US election 2020: Biden says Trump denial ‘sending horrible message’

2 weeks ago
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Joe Biden

Reuters

US President-elect Joe Biden has condemned Donald Trump’s refusal to accept defeat in the presidential election, saying it sent “a horrible message about who we are as a country”.

Mr Biden said he was confident Mr Trump knew he was not going to win and had shown “incredible irresponsibility”.

Mr Trump has launched lawsuits alleging unsubstantiated election fraud.

He has now also invited state lawmakers to the White House, hinting at a possible change in tactics.

Michigan’s Republican lawmakers have been asked to meet him there on Friday.

All but one of Mr Trump’s challenges has failed to make any real headway.

Mr Biden’s victory margin in the public vote overall stands at more than 5.9 million. The victory in the US Electoral College system, which decides who becomes president, is projected to be 306 to 232.

Each state must certify its result over the next few weeks, although the deadlines vary. As the votes are certified, Mr Trump’s chances of overturning the overall result will continue to dwindle.

Mr Trump would probably need to flip at least three states.

One possibility is that Mr Trump will try to get Republican-friendly state legislatures in key states to override the choice of voters and instead select electors favourable to the president.

What did Mr Biden say?

He was speaking after a virtual meeting with governors, including Democrats and Republicans, about the coronavirus crisis.

Asked about Mr Trump’s lack of concession, Mr Biden said the president was sending “incredibly damaging messages… to the rest of the world about how democracy functions” and that he would be remembered “as being one of the most irresponsible presidents in American history”.

“It’s hard to fathom how this man thinks,” he continued, adding: “It’s just outrageous what he’s doing.”

Of the election result, he said: “The vast majority of people believe it’s legitimate.”

What could this Trump strategy be?

Although Mr Trump is continuing to press the legal challenges, they have had almost no success so far.

US media say the president may try to use Republican lawmakers in states he needs to flip – Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania for example – to target the electoral college system.

Vote counting in Michigan

Reuters

The US is a democratic republic, and the president does not win by popular vote, but instead needs a majority of “electors” each state is designated according to its congressional representation.

Each state usually determines these according to who won the popular vote there.

But federal law says statehouse legislators have the power to designate electors if the state has “failed to make a choice”.

This would appear a long shot as it is very hard to prove, no evidence of electoral fraud has been shown and to potentially disenfranchise millions of voters would spark national uproar.

Reuters quoted one source familiar with the Trump strategy as saying it was now a “more targeted approach towards getting the legislators engaged”.

But even one of the Michigan lawmakers going to the White House, Mike Shirkey, said earlier this week that the legislature appointing electors was “not going to happen”.

What of the other legal challenges?

At a briefing, Mr Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani continued to lay out unsubstantiated conspiracy theories and accusations of electoral fraud.

Legal experts have suggested the team’s lawsuits are unlikely to succeed in altering results. Many lawsuits have already been dismissed although a number of rulings are still to be made.

Mr Giuliani railed against the reporting of his team’s legal challenges, saying the media had shown an “irrational pathological hatred for the president”.

President Trump has continued to fire off tweets in support of his legal challenges and has held only two public events since the election, a Veterans Day memorial and an update on coronavirus vaccines.

Meanwhile, Georgia is expected to announce soon the outcome of a hand recount of votes, ahead of certification of the state’s result on Friday.

Mr Biden’s lead was under 0.5% and the recount was ordered under a new state law on auditing.

Several thousand untallied votes were found – paring back Mr Biden’s lead – but they were the result of human error and not fraud, voting system manager Gabriel Sterling said.

The recount is unlikely to affect the result. However, the losing candidate will still then have two business days to request a full recount via a scanning system.

The Trump team also says a new lawsuit will be filed there.

Mr Giuliani said the campaign was withdrawing its lawsuit in Michigan. He said it had achieved its aim of stopping the certification of the result in one key county.

However, the vice-chairman of Wayne County’s canvassing board said an attempt by its two Republican members to rescind their earlier certification of the result was invalid, and the certification was binding.

One of Republicans said Mr Trump had called her personally after the vote had been certified “to make sure I was safe”.

Mr Biden won the county by a huge margin, according to unofficial results, and won Michigan by about 146,000 votes.

In Arizona on Wednesday, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, said she was receiving escalating threats of violence, as she blamed the president and members of Congress for spreading disinformation about the results.

In Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign asked a judge to allow them to restore a claim they had dropped on Sunday that Republican observers were improperly blocked from watching the vote count.

A Trump lawsuit has been filed in Nevada and his campaign has paid for a partial recount in Wisconsin, though election officials there say this will probably only favour Mr Biden.

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