VP Omar Suleiman just announced curtly on Egyptian TV that Mubarak has stepped down and transferred power to the supreme council of the armed forces.
The contrast with Mubarak’s statement of last night is telling: Mubarak went on and on, made as if he was only transferring some power, and again defended his record–the crowds on the streets reacted with fury. Suleiman delivered a one sentence definitive declaration–the crowds reacted with elation. It will be interesting to see if there is in fact a substantive difference between what Mubarak said and what Suleiman said–whether Mubarak retains the nominal title of president but not the powers and whether constitutional requirements for the transfer of power to the leadership of parliament have been triggered. But Suleiman has at least succeeded in delivering the message the protesters were waiting to hear.
This initial reaction from the White House:
The President was informed of President Mubarak’s decision to step down during a meeting in the Oval Office. He then watched TV coverage of the scene in Cairo for several minutes in the outer Oval.