office, in which he may choose to use his pardon powder for more controversial recipients than the White House turkeys. Former campaign aides Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos are among those eagerly awaiting such news.

Some have speculated that Trump might use the power of the presidency to pardon himself. On Tuesday, he did not answer a shouted question on the subject.

Under a tradition generally held to have begun in 1947, Corn and Cob were set to be sent into comfortable retirement. Recently, such birds have lived out their days at Gobbler’s Rest, an enclosure at the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, in Blacksburg.

Trump’s post-White House plans, including whether he will attend Biden’s inauguration, remain unclear. On Monday, reports said US Secret Service agents were being asked if they wanted to transfer to Palm Beach, Florida.

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