Did outgoing President Donald Trump leave a letter for his successor, Joe Biden, that said "Joe, you know I won"? No, that's not true: The letter is not real. Speaking at the White House, Biden told reporters that Trump left him a "very generous letter." There are also several discrepancies between the fake letter and other recent letters known to have come from Trump, including differences in the formatting, seal, and signature.
The claim appeared in a Facebook post (archived here) published on January 20, 2021. The post included a message -- "Left on the desk for President Asterisk. Haaaaaaa Hahahahahaha!" -- and a copy of the purported letter that read:
Joe, you know I won.
This is what the post looked like at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Jan 20 20:44:29 2021 UTC)
Trump's term as president ended on January 20, 2021, the same day President Biden was sworn in as the country's 46th president. Per tradition, the outgoing president left a letter for his successor. That was confirmed by Trump spokesman Judd Deere, who did not divulge the contents of the letter. He reportedly said:
It's a letter between 45 and 46.
Speaking later, Biden also did not divulge the exact contents of the letter, however he told reporters at the White House that Trump had left him a "generous" note. He said:
The president wrote a very generous letter. Because it was private, I will not talk about it until I talk to him, but it was generous.
Prior to Biden's comments, the mere fact that there was a letter spawned countless online fakes, with varying degrees of skill. The above-mentioned post got a few things right, but also a few things wrong.
First, the presidential seal at the top of the fake letter does not match the seal found on recent letters known to have come from Trump. See here, here, and here for three examples. Note that the seal in those letters is gold, not multi-colored as in the fake letter.
Second, the fake letter includes the address of the White House as a footer at the bottom of the page. That design element is not seen in the other three letters known to have come from Trump.
Third, Trump's signature in the fake letter may well be his signature, but it does not match his signature in recent years. Back in 2017, The Fiscal Times did a story on Trump's evolving signature, as can be seen here. Unlike the signature in the fake letter, his recent signatures have been less rounded, more pointed.
In addition to the discrepancies between the known Trump letters and the fake letter, there was also the matter that at the time the fake letter was posted online, Biden hadn't even entered the White House. Presumably, he would have been the first person to see Trump's letter. For context, the content of former President Barack Obama's letter to Trump was not made public until some eight months after Trump's inauguration.
It's common practice for outgoing presidents to leave letters that congratulate the new president and wish them well. Unlike the fake letter, these notes tend to be personal in nature and handwritten. See here a look back at some of the recent letters between U.S. presidents.