Obama, who recently congratulated President-Elect Joe Biden on his win, tells King that President Donald Trump's false claims of election fraud are "disappointing."
Asked if he'd join Biden's cabinet in 202, the A Promised Land author joked, "Michelle would leave me."
Former President Barack Obama sat down with Gayle King in his first TV interview since the presidential election. Obama, who released his A Promised Land memoir on November 17, shared his thoughts on President Donald Trump's refusal to concede, and addressed any speculation on whether he'd accept another White House job in 2021.
Obama stumped hard for his former vice president in the month leading up to the election, delivering passionate speeches in crucial swing states such as Florida, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. But while he remains a highly influential political figure, Obama told Gayle that he has no plans to take a cabinet position in a Biden presidency.
"He doesn't need my advice, and I will help him in any ways that I can," Obama said,"but I'm not planning to suddenly work on the White House staff or something."
Former First Lady Michelle Obama would definitely want to nix that plan, he says. "There are probably some things I would not be doing, 'cause Michelle would leave me," Obama laughed. "She'd be like, 'What? You're doin' what?'"
Obama also shared his feelings on Trump's insistence that he won the presidential election, despite all evidence to the contrary.
"When Donald Trump won, I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning, and I then called Donald Trump to congratulate him," he told Gayle. "His margin of victory over Hillary Clinton wasn't greater than Joe Biden's margin over him, but if you are listening to some of the talk radio that Trump voters are listening to, if you're watching Fox News...those allegations are proven as facts.
"So you've got millions of people who think, 'Oh yeah, there must be cheating, 'cause the president says so," Obama continued. Watch Gayle King's full interview with Barack Obama below.
On November 8, even Fox News—a steadfast supporter of Trump's presidency and policies since his 2016 campaign—cut away from a briefing by White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, due to her stating false voter fraud information. Yet Trump, his administration, and vocal supporters have refused to accept the wide margins as fact, contesting the results in multiple swing states. Their efforts have included protests to either stop the count of votes or to keep counting votes, depending on the state, in addition to legal challenges from Trump's team. Election officials across the U.S. say they've found no evidence of election fraud.
Awkward as it sounds, it's typically customary for a losing presidential candidate to place a congratulatory phone call once the election is called. (In her book What Happened, Clinton writes of her own concession exchange with Trump, noting it was "without a doubt one of the strangest moments of my life.") And typically, the current residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW also give the president-elect's family a warm welcome: In October, Jenna Bush Hager shared a memory of giving Malia and Sasha Obama a tour alongside her sister, Barbara, back in 2008.
"I think about John McCain calling," Gayle said in the interview, referring to the late Arizona senator's 2008 election concession to Obama. "George and Laura welcoming you and Michelle Obama to the White House." Obama added that the Bushes "could not have been more gracious."
"I remember you inviting Donald Trump to the White House," Gayle added. "I'll never forget it, because you said, 'I wish that you succeed, because we want the country to succeed.' What is at stake here?"
Come January 2021, Obama maintained, Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris will be sworn into office, and "there is no legal basis" to think otherwise. Gayle responded that members of the Republican Party were echoing Trump's unproven claims—a move that, many critics of Trump's "legal defense fund" say, is mainly meant to fundraise for the Republican National Committee and Trump's campaign debts.
"And that has been disappointing," Obama told Gayle of the efforts to weaken faith in U.S. election results. "They obviously didn't think there was any fraud going on, 'cause they didn't say anything about it for the first two days. But there's damage to this, because what happens is that the peaceful transfer of power, the notion that any of us who attain an elected office—whether it's dogcatcher or president—are servants of the people."
"It's a temporary job. We're not above the rules," Obama added. "We're not above the law. That's the essence of our democracy."
As of November 11, Joe Biden had received over 5 million more votes nationwide than the incumbent Donald Trump. It is the most votes ever received by a presidential candidate in U.S. history, breaking Obama's previous record for his 2008 win. Biden also leads electoral votes with 290 to Trump's 217, according to the Associated Press, who have been the authority on calling presidential elections since 1848.
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