Key states are moving closer to finalizing their vote counts as President Trump’s campaign flails away with legal challenges aimed at somehow reversing the outcome of the election.
As states march toward their certification deadlines, the clock is running out on Trump’s legal effort, which has increasingly taken on a political shape.
Georgia is on the verge of completing a manual recount that the Republican secretary of state says did not uncover systemic fraud and will not change the outcome, although the Trump campaign will likely be able to request an additional recount.
Certification deadlines are fast approaching in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Arizona, even as the Trump campaign makes sweeping claims about criminal activity that they’ve failed to substantiate in court.
A recount will get underway in two Democratic counties in Wisconsin on Friday, although Biden’s lead of about 20,000 votes appears safe.
While the Trump legal efforts, led by his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, have found little success, the challenges have raised fears that millions will question whether there was a fair outcome in the election. This in turn has raised concerns about lasting damage to the democratic process.
President-elect Joe Biden has slowly been stepping up pressure on Trump to concede, warning that he’s undermining democracy and putting lives at risk by blocking the transition process during a pandemic.
“It’s hard to fathom how this man thinks,” Biden said Thursday. “I’m confident he knows he hasn’t won and can’t win, and we’ll be sworn in on Jan. 20. It’s just outrageous what he’s doing.”
The Biden team has been showing increasing frustration about Trump’s blocking of a normal transition, which has kept Biden and his advisers from getting national security information and input on the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump didn’t attend a press conference by the White House coronavirus task force Thursday, and has seemed more focused on the battle over the election. Biden is projected to have won 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.
Trump’s legal team conducted a 105-minute-long press conference on Thursday that had a circus-like atmosphere as Giuliani tangled with reporters. He alleged a convoluted plot involving Venezuela, Canada, rigged voting machines, liberal megadonor George Soros, child voters, and Democratic officials in major cities across the U.S., without providing any evidence of widespread fraud.
The Trump legal team has been collecting sworn affidavits from some Republican poll workers claiming they weren’t allowed to properly oversee vote counts or describing what they viewed as irregularities at the polls.
They do not have evidence that votes were changed, but appear to be arguing that millions of ballots from Democratic areas should be thrown out because they were not properly supervised or because the Trump team believes local laws were insufficient in monitoring fraud.
In the case of Michigan, this would involve disenfranchising the votes of predominantly Black Americans.
The most shocking unsubstantiated allegations came from Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell, which have drawn fire from Republicans.
Powell says the company behind many of the voting machines used across the country installed an algorithm that flipped a percentage of Trump voters over to Biden. Powell has been making those claims on cable television but the Trump campaign has not taken the issue to court.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) called Powell’s claims “absolutely outrageous.”
“That is an offensive comment,” Ernst said.
Thursday’s press conference was billed as a chance for the Trump campaign to show off its evidence of fraud. But it did not bring evidence, saying instead that the press conference was its “opening statement” in what would be a long legal process.
Biden leads by between 11,000 and 155,000 votes in the six states the Trump campaign is contesting. Trump would need recounts and legal challenges to overturn the results in three states, which conservative lawyers such as Andrew McCarthy have said is impossible.
“Realistically speaking, the legal battle over the 2020 election is over,” McCarthy wrote in the National Review.
States are running up against their deadlines to certify their votes. The Electoral College meets in less than one month.
Critics viewed the press conference at the Republican National Committee as a performance aimed at keeping Republicans angry and suspicious of the outcome. That effort appears to be working, as a new Politico-Morning Consult poll found that more than two-thirds of Republicans believe the election was unfair.
Jonathan Turley, a constitutional scholar who has defended Trump at times, described the press conference as “breathtaking” for its lack of substance. He said some of the claims “undermined the credibility of their own litigation.”
“This is not the time for an opening statement,” Turley said. “It’s time for evidence production. What was disconcerting is the press conference was long on heated rhetoric and short on hard evidence. This country is a powder keg. We do not need more heated rhetoric. We need resolution.”
With his legal challenges getting swatted away, Trump has turned to encouraging local GOP officials to unilaterally block the certification of votes.
Partisan officials on the Wisconsin Elections Board clashed over how to conduct the recount, with Republicans questioning whether large numbers of absentee ballots should first be disqualified.
Trump has invited two Republican state legislators from Michigan to visit the White House after they initially refused to certify the election results in Wayne County, a Democratic stronghold.
The Republicans ultimately relented, but later alleged that they were bullied into compliance.
Biden leads Trump by more than 150,000 votes in Michigan, the largest lead he has in any of the states that the president’s team is contesting.
“We’ve won Michigan, Biden said. “It will be certified. We’ll end up making clear that we won.”
While Trump has maintained his presence on Twitter, he has been almost completely out of public view as his legal challenges have played out and as the coronavirus has surged again across the country.
The General Services Administration, led by Trump appointee Emily Murphy, has refused to ascertain Biden as the apparent winner of the election, depriving Biden of government resources and intelligence.
Biden has warned that the transition delays could set back his administration’s efforts to distribute a vaccine by weeks. Washington officials are also worried that Trump is imperiling national security by refusing to give Biden intelligence briefings.
Lawmakers, public health experts, military officials and business groups are among those calling on the GSA to ascertain Biden as the winner so he can be prepared to govern when he is sworn in on Jan. 20.