Briefs: Donald Trump complains about election process, promises lots of litigation

The Supreme Court is seen in Washington, Thursday afternoon, Nov. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Associated Press

Neither candidate has reached the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is testing how far he can go in using the trappings of presidential power to undermine confidence in this week's election against Joe Biden, as the Democrat gained ground in tight contests in some key battleground states. 

With his pathway to re-election appearing to shrink, Trump on Thursday advanced unsupported accusations of voter fraud to falsely argue that his rival was trying to seize power. It amounted to an extraordinary effort by a sitting American president to sow doubt about the democratic process. 

"This is a case when they are trying to steal an election, they are trying to rig an election," Trump said from the podium of the White House briefing room.

The president's remarks deepened a sense of anxiety in the U.S. as Americans enter their third full day after the election without knowing who would serve as president for the next four years. His statements also prompted a rebuke from some Republicans, particularly those looking to steer the party in a different direction in a post-Trump era.

Neither candidate has reached the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House. But Biden eclipsed Trump in Wisconsin and Michigan, two crucial Midwestern battleground states, overtook the president in Georgia and was inching closer to doing the same in Pennsylvania, where votes were still be counted. 

2020 Latest: Biden overtakes Trump in Georgia vote count

The Latest on the presidential campaign (all times local):

4:40 a.m.

Democrat Joe Biden is now leading President Donald Trump in the battleground state of Georgia.

By Friday morning, Biden overtook Trump in the number of ballots counted in the battleground, a must-win state for Trump that has long been a Republican stronghold. Biden now has a 917-vote advantage.

The contest is still too early for The Associated Press to call. Thousands of ballots are still left to be counted — many in counties where the former vice president was in the lead.

EXPLAINER: States still in play and what makes them that way

WASHINGTON — A handful of states remained in play Friday in the tightly contested U.S. presidential race. The outcome of contests in Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Nevada will determine whether Democrat Joe Biden or President Donald Trump wins. 

The solidly Republican state of Alaska has also not been called because it is only 50% counted and will not release absentee numbers until Nov. 10. It is not expected to impact the outcome.

The Associated Press reviews the states that will determine the presidency:

Presidential election exposes America's 'perilous' divides

NEW YORK — Presidential elections can be revealing moments that convey the wishes of the American people to the next wave of elected officials. So far, the big reveal in the contest between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden is the extent of the cavernous divide between Republican and Democratic America, one that defines the nation, no matter which candidate ultimately wins.

Voters from both parties turned out in droves to pick the next president, but as they did so, they found little agreement about what that president should do. Democrats and Republicans prioritized different issues, lived in different communities and even voted on different kinds of ballots. 

Whoever emerges as the winner, that division ensures that the next president will face significant gridlock in Congress, skepticism about the integrity of the vote and an agitated electorate increasingly divided by race, education and geography. Even the vote count itself threatens to further split Americans. 

Two days after polls closed, neither Trump nor Biden has earned the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. The Republican incumbent is encouraging his supporters to protest outside counting locations still sorting through mail ballots — the method of voting preferred by many Democrats — while pursuing an aggressive legal strategy that could lead to further delays. 

"Except for the Civil War, I don't think we've lived through any time as perilous as this in terms of the divisions," said historian Barbara Perry, the director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia's Miller Center.

Analysis: Trump's vote diatribe both shocking, unsurprising

WASHINGTON — It was at the same time shocking and utterly to be expected.

As the nation held its collective breath and awaited the result of the 2020 presidential election, President Donald Trump stepped to the podium in the White House on Thursday and made a full-frontal attempt to undermine the integrity of the vote, which was leaning in the direction of Democrat Joe Biden. 

The president had spent months laying the groundwork for such a moment. He had repeatedly questioned the validity of mail-in ballots. He had dismissed election officials from Democratic states and cities as political hacks. And he had demanded in advance that the results be known on Election Day, which is never a given.

All of this has circulated through the conservative echo chamber for months. And it belies the truth about how elections are conducted in America, where voter fraud is extremely rare. 

But while Trump's diatribe was in line with his past misstatements about U.S. elections, it was still a watershed event to hear the president of the United States so thoroughly run down the conduct of an American election in real time, triggering fresh anxiety about prospects for a peaceful transition of power.

Trump predicts 'lot of litigation' in fight to keep his job

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is looking at a political map in which he might have to persuade the Supreme Court to set aside votes in two or more states to prevent Joe Biden from becoming president.

That's a substantially different scenario than in the contested presidential election of 2000, which was effectively settled by the Supreme Court. Then, the entire fight was over Florida's electoral votes and involved a recount as opposed to trying to halt the initial counting of ballots.

Trump's campaign and Republicans already are mounting legal challenges in several states, although most are small-scale lawsuits that do not appear to affect many votes. 

Judges in Georgia and Michigan quickly dismissed campaign lawsuits Thursday, undercutting a campaign legal strategy to attack the integrity of the voting process in states where the result could mean Trump's defeat.

The rulings came as Biden inched closer to the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House.

AP FACT CHECK: Trump fabricates election corruption

WASHINGTON — Citing "horror stories," President Donald Trump unleashed a torrent of fabricated accusations Thursday in an audacious attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the U.S. election.

Standing behind the presidential seal, Trump used a White House setting symbolizing the power of his office to assail an election he portrayed as rife with fraud and corruption. One allegation after another had no basis in fact, such as his accusation that election officials in Pennsylvania and Detroit tried to ban election observers from polling stations.

A look at his remarks, coming as Democrat Joe Biden made progress toward the electoral votes needed to claim the presidency.

TRUMP: "We're hearing stories that are horror stories. ... We think there is going to be a lot of litigation because we have so much evidence and so much proof."

THE FACTS: Trump has produced no evidence of systemic problems in voting or counting. In fact, the ballot-counting process across the country has been running smoothly for the most part, even with the U.S. in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic. 

EXPLAINER: What's happening with poll watchers?

WHAT'S HAPPENING WITH POLL WATCHERS?

The campaign of President Donald Trump says Republican poll watchers are being improperly denied access to observe the counting of ballots. Not so, say election officials in key battleground states, who said rules are being followed and they are committed to transparency.

WHAT IS A POLL WATCHER, ANYWAY?

Someone who monitors voting or ballot counting. 

Tasked this year with monitoring a record number of mail ballots, partisan poll watchers are designated by a political party or campaign to report any concerns they may have. With a few reports of overly aggressive poll watchers, election officials said they were carefully balancing access with the need to minimize disruptions.

Eta back to sea as Central America tallies damages and dead

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — As the remnants of Hurricane Eta moved back over Caribbean waters, governments in Central America worked to tally the displaced and dead, and recover bodies from landslides and flooding that claimed dozens of lives from Guatemala to Panama.

It will be days before the true toll of Eta is known. Its torrential rains battered economies already strangled by the COVID-19 pandemic, took all from those who had little and laid bare the shortcomings of governments unable to aid their citizens and pleading for international assistance.

Shortly after Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández asked neighboring Guatemala for help rescuing residents stranded near their shared border Thursday, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said at least 50 people had been killed in landslides in his own country, most of them in a remote town rescuers struggled to reach. Guatemala's national emergency agency later said only that at least 50 people were missing in San Cristobal Verapaz.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center forecast that parts of Nicaragua and Honduras could receive 15 to 25 inches (380 to 635 millimeters) of rain, with 40 inches (1,000 millimeters) possible in some isolated parts.

A week of rain spoiled crops, washed away bridges and flooded homes across Central America. Hurricane Eta's arrival Tuesday afternoon in northeast Nicaragua followed days of drenching rain as it crawled toward shore. Its slow, meandering path north through Honduras pushed rivers over their banks and pouring into neighborhoods where families were forced onto rooftops to wait for rescue.

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