US President Donald Trump never admits defeat. But he faces a stark choice now that Democrat Joe Biden has won the White House: Concede graciously for the sake of the nation or don't - and get evicted anyway.
After nearly four tortured days of counting yielded a victory for Biden, Trump was still insisting the race was not over.
He threw out baseless allegations that the election wasn't fair and "illegal" votes were counted, promised a flurry of legal action and fired off all-caps tweets falsely insisting he'd "WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT."
While some in his circle were nudging Trump to concede graciously, many of his Republican allies, including on Capitol Hill, were egging him on or giving him space to process his loss - at least for the time being.
"Trump has not lost," declared South Carolina Senatir Lindsey Graham in an appearance on Fox News Channel's Sunday Morning Futures, rejecting the reality of the situation.
"Do not concede, Mr. President. Fight hard," he urged.
Trump is not expected to formally concede, according to people close to him, but is likely to grudgingly vacate the White House at the end of his term.
His ongoing efforts to paint the election as unfair are seen both as an effort to soothe a bruised ego and to show his loyal base of supporters that he is still fighting. That could be key to keeping them energised for what comes next.
"He intends to fight," Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said as it was becoming clear that the president was headed for defeat.
Would Trump ever concede?
"I doubt it," said Trump's longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone, whose prison sentence was commuted by Trump in July.
Stone asserted that Biden, as a result, will have "a cloud over his presidency with half the people in the country believing that he was illegitimately elected.".
Allies suggested that if Trump wants to launch a media empire in coming years, he has an incentive to prolong the drama. So, too, if he intends to keep the door open to a possible 2024 comeback - he would be only a year older than Biden is now.
Others in his inner circle egging him on, including his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. The former New York mayor has been promising to provide the president with evidence of voter fraud but has produced little, including during a press conference he held Saturday in the parking lot of a small Philadelphia landscaping company next to an adult bookstore.
Trump's adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, have also urged their father to keep fighting and challenged Republicans to stand with them, as have congressional allies like Graham.
Some in the president's orbit have been nervously looking toward Capitol Hill for signs of a Republican defection. But so far, most seemed to be giving him time.
Other political allies and White House officials, however, have pressed Trump to change his tone and commit to a smooth transition.
They've emphasised to him that history will be a harsh judge of any action he takes that is seen as undermining his successor.
And they have advised him to deliver a speech in the coming week pledging to support the transition.
Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has told others that he is among those who have urged the president to accept the outcome of the race - even if Trump won't come to terms with how it was reached.
That the peaceful transfer of power was even in doubt reflected the norm-shattering habits of the now-lame duck president, who even in victory never admitted that he had lost the popular vote in 2016.
Australian Associated Press
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