As his political trajectory narrowed, President Trump turned Wednesday to courts and procedural maneuvers in a last ditch effort to avoid defeat in the handful of states that will decide the outcome of the hotly contested election.
The president’s campaign intervened in the Supreme Court in a case challenging Pennsylvania’s plan to count ballots received up to three days after election day. The campaign said it would also take action in Michigan to end it while continuing its demands for better access for the observers it sent to monitor election committees for signs of wrongdoing in the country. ballot counting, modeled on a similar lawsuit she was pursuing in Nevada.
On Wednesday evening, Mr Trump’s team added Georgia to its list of legal targets, asking for a court order imposing strict deadlines in Chatham County following allegations by a Republican poll observer that a small number of ineligible ballots could be counted in one place. .
In Wisconsin, which along with Michigan was called up on Wednesday for its Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., the president’s campaign announced it would call for a recount.
These steps marked Mr. Trump’s determination to follow through on his long-standing threats to campaign aggressively after Election Day to overturn any results not in his favor and continue his baseless claims that the result was rigged.
But it was not clear what effect any of his efforts would have. In Georgia, the trial is about 53 ballots, and another case in Pennsylvania is about less than 100.
The lawsuits appeared intended at least in part to give legal weight to a fight Mr. Trump waged widely on Twitter and amplified during an overnight appearance at the White House, where he falsely claimed to have won and claimed without evidence that his opponents were trying to steal the elections.
As the legal team began to stake their ground, campaign surrogates, aides and the president himself sought to create a public relations drumbeat to promote this theme. Mr Trump had long indicated he would make this argument in the widely anticipated event that the first leads for him on Election Day faded as a record number of mail-in ballots – disproportionately used by Democrats this year – tipped the scales in favor of Mr. Biden.
With Mr. Biden in a strong position and the tally trend in his favor, the odds of the outcome being determined in court diminished on Wednesday. But the day nonetheless had some echoes of the 2000 recount in Florida in which Al Gore unsuccessfully challenged a result that gave George W. Bush the presidency.
In a scene reminiscent of the so-called Brooks Brothers Riot protest on behalf of Mr. Bush that temporarily halted counting in Miami-Dade that year, a crush of Trump supporters stormed a counting office on Wednesday. in Detroit with cries of “Stop the count.”
But this year’s legal clashes were breaking out in multiple states and, in most cases, it was Republicans who appeared to be fighting from behind, a disadvantageous opening stance, though Trump’s aides hoped it would change. again as the counts continued. to evolve.
Throughout the day, Republicans have claimed they are only looking to make sure the recorded tally does not include votes that shouldn’t have counted, rather than repeating the president’s claims that any counting Should have stopped on election day when early and incomplete results showed him a head start.
“If we count all the legal ballots, the president wins,” Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said on a morning conference call with reporters.
Mr Stepien took a more aggressive stance later in the day, making an unreasonable attempt to declare Mr Trump’s victory in Pennsylvania even as the count continued.
The Trump campaign sent Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, and Eric Trump, one of his sons, to Philadelphia to make sure, as Mr. Stepien sought to present without any evidence, that ” magic pallets’ of mail ballots for Mr.. Biden did not appear suddenly and that “this margin of victory that we are certain is not stolen by Democrats and stolen by Joe Biden.”
Early Wednesday morning, Mr. Trump appeared before supporters and reporters at the White House to say, “We’re going to go to the US Supreme Court, we want all votes to stop,” a statement that drew criticism bipartite.
His campaign team went to the Supreme Court on Wednesday to file a petition to take over perhaps the most high-profile of electoral cases. In that dispute, the Pennsylvania Republicans had sought to prevent state officials from moving forward with their plan to count all postal postmarked ballots on or before November 3 for three days after the polling day. The state’s legal deadline for receiving ballots is typically 8 p.m. on polling day.
Republicans tried unsuccessfully to appeal their case against the time limit extension to the Supreme Court on two occasions, but on the second occasion, three justices – Samuel A. Alito Jr., Bret M. Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas – did indicated that they would be willing to reconsider their arguments in the post-election day period when their most recent colleague, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, was installed in her role in court.
The court could, in theory, decide to take up the case, although this is a rare decision. And Republicans would need to gather more evidence to show they were wronged by the time limit extension before filing a new petition to initiate court.
Democrats described the Republican efforts as part of a desperate attempt to reverse a trajectory that threatened their grip on the White House.
“We are winning the election,” Biden’s senior campaign adviser Bob Bauer said on a call to reporters Wednesday, “and we will protect the election.”
He said for the Biden campaign and the Democratic Party, that meant responding to legal challenges from Mr. Trump and Republicans, wherever they occur. The national party did so on Wednesday night in another case the presidential campaign brought to Pennsylvania seeking to reject votes from citizens who had been given an opportunity to resolve issues that resulted in their mail-in ballots being rejected.
A federal judge appeared to respond to Republican claims in a related lawsuit – affecting about 93 provisional ballots in Montgomery County outside of Philadelphia – with skepticism.
“Wasn’t the legislative intention of the law we are talking about to emancipate, and not to deprive the voters?” Judge Timothy J. Savage, appointed by former President George W. Bush, called on Republican Council, Thomas Breth. The judge later reprimanded Mr. Breth for referring to “this game of denial of the right to vote”.
A state court dismissed a lawsuit asking for more access to observe the counting of the ballots.
The prosecution of the Trump campaign in Pennsylvania drew a harsh rebuke from Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf, who called the legal machinations “just plain bogus.”
“These attempts to overthrow the democratic process are simply outrageous,” Wolf said at a press conference Wednesday evening. “We will fight against every attempt to deprive voters of their voting rights.”
Across the legal effort, the Trump campaign seemed to be trying to climb an escalator at times.
He found himself in the awkward position of seeking to stop counting in some states – where he wanted to limit Mr. Biden’s ability to create more comfortable margins – even as he sought recounts in others, where he hoped to reduce Mr. Biden’s margins.
And in many cases, he was unsure whether his measures would win enough votes to fill the loopholes Mr. Biden seemed to be digging, which numbered in the thousands as opposed to the hundreds that separated Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore in Florida for 20 years. since.
“If the margin is over 1,000 votes, it’s really tough,” said Benjamin L. Ginsberg, a longtime Republican election lawyer. “If it’s less than 10,000 votes, it’s an almost unsanitary mountain.”
The Trump campaign has identified Nevada, where Mr. Biden’s margin seemed relatively slim on Wednesday night, as another battleground for the vote count. The state allows any losing candidate to request a recount.
While there is no automatic trigger in Wisconsin for a recount, any losing candidate can force one if the run stays within a percentage point. With roughly 3.2 million ballots in the state, that means any margin of around 32,000 could force a recount. On Wednesday, Mr. Biden was declared the winner in Wisconsin by a margin of about 21,000 votes.
But a prominent Republican in the state, former Gov. Scott Walker, seemed skeptical that the recount would lead to a different outcome for Mr. Trump.
“After the 2011 recount of the WI Supreme Court race, there was a swing of 300 votes,” Walker written on twitter. A 2016 recount triggered by a request from Jill Stein of the Green Party found only 131 votes. “Like I said, 20,000 is a big hurdle,” he wrote.