Trump pointed to his early lead in the pivotal battleground of Pennsylvania and said it would be "almost impossible" for Democratic nominee Joe Biden to catch up there and in other states. In fact, there were enough votes outstanding in those states to swing the total back to Biden's favor.
Speaking in the White House East Room, Trump said he would be "going to the US Supreme Court" and that "we want all voting to stop." The remarks were similar to those he raised before the election, casting doubt on the validity of ballots cast by mail because of the pandemic. Polling has shown those ballots, legitimately cast, may favor Biden.
Biden's campaign called Trump's statement "outrageous, unprecedented, and incorrect." Some Republicans also criticized the president's efforts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of ballots.
Trump touted his wins in Florida and Texas during the early morning remarks and claimed without evidence that a “very sad group of people” was trying to disenfranchise his supporters. Conversely, he complained that one network – Fox News – had called the race for Biden in Arizona despite outstanding votes in that state.
While neither candidate has reached the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, Trump nevertheless suggested – falsely – that he had already won.
“Frankly, we did win this election,” Trump told supporters. “As far as I’m concerned, we have already have won.”
In several states not accustomed to high volumes of mail-in voting, including Rust Belt swing states Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, election officials could not start counting ballots until on or just before Election Day. Other swing states allow absentee ballots to be postmarked up to Election Day.
That means partial results released on election night in these states – though not official until all votes are counted and certified – will include mostly votes cast on Election Day. Polling shows Trump has a major advantage among people who plan to vote on Election Day. It could take days for some states to count all mail-in votes, which are likely to heavily favor Democrats.
Yet in other key states, like North Carolina and Arizona, absentee ballots have been processed for weeks by Election Day. The Associated Press projected Biden the winner of Arizona Wednesday. Trump was leading by a narrow margin in North Carolina.
Big swings in results on election night had been expected. That doesn't mean there are problems. It means every vote is being counted.
"The president’s statement tonight about trying to shut down the counting of duly cast ballots was outrageous, unprecedented, and incorrect," Biden campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon said in a statement. She accused Trump of making "a naked effort to take away the democratic rights of American citizens."
Some Republicans pushed back on Trump's unfounded claims of fraud and threats of litigation.
"There's just no basis to make that argument tonight – there just isn't," said former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on ABC News.
Rick Santorum, a former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, told CNN: "I was very distressed by what I heard the president say."
The White House hosted a watch party throughout the evening that was still well underway Wednesday morning. Guests mingled in the East Room, munching on hamburgers while following the returns on large-screen televisions. Two large TVs had been set up in the corners of the historic room ---- between them an array of American flags.
Trump’s remarks came hours after Biden thanked supporters and said he was confident of victory against Trump based on his early lead in Arizona and the so-called “blue wall” states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, where ballots were still being counted.
“Keep the faith, guys,” Biden told a cheering crowd in Delaware. “We’re going to win this.”
He told the crowd their patience was commendable. But he noted it was well known before voting began Tuesday it would take time to count the huge number of early mail ballots.
“We’re going to have to be patient,” Biden said. “It ain’t over until every vote is counted.”
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