Scott Olson/Getty Michelle Obama
In a lengthy caption on Instagram, the Becoming author urged "all Americans, especially our nation’s leaders ... to honor the electoral process and do your part to encourage a smooth transition of power, just as sitting presidents have done throughout our history."
The post featured a photo of the former first lady and former President Barack Obama on their final day in office on Jan. 20, 2017. As she recounted in the caption, the day had been an emotional rollercoaster and marked the end of the transition before Trump took office.
As Mrs. Obama noted, Hilary Clinton lost the 2016 election "by a far closer margin than the one we've seen this year," when President-elect Joe Biden defeated Trump by at least 290-232 electoral votes and more than five million more votes nationwide, according to the Associated Press.
"I was hurt and disappointed—but the votes had been counted and Donald Trump had won. The American people had spoken. And one of the great responsibilities of the presidency is to listen when they do," Mrs. Obama wrote. "So my husband and I instructed our staffs to do what George and Laura Bush had done for us: run a respectful, seamless transition of power—one of the hallmarks of American democracy."
As she describes on Instagram, the Obama administration "invited the folks from the president-elect’s team" into the White House, "and prepared detailed memos for them, offering what we’d learned over the past eight years."
The transition wasn't easy, though, with Mrs. Obama noting how, prior to his election, Trump had spread racist conspiracy theories about her husband.
"I have to be honest and say that none of this was easy for me," she wrote. "Donald Trump had spread racist lies about my husband that had put my family in danger. That wasn’t something I was ready to forgive. But I knew that, for the sake of our country, I had to find the strength and maturity to put my anger aside."
After her husband's win, Mrs. Obama invited Melania Trump into the White House, to discuss the transition and offer advice about what life would soon be like.
"I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do—because our democracy is so much bigger than anybody’s ego," she wrote. "Our love of country requires us to respect the results of an election even when we don’t like them or wish it had gone differently—the presidency doesn’t belong to any one individual or any one party."
Four years later, though, Trump has refused to concede the election, impeding attempts for the Biden-Harris Administration to smoothly transition into office.
Unlike Obama's transition to Trump, this one is made even more complicated due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Public health officials have expressed concern that Trump's refusal to publicly accept his loss could throw a wrench in efforts to contain the virus.
Instead, Trump has spent more than a week arguing that the election was somehow "stolen" from him.
Lawsuits filed by his campaign in several battleground states have so far been unsuccessful in their attempts to contest the results, with many being dismissed, denied, or dropped.
Though Trump's inner circle reportedly has no confidence in Trump's attempts to alter the results, he has proved successful at one thing: convincing his supporters that the election was a fraud.
With Trump — who has worked to undermine American confidence in a number of institutions, from the FBI to the free press — now setting his sights on sowing distrust in the bedrock of American democracy (a free and fair electoral system), the worry is that the damage could be long-lasting.
Though she didn't call him out by name, Mrs. Obama echoed those concerns on Monday, urging "all Americans, especially our nation's leaders," not to "play along" with claims of election fraud.
"To ... play along with these groundless conspiracy theories—whether for personal or political gain—is to put our country’s health and security in danger. This isn’t a game," she wrote. "So I want to urge all Americans, especially our nation’s leaders, regardless of party, to honor the electoral process and do your part to encourage a smooth transition of power, just as sitting presidents have done throughout our history."
Mrs. Obama's comments have been echoed by her husband who, in an interview with 60 Minutes on Sunday, reminded his successor that "a president is a public servant."
“And when your time is up, then it is your job to put the country first and think beyond your own ego, and your own interests, and your own disappointments," Obama told CBS News correspondent Scott Pelley.