In the last four years I have seen the President of the United States in his good days and in his bad days.
But this November 7, the day he lost the election, it was very different from all those others.
Dressed in a black jacket, dark sweatpants and a hat with the inscription MAGA (the initials of his campaign slogan in English, Make America Great Again), Donald Trump left the White House a little after 10 a.m. Saturday.
Before, he had been tweeting about the elections and, above all, about the electoral fraud that he considers took place around the general elections of November 3.
He left through the door of the presidential residence and got into his official vehicle that took him in the direction of his Trump National golf club, in the city of Sterling, Virginia, about 25 miles from Washington.
At that moment, he was projecting an air of self-confidence. It was a beautiful day, perfect for golf, and so he decided he was going to spend it at his club.
But, at the same time, you could tell that the people who worked with him were uncomfortable. Like on the edge of a very tense situation.
“How are they doing?”I asked one of her employees.
“Good,” he replied. And he smiled, but his eyes narrowed and he quickly looked down at the screen of his cell phone.
The White House has been in something of a trauma in the days since the election.
Although it was only Tuesday, it seems like it happened a long time ago.
Most of the desks in the west wing of the White House were empty when I passed the building this Saturday morning. Many staff members have been infected with COVID-19 and cannot go to the office. The others are in quarantine.
Then, around 11:30 am and while the president was playing golf, the BBC and several networks began to project that Joe Biden had won the election.
I was sitting in an Italian restaurant a little over a kilometer away from Trump National when I received the tip.
I am part of the permanent group of journalists who cover the White House, a group of colleagues from different media who travel with the US president.
We were all waiting for him to leave the club.
“He is a toxic person,” said a woman outside the restaurant. She, like many of her neighbors in that Democratic-majority district, had voted for Trump’s rival.
Others wondered aloud when the president would leave the club and return to the White House.
Minutes passed. Hours passed.
“He’s taking his time,” one official told another.
The president was in no rush to leave. At the club he was surrounded by friends. Outside those doors, his followers yelled at me and the other journalists “Finish off the media.”
A woman, dressed in high heels and a red, blue and white hat, carried a sign that read: “Stop the robbery.”
A man drove his truck past the club while waving various flags, including one showing the president on top of a tank, as if he were the commander of the world’s armies.
It was a sample of how his followers view the president, and even how Trump viewed himself.
Finally, the president decided to leave the club and return to the White House.
There, thousands of his critics awaited him.
“You have lost. We have won ”
The presidential caravan advanced through Virginia. I was in a truck that was part of the caravan, which almost crashed on one of the streets in Fairfax County. Sirens went on.
The closer we were to the White House, the bigger the uproar: people were in the streets celebrating the president’s defeat.
Someone was holding up a sign: “You have lost and we have all won.” There was festive weather and singing.
When we got to the White House, the president entered through a side door, an entrance that he has used little during his four years in office. His shoulders were hunched and his head lowered.
Then he looked up at the reporters who were there and raised his thumb. It was a half gesture. He did not raise his hand or clench his fist, as he usually does.
In both the White House and the golf club, the president never wavered: he always made unsubstantiated claims about electoral fraud and insisted that he be vindicated.
Throughout that morning he wrote on his Twitter account about “illegal votes” and in the afternoon he declared, defiantly and in capital letters, “I WON THESE ELECTIONS.”
But that was Trump on Twitter. The man I saw made a very different impression on me. When he walked through the side door of the White House in the afternoon, the arrogance was gone.
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