As the fallout from an unprecedented Election Day continues to settle, President Donald Trump’s campaign has threatened to sue in battlegrounds won by his Democratic Party challenger, Joe Biden, revealing that the incumbent president’s team has low confidence in the outcome of a complete vote count.
The news comes as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said they could have a result as soon as Thursday night.
The threats to resort to a legal strategy have been paired with increasingly heated messages from the president’s official Twitter account, where the president has unleashed a salvo of tweets demanding that local officials “STOP THE COUNT” and “STOP THE FRAUD!”
However, the strategy is already running into clear legal hurdles after a judge in Michigan said she would deny the Trump campaign’s demands to halt the counting of mail-in ballots in the state on the basis of a lack of evidence. Axios reports that Judge Cynthia Stephens announced her decision in a Thursday oral briefing but hasn’t yet issued a written order, handing a major loss to the Trump campaign’s efforts to slow or stop the count.
A judge in Georgia also dismissed a lawsuit by the state Republican Party and Trump campaign demanding that he ensure a coastal county was following state laws on processing absentee ballots.
In Pennsylvania, the president’s campaign enjoyed a small legal victory on Thursday when a judge ruled that ballot observers can watch officials count ballots from a six-foot distance. Representatives from the Trump and Biden campaigns had previously been allowed to view the count from a further distance due to the coronavirus, but are now allowed to sit closer provided they take proper precautions.
The legal victory proved to be short-lived, as after a brief pause in vote-counting in Philadelphia, the vote-tallying resumed following an appeal by Democratic Party attorneys. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh has halted the count of an additional 30,000 ballots after a vendor was found to have sent the wrong ballots to voters and had to reissue new ballots.
Trump currently leads Biden by only 115,000 votes in Philadelphia, but most of the votes that still must be counted are in those counties where Biden polled ahead, including in the most populous county of Philadelphia, where Biden leads by roughly 60 percentage points. Biden must win about two-thirds of remaining votes to win the state, whose 20 electoral votes would give him a clear path to victory.
The Biden campaign has accused the president’s team of using litigation to delay an inevitable defeat at the polls.
“What we’re seeing on these legal suits are that they are meritless and nothing more than an attempt to distract and delay what is now inevitable – Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States,” said campaign manager Jennifer O’Malley Dillon on Thursday.
The president himself hasn’t made any public appearances since election night, largely holing himself up in the White House and in a distraught mood over his shrinking chances at winning the hotly-contested presidential race.
If officials were to “STOP THE COUNT” now, as he has demanded, Biden would handily win based on the current tallies. The president still must rely on a count making up a gap in voting in Arizona and Nevada to win the election.
However, the president seems to be sticking to a strategy of shifting the goal-posts in different states where different rules for vote counts apply. In another tweet Thursday, Trump wrote: “ANY VOTE THAT CAME IN AFTER ELECTION DAY WILL NOT BE COUNTED!”
According to the Associated Press and Fox News, Biden currently has 264 electoral votes – including in Arizona, which has not been called by media outlets that endorsed Biden such as NBC or New York Times.
Trump, who has 214 electoral votes, must win Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, and Nevada to win. As the count has proceeded, the likelihood of a Trump victory has shrunken drastically.
However, the Trump campaign has expressed confidence that it will win a second term.
“By end of tomorrow – Friday – it will be clear that President Trump and Vice President Pence will serve another term in the White House,” campaign senior adviser Jason Miller said in a Thursday morning press call.
The Trump campaign has also been hurling unsubstantiated charges of widespread voter fraud, causing pro-Trump demonstrators – including some armed militants – to appear at vote counting centers in Nevada, Arizona, and Detroit.
In Arizona, armed groups of pro-Trump protesters surrounding a vote counting center overnight in Maricopa County and faced off with police and security. The center eventually closed after someone broke into the facility.
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