Donald Trump tweeted late into the night on Sunday, continuing to push claims of voter fraud as he refused to concede the election to Joe Biden.
In a slew of tweets sent around midnight Washington time – two of them flagged by Twitter for containing disputed information – the President pushed videos of his allies on Fox News alleging voter fraud and other irregularities, while calling for all claims to be fully investigated before the election result is allowed to stand.
It comes amid reports that Trump is planning a series of rallies where he will show off obituaries of dead people that his campaign claims were allowed to vote, while touting other allegations of fraud.
The Trump campaign is also said to be putting together ‘a campaign-style media operation’ to challenge the result, while building up staff numbers in states where legal challenges and recounts are likely to go ahead.
Some Republicans are urging him to accept defeat including former President George W. Bush who issued a message telling him the election’s outcome was ‘clear’ and Chris Christie who said it was time for him to show evidence or ‘move on.’
But others in the White House are backing Trump’s fight, including first lady Melania who tweeted to make clear that she was still with her husband on his war footing on Twitter. Trump’s sons Eric and Don Jr. are aggressively tweeting claims of voter fraud – none of them with evidence – and demands for a ‘manual recount’ across the country.
Biden is ahead by 43,000 votes in Pennsylvania, 148,000 votes in Michigan, 34,000 votes in Nevada and 13,000 votes in Arizona, with ballots still being counted. Even if all of Trump’s current challenges are successful, experts believe they are unlikely to overcome those margins. The campaign has promised more challenges to come.
The Trump campaign has said it will order a recount in Wisconsin, where Biden is up by 20,000 votes, and is likely in Georgia, where he is currently up by 10,000, but they are unlikely to overturn those results. The Trump camp is furiously raising money it says will go to the effort.
The Trump campaign has yet to produce any evidence to back its claims of widespread fraud.
Among the legal avenues identified by Trump’s lawyers and allies are:
- Challenging the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision that ballots arriving up to three days late can be counted in the total. The US Supreme Court has already ruled those ballots must be kept segregated and tallied separately, while the case is pending
- Alleging that at least 15 ballots, and as many as 100, have been cast on behalf of dead people in Pennsylvania
- Pushing the FBI to investigate claims from a postal worker in Pennsylvania that supervisors instructed him to back-date postmarks on postal ballots
- Investigating ballot-counting software in Michigan that tallied 6,000 Trump votes as Biden votes. That error was caught an corrected, but the same software was used elsewhere, and the campaign want it checked
- Investigating claims that up to 9,000 people who no longer live in Nevada were allowed to vote in the state
- Investigating claims that people who went to vote on election day were told that their ballots had already been cast for them, by someone else
- Raising doubts over software used to check signatures on mail-in ballots cast in Clark County, Nevada – though they have not said what they believe is wrong with the software
Donald Trump waves to supporters outside his golf club in Virginia on Sunday
President-elect Joe Biden leaves church on Sunday. He is already forming his new administration and is readying a coronavirus taskforce
A supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump carries a semi-automatic rifle as he takes part in a ‘Stop the Steal’ protest in front of the Maricopa County Elections Department in Phoenix, Arizona, on Sunday
Trump supporters in Phoenix on Sunday as they chanted: ‘Stop the Steal’
Ken Starr, former Clinton prosecutor and now a member of Trump’s legal team, appeared on Fox News to discuss a Supreme Court challenge to voting rules in Pennsylvania.
In September, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had ruled that votes which arrive up to three days late in the state can be counted, so long as they are postmarked by election day.
That ruling, made after an appeal by Democrat governor Tom Wolf, was challenged at the US Supreme Court after lawyers said it should be up to the state legislature to decide on voting laws.
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito ruled that all late-arriving ballots should be segregated and counted separately until a final ruling can be made.
Speaking to Fox, Starr predicted that the earlier ruling would be overturned for being unconstitutional, and that late-arriving ballots would not be counted.
It is unclear how many ballots arrived this way, though Pennsylvania officials say it is unlikely to make a difference in the result.
‘To count every vote may be a crime, it may even be a crime under federal law, it’s definitely a crime under state law, if that is – and here’s the key word – an illegal ballot,’ Starr said.
‘It’s shameful that Vice President Biden’s people and the Vice President himself are saying ‘count every vote’ and selling a lot of t-shirts, that is the potential and an invitation for absolute lawlessness.’
Harmeet Dhillon, a lawyer on Trump’s legal team and Republican Party official, summed up the strategy to BBC Radio 4, saying: ‘It’s not as if there is one magic bullet here.
‘There are a half dozen states that are still in play or disputed, and the President would need to win, at a minimum, Pennsylvania and two others. We believe that is possible.’
Meanwhile Senator Lindsay Graham, speaking to Fox News, alleged that the Trump campaign has ‘canvassed all early ballots and absentee ballots in Pennsylvania’ and found at least 15 people whose ballots were cast despite the fact that they’re dead.
He said: ‘They’ve found over 100 people they think were dead, 15 people we’ve verified have been dead who voted, six people registered after they died and voted.’
Meanwhile Senator Ted Cruz was also on Fox News, raising doubts over software used to count votes in Michigan.
‘We’re hearing one county in Michigan where the election software mistakenly counted 6,000 votes cast for Donald Trump and switched them to Joe Biden.
‘They apparently caught that, but that same software is used in 47 counties throughout Michigan,’ he said.
Giving an overview of the situation on Fox News, retired Republican politician Jason Chaffetz said: ‘The President has legal avenues.
‘The strongest are in Pennsylvania where the Supreme Court has said ‘you may not be able to unilaterally change [late ballot] dates’ and in Nevada where you’re having people who don’t live in Nevada anymore vote.’
Fox News called the key swing state of Arizona for Biden on election night, and announced his victory on Saturday after calling Pennsylvania for him.
But since then the network has hosted a series of guests pushing Trump’s claims of fraud. It is unclear whether the powerful network will back his quest to have the result overturned.
Elsewhere, Adam Laxalt, the former Attorney General of Nevada, pointed out that machines were used to check the signatures on 200,000 ballots cast in Clark County.
‘No human beings looked at those signature matches to confirm that they were in fact matches,’ he said, without saying what he believes is wrong with the software.
The Trump campaign has already launched a series of failed legal challenges to the vote, in states that are being contested.
In Michigan, two GOP lawsuits alleging vote fraud were thrown out for lack of evidence – one in Detroit which a judge said was based on ‘pure speculation’ and another in Philadelphia after lawyers produced a single sticky not with an allegation of voter fraud written on it as ‘evidence’ of widespread fraud.
In Georgia, another suit alleging that a few dozen votes which had arrived after election day were being mingled with legitimate ones was dismissed, again for lack of evidence.
In Arizona, a lawsuit is pending, alleging that some ballots were discounted because voters were told to use Sharpie pens to cast them, which caused issues with tabulating machines. Election officials deny the allegations, saying Sharpies are actually the best writing implement to use.
All major cable and broadcast networks, along with major newspapers and international outlets, called the presidential election in Joe Biden’s favor on Saturday after he built up a considerable lead in Pennsylvania.
A win in the state, along with its 20 electoral college votes, put him on 273 electoral college votes – above the 270 needed for a win – without having to take any of the states remaining in play.
Nevada has since been declared for Biden, putting him on 279. Some networks have also called Arizona for the Democrat, which would put him on 290.
Counts are still underway in Alaska, Georgia, and North Carolina. Trump is widely expected to take Alaska, has the lead in North Carolina, but is narrowly behind in Georgia.
The Georgia result will almost certainly go to a recount because of the narrowness of the margin, while a recount possible in Wisconsin, although under state law the Trump campaign would have to pay for it to the tune of an estimated $3 million.
Celebrations broke out in Democrat strongholds around the country news of Biden’s win spread, with people dancing in the streets of Philadelphia and New York.
But Trump has refused to concede, tweeting on Sunday: ‘Since when does the lamestream media get to decide who our next president will be? We’ve learned a lot in the last two weeks.’
How the vote counts went Biden’s way in key states. Data from AP shows how voting-day leads for Trump were wiped out by surges for Biden as mail in votes were counted
Worshippers pray during a protest with Trump supporters demonstrating against the presidential election results at the State Capitol in Lansing, Michican on Sunday
Ken Starr, former Clinton prosecutor and now lawyer for Donald Trump, said he expects the US Supreme Court to overturn a ruling in Pennsylvania that allowed ballots received up to three days after the election to be counted
Ted Cruz (left) raised doubts over software used to count ballots in Michigan, while Lindsay Graham (right) said he uncovered 15 ballots in Pennsylvania that were cast on behalf of dead people
Matt Gaetz and Jason Chaffertz (far right) both repeated claims of voting irregularity in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia as they spoke to Steve Hilton on Fox News
Trump has continued to push claims of voter fraud since the election, and has been backed by wife Melania who called on officials to ‘protect out democracy’. Other Republicans, including George W Bush, have called on Trump to concede
In Philadelphia, which helped swing the Pennsylvania result for Biden as mail-in votes were counted, a Republican city commissioner in charge of running elections called Trump’s allegations ‘insane’.
Al Schmidt, one of three city commissioners charged with overseeing elections, told 60 Minutes that he and his team have been receiving death threats after Trump called for the counting to stop.
‘At the end of the day we are counting eligible votes, cast by voters. The controversy surrounding it is something I don’t understand.
‘It’s people making accusations that we wouldn’t count those votes, or people are adding fraudulent votes, or – just, coming up with all sorts of crazy stuff,’ he said.
‘[We’re getting] calls to our offices saying “this is what the Second Amendment is for”, people like us,’ he said.
Asked whether he considers that a death threat, he responds: ‘Yes. For counting votes.’
As Trump rallied his troops for a prolonged legal fight over the outcome, Axios reported that his media team will be headed by Tim Murtaugh, a former television reporter in Virginia who joined the Trump campaign in February 2019, and now serves as communications director.
One adviser told the site that Murtaugh’s group will issue ‘regular press briefings, releases on legal action and obviously things like talking points and booking people strategically on television.’
In Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania the Trump team is planning fresh legal challenges – many of those raised so far have already been dismissed.
More than 90 campaign staff have been redeployed from Florida to Georgia, where former congressman Doug Collins will be leading the campaign’s recount efforts.
In Arizona, Kory Langhofer, who was the counsel for Trump’s 2016 transition, will serve as lead attorney, Axios said.
And in Pennsylvania, Ronald Hicks, a partner in the Pittsburgh office of the Porter Wright law firm and co-chair of the firm’s election law practice, will lead the Trump campaign’s legal charge.
On Sunday night Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, a Republican, told 60 Minutes that his office, which runs the vote count, has received death threats as a result of the Trump campaign’s accusation of vote rigging.
‘From the insight looking out, it feels all very deranged,’ he said.
‘At the end of the day we are counting eligible votes, cast by voters. The controversy surrounding it is something I don’t understand.
‘It’s people making accusations that we wouldn’t count those votes, or people are adding fraudulent votes, or – just, coming up with all sorts of crazy stuff.’
The Trump’s formal legal team includes 2020 campaign manager Bill Stepien, lawyer Justin Clark, and senior advisers Jason Miller and David Bossie.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, who delivered the memorable press conference on Saturday at the Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Philadelphia, is also fighting Trump’s legal battles.
Biden’s campaign, in turn, has assembled what it described as the largest election protection program in presidential campaign history, with a large team of attorneys ready to fight challenges.
Bob Bauer, who served as general counsel to the Obama campaigns of 2008 and 2012, worked with campaign general counsel Dana Remus on voter protection — an issue that thousands of Democratic lawyers around the country are also engaged in, according to the Biden campaign.
The campaign also created a special national litigation team involving hundreds of lawyers that will include as leaders Walter Dellinger, a solicitor general in the Clinton administration, and Donald Verrilli, a solicitor general under Obama.
Democratic lawyer Marc Elias and a team of lawyers from his firm, Perkins Coie, focused on protecting voter access and ensuring a fair and accurate vote count.
On Sunday night it emerged that administrator of the General Services Administration, Emily Murphy, a Trump appointee who is in charge of federal buildings, was blocking the release of transition funds until the legal challenges had been resolved.
Trump has been whipping up his supporters with claims of votes being stolen
Rudy Giuliani, pictured at the Philadelphia press conference on Saturday, will participate
‘An ascertainment has not yet been made,’ Pamela Pennington, a spokeswoman for GSA, said in an email to the Washington Post, ‘and its Administrator will continue to abide by, and fulfill, all requirements under the law.’
On Sunday Trump again played golf and tweeted his anger at the media projecting Joe Biden’s victory. He Tweeted: ‘Since when does the Lamestream Media call who our next president will be? We have all learned a lot in the last two weeks!’ Trump tweeted Sunday afternoon after another round of golf, his second in two days.
Melania, who had been the subject of a report she had urged her husband to concede, made clear that she was still with her husband on his war footing on Twitter.
‘The American people deserve fair elections. Every legal – not illegal – vote should be counted,’ the Slovenia-born former model wrote. ‘We must protect our democracy with complete transparency,’ she added.
She did not go as far as Trump and his allies in alleging that there had been election fraud, but her comments lined up with Trump and GOP allies’ calls for investigation and litigation to get to the bottom of the Trump team’s claims.
Despite Trump’s claims about the media, the election will only be decided after county boards of elections submit their tallies, states report the results, the electoral college meets, and Congress meets in a joint session.
What media organizations do is evaluate the vote count as it comes in, then determine when one candidate or the other no longer has a chance of winning a state based on the outstanding vote.
In the case of Pennsylvania, which networks used to reach their conclusion, Biden is up by 43,000 votes, with 98 per cent of precincts reporting.
What makes the lead basically insurmountable, though, is that the remaining votes are coming almost entirely from mail ballots in pro-Biden counties, and Biden has been winning each batch by an overwhelming margin.
Even if the media were wrong – networks wrongly called Florida in 2000 only to pull their projections back – it wouldn’t matter if the official count went the other way for some reason.
Amid conflicting reports about factions inside his orbit, Trump’s public comments have all attacked the election and demonstrated fight.
He once again quoted former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a partisan warrior, calling big city machines ‘corrupt’ and venting ‘these people are thieves,’ as well as calling it a ‘stolen election.’
Melania’s intervention also adds to suggestions that his family are becoming fractured by the outcome, with Jared Kushner reported to have told him to concede,
How Trump will be persuaded to agree to a transition of power remains in flux, with the failure of the intervention by Bush a sign that there may be few options to get the president to come round to his fate.
Bush congratulated Joe Biden on his election victory Sunday – and delivered an unmistakable message to Donald Trump that he must now concede.
The only living former Republican president broke his silence, more than 24 hours after Biden was declared the winner in a call by TV networks and the Associated Press, to say that he had spoken to the Democratic victor, and to Kamala Harris, the vice president-elect.
‘I just talked to the President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden,’ he said in a statement. No Republican leader has so far called Biden president-elect.
‘Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man, who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country.’
You say hello, but some Republicans say goodbye: Donald Trump is defying calls from George W. Bush and Mitt Romney to give up his fight to challenge the results of the election. His loyalists want him to fight on – but his family appears to be fracturing
Swinging for the fences: President Donald Trump hit the golf course on Sunday morning in Sterling, Virginia, to blow off some steam after the media declared his rival Joe Biden winner of the election the day before
Low profile: Trump donned a white cap bearing his campaign slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ as he hit the golf course
No mask? Trump did not wear a face covering as he interacted with caddies at the Trump National Golf Club
And in what will be instantly read as a rebuke to Trump over his claims of fraud and a direct message that he must publicly concede the election, Bush said there were no doubts over the integrity of the result.
‘No matter how you voted, your vote counted,’ he said.
Sunday morning also saw his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani aggressively claim he will contest the election, telling Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo that he had ‘four or five’ lawsuits which would be ready by the end of the week.
He claimed Republican observers were not allowed close enough to see mail-in ballots being processed in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, and that dead people in Philadelphia had voted in the past.
He also claimed that he would sue in Nevada, which has been called for Biden, without specifying how. Asked ‘where is Bill Barr on this?’ – a reference to the attorney general, who in theory at least could investigate allegations of mass-scale vote rigging – he said: ‘I don’t know and I can’t worry about that.’
Giuliani claimed he has ’60 or 70 witnesses’ to voter fraud, and might make ‘one or two’ public. So far there have been a handful of anecdotal witnesses in videos posted on social media but none who have made claims to authorities.
Another key member of Trump’s kitchen cabinet, South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, used the same show to tell the president not to concede.
‘If we don’t challenge and change the U.S. election system, there will never be another Republican president elected again,’ he claimed.
Gingrich’s claims the election was corrupt came from a Fox & Friends interview in which he called Democrats ‘corrupt’ and claimed the outcome was a ‘left-wing power grab.’
‘President Trump has the right to request recounts and pursue legal challenges, and any unresolved issues will be properly adjudicated.
‘The American people can have confidence that this election was fundamentally fair, its integrity will be upheld, and its outcome is clear.’
The message from the 43rd president could hardly be clearer and shows the pressure mounting on Trump to give up his apparently doomed fight to remain in the White House for a second term.
His family appeared split on the issue, with Jared Kushner reported to be telling him to give up the fight and concede, but his sons Eric and Don Jr. aggressively tweeting claims of voter fraud – none of them with evidence – and demands for a ‘manual recount’ across the country.
Vocal allies took to the Fox News circuit this morning, including Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, all pushing for the fight to continue.
But the intervention by Bush will serve to remind Republicans of the damage not conceding could present to the party in the future.
Trump himself called the election ‘stolen’ Sunday morning as he tweeted claims from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich that Democrats ‘stole what they had to steal.’
But he avoided using his own voice in a series of tweets, instead highlighting Gingrich – who had appeared on Fox and Friends – and Turley, a registered Democrat who had spoken against Trump’s impeachment as a Republican witness to the House Judiciary Committee.
The strategy to wage a legal fight against the votes tallied for Biden in Pennsylvania and other places is more to provide Trump with an off-ramp for a loss he can´t quite grasp and less about changing the election’s outcome, the officials said. They spoke to AP on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy.
Trump aides and allies also acknowledged privately the legal fights would – at best – forestall the inevitable, and some had deep reservations about the president’s attempts to undermine faith in the vote. But they said Trump and a core group of loyalists were aiming to keep his base of supporters on his side even in defeat.
There has never been a presidential election in memory where such widespread fraud was alleged.
Moments after the AP called the race for Biden, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani stood in front of campaign banner taped over the garage door of a landscaping company in Philadelphia, wedged between a cremation center and an adult book store, with a handful of poll watchers and declared they’d been kept too far away to check for any inaccuracies.
‘We have no way of knowing, because we´ve been deprived of the right to inspect ballots,’ he said.
Partisan poll watchers are designated by a political party or campaign to report any concerns they may have. They are not poll workers who actually tally ballots. Monitoring polling places and election offices is allowed in most states, but rules vary and there are certain limits to avoid any harassment or intimidation. They are not allowed to interfere with the conduct of the election and are typically required to register in advance with the local election office.
This year, because of the coronavirus that has killed more than 230,000 people across the country, there was litigation in a few states, including Pennsylvania, over where poll watchers could stand to ensure social distancing.
Lawyers could potentially argue the vote tally should be cast aside over fraud observed by poll watchers, but in order to win that argument they´d need evidence, not just allegations the monitors weren’t allowed to see clearly enough. Judges are loathe to disenfranchise any voters and there would need to be substantial proof that fraud had damaged the count so much that it must be set aside.
Democratic poll watchers, who were also given the same access, have not raised concerns. Giuliani called evidence of fraud circumstantial at the news conference. He said he’d be filing suit in federal court, but the issue has already been before judges.
A federal judge in Philadelphia Thursday night ordered the two sides to work out an agreement on the number of poll watchers and how close they could be to the counting. The judge also voiced concerns about the safety of poll workers during the pandemic if poll watchers were allowed to peer over their shoulders.
But Trump’s tweets Sunday make clear that if his team believe they are providing him with an off-ramp, he seems to be rejecting that junction and heading down the interstate instead.
The tweets suggest that Trump is not backing down or planning to concede despite signs he is already fracturing his family with his sons and Kushner at odds over whether he should concede.
Gingrich had spent Saturday at the same Trump golf course where the president was golfing when he was told that TV networks and the Associated Press had called the election and that he was defeated. It is unknown if the two men spoke there.
Trump also amplified claims by Turley, a law professor, about fraud, specifically in Pennsylvania, which is the state which pushed Biden over the top to his electoral college majority.
Turley suggested that there could be a problem ‘authenticating’ ballots received after Tuesday and that this could affect the result of ‘the whole election.’
The claim is difficult to assess. Pennsylvania had already separated the late-arriving ballots, and it is so far not known how many there are and whether there enough to sway the election’s outcome.
Trump’s eldest sons launched a fusillade of morning tweets claiming their father’s defeat was fraudulent Sunday, in a sign of a split from their brother-in-law Jared Kushner.
Don Jr. and Eric both retweeted claims from Republican operatives that included the late boxer Joe Frazier voting in Philadelphia and that counting software was rigged against Republicans.
Already packing? The president’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner was seen leaving his home in Washington DC with a duffel bag in hand on Sunday morning
Eric called for a ‘manual recount’ of all ballots – which would amount to as many as 150 million – because one county in Georgia said three days ago that it was briefly delaying counting due to a software glitch.
‘Software from hell! There needs to be a manual recount of every ballot in this country right now!’ he said.
And Don Jr. retweeted an anti-concession demand accusing Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania of ‘rampant fraud.’
It was unclear early Sunday whether either son has spoken to their father since his defeat was called by networks just before midday Saturday.
But it was revealed late Saturday night that their brother-in-law Jared has been urging Trump to come to terms with defeat and offer a concession.
The possibility of an ugly family split would add new drama to the last days of the Trump White House – although the two sons had offered contradictory signals themselves on Saturday.
Eric did not attend a press conference with Rudy Giuliani outside a landscaping company in Philadelphia – and across the road from a sex shop – where the president’s personal attorney claimed he had evidence of voting fraud in the city.
Still swinging: Trump is seen mid-swing during his golf round in Sterling on Sunday morning
First son’s complaint: The glitch referred to happened on Tuesday in Gwinnett County, GA and was resolved by Thursday
Claim: In this Tweet Paul Gosar – a Trump loyalist Republican congressman – claimed that software which had awarded 6,000 votes to Biden in error in Michigan in a glitch immediately spotted and disclosed by officials there – should be examined everywhere it was used
Poll watching claims: The Trump campaign claimed in press conferences and tweets that observers were ‘banned’ then admitted in court that they were not. They are expected to sue Monday over not being allowed close enough to see what happened. Democrats operated under the same rules
Claim: Project Veritas, the right-wing group which specializes in undercover videos, has what it alleges is a whistleblower Post Office worker who claims he was told to collect ballots which were then backdated to suggest they had been mailed before the deadline of November 3. The claims have not been addressed by the USPS
Unclear claim: Allegations that Joe Frazier voted in his native Philadelphia in 2018 after his death have circulated on the internet for the last two years. There is so far no evidence to support a claim someone voted in his name in 2020
Nothing yet though: Conservative lobbyist and Trump backer Matt Schlapp’s claims about Nevada were amplified by Don Jr. but he has so far presented no direct evidence
Eric had attended Giuliani’s Thursday press conference in the city where the former New York mayor and Borat prank victim claimed ‘Canadians and Martians’ may have voted in the Keystone state.
And Don Jr. flurry of tweets claiming the election was corrupt were accompanied by an Instagram post with his father paying tribute to his willingness to ‘fight’ in what could be interpreted as an elegy for a lost cause.
The question of who can tell Trump it is time to admit he is done has perplexed aides in his inner circle.
Some have launched public attempts to flatter him into conceding, including former chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who used a Wall Street Journal op-ed to say Saturday that Trump will concede once he is sure the election was not corrupt.
Laura Ingraham, the Fox News 10pm host used her show on Thursday to call for him to ‘stand tall’ and know that ‘it was all worth it.’
‘If and when it’s time to accept an unfavorable outcome in this election, and we hope it never comes, President Trump needs to do it with the same grace and composure that he demonstrated at that town hall with Savannah Guthrie,’ she said Thursday. ‘President Trump´s legacy will only become more significant if he focuses on moving the country forward.’
But Trump’s own state of mind was clear in his tweets Saturday.
Trump is not expected to ever formally concede, according to people close to him, but is likely to grudgingly vacate the White House at the end of his term. His ongoing efforts to paint the election as unfair are seen both as an effort to soothe a bruised ego and to show his loyal base of supporters that he is still fighting. That could be key to keeping them energized for what comes next.
‘He intends to fight,’ Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said as it was becoming clear that the president was headed for defeat.
Would Trump ever concede? ‘I doubt it,’ said Trump´s longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone, whose prison sentence was commuted by Trump in July. Stone asserted that Biden, as a result, will have ‘a cloud over his presidency with half the people in the country believing that he was illegitimately elected.’
Allies suggested that if Trump wants to launch a media empire in coming years, he has an incentive to prolong the drama. So, too, if he intends to keep the door open to a possible 2024 comeback – he would be only a year older then than Biden is now.
There are many in his inner circle egging him on, including his personal attorney, Giuliani.
If he is watching his favored news outlet, Fox News Sunday, as his Newt Gingrish tweet suggested, he is unlikely to hear voices suggesting he give up.
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee – whose daughter Sarah Huckabee Sanders was White House press secretary and spent election night with Trump – scoffed at the idea he should concede.
And Steve Scalise, the Republicans’ second-most senior member of the House, claimed state laws in Pennsylvania ‘were not being followed’ in the counting of late-arriving ballots and that Democratic officials were ‘not being transparent.’
So far the only senior Republicans to congratulate Joe Biden on becoming president-elect have been Mitt Romney, who voted to impeach and remove Trump from office, and Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska senator who Trump has repeatedly attacked.
No other members of the House or Senate who are close to Trump have spoken out to suggest the election is over.
And the Trump campaign itself has bombarded supporters with fundraising emails and texts based on their claims they will fight results in the courts.
They have raked in tens of millions of dollars since Tuesday, according to people familiar with the matter.
Some of the money was earmarked to retire campaign debt – not fight in the courts – but the rest could be used to keep up an aggressive public campaign to continue to undermine faith in the election outcome.
That the peaceful transfer of power was even in doubt reflected the norm-shattering habits of the now-lame duck president, who even in victory never admitted that he had lost the popular vote in 2016.
Most aides believed the president would take the weekend to decide on a plan, which will most certainly involve more legal action.
But some aides believe the legal skirmishes are more about putting up the appearance of a fight than producing results.
There were some apparent indications Trump was moving in a less contentious direction, even as he continued to angrily complain to aides, reviving old grievances about the Russia investigation that began under President Barack Obama,
In a statement Friday, Trump suggested he would avail himself of every avenue under the law to challenge the election’s result. Allies interpreted it as a begrudging acknowledgement of the likely outcome.
‘We will pursue this process through every aspect of the law to guarantee that the American people have confidence in our government,’ Trump said in the statement. ‘I will never give up fighting for you and our nation.’
On Saturday, the White House released a terse statement saying the president ‘will accept the results of a free and fair election’ and that the administration ‘is following all statutory requirements.’
Still, there were concerns that Trump’s rhetoric would inflame tensions in a nation that was already bitterly divided before the election. Isolated scuffles were reported near tabulation centers in Philadelphia and Phoenix.
Pro-Trump protesters – some of them openly carrying rifles and handguns – rallied outside tallying facilities in a few cities around the country Friday, responding to Trump´s groundless accusations that the Democrats were trying to steal the White House.
The Biden campaign made clear its patience had limits.
‘As we said on July 19, the American people will decide this election,’ Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said Friday. ‘And the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.’
Trump, whose voluminous Twitter account seems to provide an apt entry for any occasion, offered this advice in 2016: ‘Vladimir Putin said today about Hillary and Dems: ‘In my opinion, it is humiliating. One must be able to lose with dignity,’ So true!’