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In messaging shift, Trump acknowledges Biden win and calls for 'smooth' transition of power

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Thursday acknowledged President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in his strongest words yet as he faces mounting criticism for his handling of the violence that erupted a day earlier at the U.S. Capitol.

"A new administration will be inaugurated on Jan. 20," Trump acknowledged in a video posted to social media, the closest he has come to conceding the Nov. 3 election. “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”

Trump did not mention Biden by name nor congratulate his rival, who has been introducing members of his Cabinet and preparing to assume the presidency even as Trump has for weeks leveled evidence-free claims of voter fraud to argue that the election was stolen. Trump did not abandon those baseless claims in the video, but did acknowledge that the nation had "just been through an intense election" and that emotions were high.

"Tempers must be cooled and calm restored,” he said.

Trump did not address his own role in flaring those emotions and he did not discuss his effort to whip up a large rally outside the White House minutes before a pro-Trump mob rushed the Capitol. During those remarks, the president urged his supporters to march on the Capitol and encouraged them to not be "weak." 

President Donald Trump encourages protesters during a rally against the congressional confirmation of Joe Biden as president Jan. 6 in Washington.

The video, one of several Trump has posted from the White House in recent weeks, was the latest effort to get ahold of the fallout from the chaos that unfolded Wednesday when a mob attacked the Capitol and disrupted the counting of Electoral College votes. Members of both parties have criticized the president's rally remarks. 

While Trump appeared to relent in his effort to overturn the election he hinted, at the end of the video, that he continued to see a future in politics. Addressing all of his "wonderful supporters," Trump promised that "our incredible journey is only just beginning." 

More:Could Trump, Giuliani face charges of inciting mob violence in Capitol riots?

It marked a return to Twitter for the president, who was frozen from the social media platform for 12 hours following a series of tweets about the riots.

The president's condemnation of the violence was a major departure from his comments just 24 hours earlier when he told supporters to "go home in peace" but also praised them for their defiance. "We love you," Trump said in that video. "You’re very special."

Earlier Wednesday, Trump told supporters at the rally near the White House he would "never concede" while repeating baseless claims of election fraud.

"You never concede where there is theft involved."

But the political landscape has shifted significantly since then, with Democrats and even some of his former allies arguing Trump should be removed from office either through an invocation of the 25th Amendment or an impeachment. Former White House chief of staff John Kelly said he would vote to remove Trump from office if he were still in the administration while former attorney general William Barr, once one of the president's fiercest defenders, called the Trump's conduct a "betrayal of his office."

Michael Sherwin, the top federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., on Thursday declined to rule out the possibility that Trump and others could face criminal charges for inciting the violence.

Earlier Thursday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany condemned the riots in brief remarks from the White House and reiterated the administration’s commitment to a peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 20.

Trump in Thursday's video claimed credit for "immediately" deploying National Guard troops during the violence, but Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said Thursday he was "repeatedly denied approval" to send the state's guard to assist in the melee.

Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller released a statement Wednesday saying he and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley spoke separately to Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers before activating the D.C. National Guard. The statement made no mention of Trump.