On Monday the US Electoral College confirmed the Democrat Joe Biden as president-elect, dealing the current president, Donald Trump, an almost definitive blow in his attempt to remain in power despite his electoral defeat.
The Electoral College vote, normally a mere bureaucratic procedure, had become crucial this year owing to Trump's attempts to undermine the process and replace the compromised Democrats elected by popular vote in some states.
However, after an arduous and unsuccessful legal and political battle lasting more than five weeks, the Electoral College awarded 306 votes to Biden and 232 to Trump, exactly the same number of votes as the election results.
This count also confirms the election of Senator Kamala Harris as the first woman and African-American to hold the post of US vice president when both come to power on 20 January.
Minutes after the country's westernmost state - Hawaii - assigned its votes, Biden appeared before the nation to ask Trump to finally acknowledge his defeat and turn the page. "Respecting the will of the people is an essential part of our democracy, even when we find such results difficult to accept. But that is the obligation of those who have taken on a sworn duty to respect the Constitution," Biden said in a speech.
The president-elect recalled that "306 electoral votes are the same as those received by Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence when they won in 2016. At the time, Trump called their lead in the Electoral College a landslide victory. By his own standards," he added, "these numbers (306 to 232) represented a clear victory then, and I respectfully suggest that they do so now.
Biden thus closed an unprecedented election dispute, after the Supreme Court last week also rejected attempts by Trump and his allies to reverse the results in four states. "Fortunately, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected these attempts completely and immediately. The court sent a clear message to President Trump that he would not participate in an unprecedented assault on our democracy," he said.
Although the confirmation of Biden's victory is a coup de grace to Trump's attempts to reverse the election result, it is still possible that the outgoing president will try to interfere in the last phase of the process when Congress meets on January 6 to give its approval.
Also normally a bureaucratic procedure, the two houses of Congress have to meet to put the final seal on the election result, in a session led by the current US vice-president, Mike Pence, who chairs the Senate. Although this is a new, far-fetched strategy with a very complicated goal to achieve, Trump's allies have already announced that they will continue in the struggle to remain in power until the last moment.
Few Republican legislators had so far recognised Biden's victory, but the president-elect said in a call to supporters on Monday that he had been phoned by seven senators from that party since his victory in the Electoral College was confirmed.
"We have crossed the constitutional threshold and will be dealing with former Vice President Biden as president-elect," Republican Senator Roy Blunt told reporters, while a close ally of Trump's, Lindsey Graham, answered with a simple "yes" to the question of whether he believed the Democrat had won.
In addition, the Republican Paul Mitchell, from Michigan, announced on Monday that he is leaving the party and will act as an independent for the next two years before retiring from the Lower House, as he considered the strategy of Trump and some of his colleagues "unacceptable", 126 of whom are pushing a text to the Supreme Court in support of reversing the results.
Many Republicans, however, do not lose sight of the fact that on 5 January - the day before the results are ratified in Congress - they are gambling with control of the Senate with the second round of Georgia's two seats in that chamber, and remain loyal to Trump.
In one of his usual diversionary manoeuvres, shortly after the Electoral College ratified Biden's victory, Trump announced the departure from the government of his attorney general, William Barr, with whom he has maintained a tense relationship in recent weeks.
Barr has been a loyal Trump squire during his nearly two years at the head of the Justice Department, but at the end of the road he choked on the president's defence of unfounded election fraud. Although these were all fine words on Monday, Trump was annoyed that Barr publicly dismissed the existence of widespread electoral fraud, which he still clings to in order to deny Biden's victory.
Also the fact that he did not make public during the election campaign that the Department of Justice had opened an investigation against Hunter Biden, one of the sons of the president-elect and one of Trump's obsessions.
The outgoing president thus avoided referring to the confirmation by the Electoral College of Biden's victory, in one of the last moments of a presidency characterised by the sudden dismissal of his collaborators who are no longer loyal to him.