Donald Trump refused to accept the result of the US election, as he accused media outlets that called the race for Joe Biden of colluding with the president-elect in trying to steal the White House.
“We all know why Joe Biden is rushing to falsely pose as the winner, and why his media allies are trying so hard to help him,” Mr Trump said in a statement on Saturday.
“The simple fact is this election is far from over,” Mr Trump said. “Joe Biden has not been certified as the winner of any states, let alone any of the highly contested states headed for mandatory recounts, or states where our campaign has valid and legitimate legal challenges.”
Mr Trump had just arrived at his golf course in Virginia when the Associated Press, the media group that the FT and many other newspaper rely on for election calls, declared that Mr Biden had won Pennsylvania and the election.
The president’s base has largely supported his unfounded claims of fraud. But his effort to convince more mainstream Republicans that the election was stolen suffered a big blow when Fox News, the conservative cable network that has been supportive of his presidency, also called the race for Mr Biden.
Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham — Fox News primetime anchors who are allies of the president — did not immediately comment on Twitter in the wake of the announcement.
But Ms Ingraham on Friday appeared to prepare viewers for his possible defeat, saying that if he lost he should leave with “grace” while stressing that his fans would view him as a “political hero” and “GOP kingmaker”.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader; Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House of Representatives; and many other senior Republicans did not immediately comment on the election of Mr Biden.
Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican senator and ally of Mr Trump, said it was “imperative that all credible allegations of voting irregularities and misconduct be investigated to ensure the integrity of the 2020 elections”.
While some Republicans have criticised Mr Trump for making baseless allegations about voter fraud, party leaders are in a difficult position because they know the president retains huge support among the party base. While Mr Trump lost the election, he has received 70m votes, more than 7m that his final count four years ago.
Mick Mulvaney, the former South Carolina Republican congressman who served as Mr Trump’s chief of staff, said he believed that Mr Trump would “seriously consider running in 2024” for a second term as president.
“It is hard to make the case that you are among the truly great presidents if you are a one-termer, and he knows that,” Mr Mulvaney told the Financial Times. “He will be younger in 2024 than Biden is now.”
Mr Mulvaney predicted that Mr Trump would ultimately accept the result, but “only be after a knockdown, drag-out fight over the results of the election”.
He added that Republicans in Congress would also eventually accept Mr Biden’s win, but only after the results were certified, because they were unwilling to accept a declaration of victory made by media networks.
“The fact that a media that hates Trump says that he lost is meaningless,” Mr Mulvaney said.
One of the few prominent Republicans to congratulate Mr Biden was Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who has been a critic of Mr Trump since losing to him in the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
“Congratulations to president-elect Biden,” Mr Bush wrote on Twitter. “I have prayed for our president most of my adult life. I will be praying for you and your success. Now is the time to heal deep wounds. Many are counting on you to lead the way.”
In his statement, Mr Trump said his campaign would on Monday “start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated”. The Trump campaign has filed several lawsuits in the swing states that remained undecided, but in most cases they have been dismissed as having no merit.
The campaign is hoping for more success in Pennsylvania, where it has challenged a move by the state to accept postal ballots that arrived up to three days after the election. Election officials in Pennsylvania have said the number of votes that arrived after election day were insufficient to alter the outcome.
Follow Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington